Okay: the results are in, and they are predictably surprising! Here is – roughly - what each of the candidates in the first round of the French Presidential elections scored yesterday:
Hollande 28 %
Sarkozy 27 %
Le Pen (fille) 18 %
Mélenchon 11 %
Bayrou 9 %
In short: François Hollande won the first round. Consequently everybody still counts on an embarrassing defeat for Mr Sarkozy in the second and last round on May 6. Yet I am not convinced. Let us face some dry but telling facts. Yes, Mr Hollande won the first bout, but he did not do at all so well as the polls predicted. He didn’t reap the promised 32 or 33 % of the vote, but only 28. Meanwhile, Mr Sarkozy did exactly as the polls foretold: a lean, but respectable, 27 %. The actual difference between the two could not be smaller. For all practical purposes it’s a tie. And that means that Mr Sarkozy has a chance of bouncing back.
So the polls got it a little wrong. Small surprise! It happens three times out of ten. But there is more! The polls got it absolutely, absurdly, inexplicably and unforgivably wrong when it came to the showing of Ms Le Pen, whose results comes close to 20 %, i.e. 7 million voters. Why did the polls not foresee this? Well, for the simple reason of a deliberate blind eye.
Ms Le Pen’s electorate consists of that old-time, unfashionable, un-hip, supposedly obsolete segment of society that all experts, commentators and journalists are happy to overlook, because in their eyes Modern Society would be better off if it did not exist: the unsophisticated, low-educated, average-wage blue collar white male, who dislikes immigration (particularly of the Islamic variety), the European Union and artistic left-leaning bourgeois elites (a.k.a. the Radical Chic, of which there are many in France!)
I don’t know if you noticed, dear reader, but over the last 20 or 30 years the European movements that lean on this segment have been declared dead and out-dated half a dozen times already, yet with every true election they grow and score better! This you rarely see reflected in the predictions. Why not? Because there is a strong social stigma on such parties as the PVV in Holland or the Front National in France. Folks who vote for these rogue parties, the media never tire of telling their audience, are stupid and racist and inspired only by irrational fear. Brutes and yokels, in short. Despicable boors. Small wonder, then, that when interviewed by the polling bureaus, a considerable number of them are loath to admit to their true preferences. But once in the secrecy of the voting booth, they feel no such scruples to vote for their preferred rogue party candidate. Ecco the little surprise that each recent election has brought.
So where will these voters go in the second round on May 6th? With the same jolly wishful thinking, electoral experts now predict that these churls will stay home or cast a blank vote. If so, Mr Sarkozy is doomed. Unfortunately, these experts are the exact same ones who were unable to predict the success of Ms Le Pen, which shows you how little they understand of that segment of the electorate and how flawed their data really are. This means there may well be another surprise in the offing.
In the wake of the Mereh murders, Mr Sarkozy made a highly publicized show of anti-terrorist activity. This was a well-calculated electoral move, which predictably did little to attract Front National voters in the first round, but may pay off handsomely in the second when Ms Le Pen does not run. Are they disgusted enough with the sitting president in the Élysée to wish him to go to Inferno? Or might they consider him the lesser of two evils? You tell me. But if I were of that mind-set, dear reader, I wonder how happy I would be with the prospect of having an immigrant-friendly, EU-adoring, alternative-lifestyle stimulating New Left Socialist president running my life for the next five years...
Oh, and another funny one: in the whole 54-year history of the 5th republic, there have been seven presidents. Only one of them – Mr Mitterrand – was a socialist.
We are living in interesting times.