French politics

Turn (far) right!

Nicolas Sarkozy walking on the stage during his speech at Villepinte (near Paris), the 11th of March

Turn on the right! What we can conclude of the Nicolas Sarkozy’s speech, the Sunday afternoon at Villepinte (near Paris)

In front of more 70,000 people (a contested figure) and some personalities and UMP members as Jean-François Copé, Carla Burni, Bernadette Chirac, Christian Clavier or Gérard Depardieu, the outgoing candidate delivered a speech in which he unveiled some points of his manifesto. A-one-hour-and-half-speech very conservative and almost populist in which Sarkozy tackled to the French left and the Socialist Party targeting some emblematic measures as the 35 hours. Other themes were dealt with as immigration and Europe, in which the French outgoing head of State proposed a huge reform of the Schengen Agreements in spite of the fact the European Commission already made some recommendations.

The speech of Villepinte was to be the turning point, the first act of the Sarkozy come-back in the polls where he is clearly dominated by François Hollande, the socialist frontrunner. It is obviously too early to assess the impact of this rally on the presidential race, nonetheless the meeting of Villepinte clearly put forward some elements.

Nicolas Sarkozy delivering his speech

Delivering a very conservative speech, the outgoing president of the Republic clearly targets the Marine Le Pen electorate, multiplying the clichés and other stereotypes, as the diatribe against the trade unions and some beneficiaries of the social allowances. A Manichean vision which reminds the 2007 speech except any reference to some French left personalities as Jean Jaurès or Léon Blum who were clearly not evocated.

 Targeting a conservative electorate, close to the far right and assuming such a strategy Nicolas Sarkozy hopes to win the presidential election. This strategy is risky insofar as the Front national voters, largely seduced by the outgoing President’s point of view five years ago, will not be let abused twice, as the opinion polls indicate.

What is more, Nicolas Sarkozy could lose the centrist vote despites the recent support of the main centrist leaders as Hervé Morin and Jean-Louis Borloo. It is not certain that this pro-European and humanist electorate, appreciates the UMP candidate statements on Schengen and his ultimatum to reform the agreement if he is re-elected. Indeed, it is rather in its interest to join De Villepin, Bayrou or even Hollande.

So, the speech of Villepinte, far to re-launch the Sarkozy’s campaign, clearly shows a turning to the right, not to say the far right at the risk to lose the centrist voters. This strategy gives no guarantee and it is not obvious it gives some concrete results in the opinion polls for the outgoing candidate.