Is This the Beginning of the End for Nicolas Sarkozy?

Opinions about events beyond our borders.
April 22 2012 2:00 PM

The Beginning of the End for Sarkozy?

In France’s first round of presidential voting, Francois Hollande starts strong.

François Hollande votes in Tulle, France
François Hollande votes in Tulle, France

Photograph by Patrick Kovarik/AFP/Getty Images.

Socialist François Hollande leads the first round of voting for the French presidency, according to preliminary estimates from two French polling firms. The estimates show Hollande leading conservative incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, by several percentage points. Both candidates are projected to finish with less than 30 percent of the vote.

The estimates show far-right nationalist candidate Marine Le Pen running third with about one-fifth of the vote, and far-left challenger Jean-Luc Mélenchon well behind with about half as much. The early projections are extrapolated from representative polling stations nationwide, based on samples of the first ballots counted after the end of voting.  

These results appear to presage a difficult re-election for President Nicolas Sarkozy, who will be forced to court Le Pen’s backers to assemble a majority coalition on the right to carry the second round of voting on May 6. Hollande is likely to face less resistance rallying Mélenchon’s supporters to his cause. What happens to supporters of centrist François Bayrou, who came in after Mélenchon, is more of a mystery: He has a less ideologically defined base and the candidate himself has not made clear whether he would even choose to endorse another candidate before the second round of voting.

If Sarkozy does indeed finish behind Hollande, it would mark the first time ever that an incumbent president has failed to lead the first round of voting. The last time an incumbent did not win his re-election was in 1981, when center right President Valery Giscard d’Estaing was ousted by leftist candidate François Mitterrand.

Official counts throughout the day showed voter turnout to be unexpectedly strong. Government authorities reported that 70.59 percent of registered voters had cast ballots by 5 p.m., less than in 2007, when Sarkozy first came to power, but higher than in any other contest in decades.

But these estimates remain out of reach to French voters—at least without a little digging on the Internet. The country’s election law forbids media from reporting any voting trends before 8 p.m., when polling stations close in big cities like Paris, Lyon, or Marseille.

For a complete coverage of the French presidential election, francophone readers should visit our sister site Slate.fr.

Correction, April 23, 2012: A home page headline for this article originally stated that the election was Saturday. It was Sunday.

Sasha Issenberg is the author of The Victory Lab about the new science of political campaigns.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Sept. 19 2014 1:10 PM Ascension Island: Home of Lava Fields, a False Forest, and the World's Worst Golf Course
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 3:07 PM Everything Is a "Women's Issue"
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 5:03 PM White House Chief Information Officer Will Run U.S. Ebola Response
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.