The first round of the French presidential elections was 2 weeks ago, and as expected, the top tow candidates: Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy made it to the second round, which takes place this weekend. The struggle between the two has been fierce, with both not only having their pride and ambitions at stake, but also the future of their parties and the future of their country. The winner will undoubtedly influence France’s position in the world and in the global economy, and give a new direction to the policy of EU.

The Basics

Royal, as the candidate of the French Socialist Party (PS), promised to roll back some of the reforms put in place by the current government (greater worker flexibility for companies, diminished social nets and more openness to trade and world competition), and revive the moribund welfare state (a type of economy that most of the world abandoned 15 years ago). She is also more attuned to improving education, healthcare, and encouraging tolerance in public institutions.

Sarkozy on the other hand, whom was Minister of the State and Minister of the Interior in the current government, has supported neo-conservative solutions for France. As member of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), he is known for having a tough response on the riots of 2005 and being quite intolerant to immigrants. He has supported the dismantling of the welfare state, a neoliberal approach similar to that of Margaret Thatcher, more openness to the international markets and encouraging firms to be more competitive.

However, as the election campaign advanced, their initial electoral programs started to change and slowly move towards the centre. Broadly speaking, Sarkozy tempered his initial economic reforms and Royal gave up on some of the promises for a powerful welfare state. Yet, no one can be sure what they will actually do if elected, in an election campaign candidates tend to do whatever it takes to get more votes, what happens next… well, I think we all know that by now.

Going International

In the past years, under the lead of President Jacques René Chirac, France has fallen to some degree in an international shadow cone.
It distant itself from US and UK, it has tried to improve its ties with Germany (although Germany now likes to go more on its own) and kept on showing to the world that France is still important and that it can be an alternative to the “mean’ol Americans”. France fuelled this idea of an alternative into the European Union, but the Union does not have that power to challenge US hegemony; ironically, it was France’s “NO” to the European Constitution that gridlocked the European project.
Ségolène Royal wants to continue the legacy of Jacques Chirac, it wants to make EU a sort of peaceful alternative to US (although I do not really know how that might go along with UK). She wants a strong and better-coordinated policy in EU and a better emphasize o social and environmental issues. Sarkozy on the other hand is more realistic, he understands that France has a lot to win from its friendship with USA, and playing a counter-American role will only encourage national pride but not a better and important role on the international stage. He understands that EU has its problems and understands the need for a rethinking of its role and powers, but how well he actually understands this can be debatable.

The outcome?

Initially the two candidates were pledging for almost opposite policies but as the election campaign advanced, they both started to fall more to the centre in order to gain more votes. However, this slide has not provoked critical turns or changes in their initial promises, just a milder version of their original program.
Its all to the French to decide wants better for them, and fortunately, they will make the right choice. The last polls show that Mr. Nicolas Sarkozy (Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa) has a small lead against Ms. Ségolène Royal (Marie-Ségolène Royal), the outcome is still mostly undecided, but in roughly 24 hours, it will be all over.

Nicolas SarkozySégolène Royal