French elections – Gloves are off, except for Bayrou’s

So, Nicolas Sarkozy finally made his candidacy official last week and this weekend he delivered a set of statements that were clearly meant to have dramatic effect. Take his statement on gay marriage as an example. Not only was it something that troubled his conscience but legalising such an institution would compromise the values of the French state and betray the history of the fifth republic, not to mention the cumulative work of others who have gone before. This seemed to rather be a strategy to win over far right voters who responded well to hard line discourse in the 2007 election. The weekends papers also referred extensively to Sarkozy’s agenda to promote French values, respect for work and family life among other wholesome aspirations.

In response, Socialist party commentary seems to be questioning how relevant the President’s talk about values is during a period of recession. In their view, the key questions on the minds of the middle class are more bread and butter ones. The tone of the socialist party seems to be more focused on reinventing the party’s image from being that of an opposition party to one of a capable future government that is ready to implemen a set of ambitious programmes. Amidst very long and winding speeches Francois Hollande has managed to slip in some information on hios plans to make the decentralisation of politics and public policy more extensive (I guess the insinuation there being that under Sarkozy’s leadership France has been run out of the Presidency with little input from elwsewhere), give women greater leaadership in government, create oublic sector jobs and to greater social protection during the current economic climate.

Beyond presenting their respective platforms – the verbal exchanges on the election seem to be getting a bit heated. Both the socialists and the far right Front Nationale have been scratching their heads and wondering out quite loudly what ‘values’ the UMP – and specificallt, the President himself is actually referring to – and whether he has the moral authority to speak out on ‘values’? If it is values tied to a respect for work that he is referring to, the socialist party seems to be asking ‘then how come there are more people unemployed now than ever’?. Well, to be fair, there have been global economic afactors beyond even Sarkozy’s boundless energy and capcity to solve. The FN on its part has been more personal and vindictive – insinuating that the president can be likened to a prostitute trying to pass for a pious cleric while still having her street clothes on and by calling him the little president for fat, greedy people. In other words, that he lacks the scruples to even begin to speak about values when it relates to the gays or indeed anyone else.

I find that Francois Bayrou who does not appear to be anywhere near the front of the pack right now is perhaps the most calm voice in the race and seems to be keeping his speech decent and civil, relatively speaking. He appears to be sticking to a few key themes related to support for local industry , Value added tax and more shopping hours maybe – you know, safe, mature topics.

For the rest, with just under nine weeks to go, the gloves are off already. Punches are not being held back and boy does it make for entertaining viewing!