Nicolas Sarkozy's decision to play to the far right for votes in the presidential election has changed the French political landscape in a way many consider damaging.
Creating a small sensation on the eve of French presidential elections, Francois Bayrou ? a candidate himself until a few weeks ago ? announced he would vote for Socialist Francois Hollande in elections tomorrow.?The "centrist" said that although he?disagrees with Mr. Hollande?s economic platform, the national unity that the frontrunner stresses is more important.?Skip to next paragraph
Bayrou's move underscores what has become a central issue in French elections: the divisive atmosphere of the campaign and the rise of speech that often stigmatizes minorities.? And his support is not insignificant, as he scored 9 percent of votes in the first round.
The rise of the far right has forced President Nicolas Sarkozy to fish ardently in waters previously considered forbidden in polite society for a chance at re-election. He needs the voters of Marine Le Pen, the anti-Islam anti-Europe, nationalist, far-right candidate who defied expectations in the first round, scoring 18 percent of the vote.
At his May 1 rally in Paris, Sarkozy spoke as the champion of ?real labor? ? veiled words of approbation for those on welfare, or without jobs. His team earlier leaked a false rumor that challenger Francois Hollande was the favorite of ?700 mosques? in France. He has described someone in public as ?someone who looks like a Muslim? and has legitimized the far-right by encouraging their vote.
Much has been made in this election campaign about the personal dislike French feel for Sarkozy's flamboyant style. But the longer term issue for France, now being raised by figures on both the left and the traditional right, is his ongoing appeal to base instincts and voters' fears.
Articulating his reason for backing Hollande, which has caused outrage among some in his camp,?Bayrou said today, "The line that Nicholas Sarkozy chose is violent. It is in contradiction to our values and Gaullist values as well as those of the republicans and the social right.?
Unsurprisingly, the left has been critical as well, coining the term ?Sarkozyism? to describe antagonizing techniques that create divisions among different sections of society. It is a ?technique which consists of pitting the French against one another,? as Paul Quil?s, a former Socialist minister, has said.