Is it just me, or are the French getting jaded of the presidential election campaign?
This campaign started earlier than ever before, and articles on the candidates’ latest gaffes or triumphs appear to be slipping from the front pages, at least from the news weeklies. Diversions such as the return of French rock God Michel Polnareff (who quit France before I was born: friends have promised to help me understand the emotion of his come-back) rocket onto the cover of Paris Match, where he and his much younger girlfriend are pictured embracing — naked execpt for his trademark white shades.
And who is the lucky man lapping up all this dissatisfaction? Step forward Francois Bayrou.
This week France’s third man (the phrase has become his moniker despite the fact that one of the presidential trio is a woman) hit the symbolic bar of 20 percent of voting intentions, and his star keeps on rising. In a CSA survey he polled 24 percent to Segolene’s 25 percent and Sarkozy’s 26 percent. The 55-year-old farmer and former teacher is presenting himself as the candidate of compromise. His government, he promises, would be based on competence and would include ministers from the left and right (getting neatly around the problem that he doesn’t have enough talent within his own party).
Bayrou’s success is giving his oppenents the willies. The Socialists are desperately trying to betray him as a closet right-winger and Sarkozy is wooing his former colleagues such as Simone Veil, the former minister who legalised abortion and survived Auschwitz, giving her an almost saint-like reputation in France.
The anti-establishment rhetoric is going down well with voters, if you believe the opinion polls. But I’ve conducted my own (admittedly much smaller and much less scientific) survey among friends and taxi drivers and I’ve yet to find one person who seriously sees him ensconced in the Elysee palace.