All The More Reason

Bayrou – King or Kingmaker?
April 14, 2007, 9:33 pm
Filed under: French Presidential Elections

With barely a week remaining before the first round of the French presidential elections, there remain four main candidates with a genuine shot of making the second round. They are, Segolene Royal, Francois Bayrou, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jean–Marie Le Pen. For the time being, Sarkozy is in the lead of the polls, with Royal in second and Bayrou close behind in third. Lagging behind in the official polls is Le Pen. Having said that, this is exactly what happened last time until the results of the first round revealed that a lot more people voted for Le Pen than had stated they would. So let’s say for argument’s sake that Sarkozy is slightly in the lead and the other three are roughly fighting for the second position. From a game theory perspective, what should one do to ensure safe arrival in the second round?

Well, Le Pen is basically stuffed in the sense that the only way he can gain more votes is by pinching from Sarkozy (although I’m certain that he’s gained votes from some of the working class it’s unlikely that he can gain much from what’s left of the left).

Royal could consider trying to go even further left, in the hopes of pulling some of the votes from the extreme left. Still, I think she’s already made overtures in this manner, and somehow I don’t see the communist party leader or Bove deciding not to run in the first round. I actually think that Bove has some interesting points which no one else in the race is talking about, especially concerning genetic changes to food. Sadly, on other things such as globalisation, I can’t see any differences between their positions and those of Le Pen.

This leaves us with Bayrou, who has been claiming that he’s been running down the centre. He is in a very interesting position, as any claims for coalitions to stop the extreme right help him. Still, he is lagging in third for the moment, and at some point Royal could pull a heavy and state that his running for office is allowing a Sarkozy–Le Pen second round situation. I’m surprised that she hasn’t done so already. So, is Bayrou a king or a kingmaker?

Well, he doesn’t look like a king, except for the fact that he oddly does appear like a French Prince Charles. Let’s humour the idea though that instead of trying to poach from the left, Bayrou tried to poach from the right. I think that there’s a lot of fat to chew on there. For example, one could easily attack Sarkozy for wanting to try and do things as president that he couldn’t succeed in doing already as minister of the interior. Also, Bayrou is presenting himself as a genuine republican. In that sense, his attitude about public schools, hospitals and the police is actually indistinguishable from a lot of the right. De Villiers, another extreme right candidate, worries greatly about communitarianism and the Islamisation of France. Well, it was Bayrou (unless I’m mistaken here) who banned the voile from the schools when he was education minister. It’s really surprising to me that Bayrou has not made a bigger deal of the fact that he’s more of a genuine republican than Sarkozy. He could too.

It’ll be very interesting to see how this last week plays out before the first round, but if Bayrou wants to make it to the second round, I’d say he’d be better off looking to his right than to his left. There just seems to be a lot more room to move there than on the calcified left.

Jonathan Smith


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