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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Sarkozy mise sur le captage des voix FN

by Dominique Bègles

Sarkozy Betting on Capturing the National Front Vote

Translated Sunday 27 February 2011, by Gene Zbikowski and reviewed by Gene Zbikowski

The French President expects an electoral gain from his investment in the nauseating debate on Islam.

News or disinformation? The president of the extreme right-wing National Front political party, Marine Le Pen, has achieved a breakthrough in the opinion polls. According to an IFOP opinion poll done for France Soir newspaper and published on the evening of February 24, when asked how they would vote in the first round of the 2012 French presidential elections if Martine Aubry was the Socialist Party candidate, 20% said they would vote for Le Pen, 22% for Aubry, and 23% for Nicolas Sarkozy.

In previous polls, the National Front scored 12% in November 2010 and 16.5% in January 2010. The National Front is celebrating. On February 22, Marine Le Pen indicated her joy at the launching of a debate on the place of religions in French society, a debate launched by the governing UMP party and the French presidency. “The last time Nicolas Sarkozy did that was with the debate on national identity, and the National Front obtained 15% of the vote in the regional elections,” Le Pen said.

Worry over Sarkozy’s strategy is being expressed on the political right. Former Justice Minister Rachida Dati warned against “stigmatizing Islam and Muslims” to “arouse fear in others.”

On the left, Socialist Party leader Henri Emmanuelli thinks that “the president still hasn’t realized that he is working in Le Pen’s favor.”

The tendency of National Front voters to prefer the original to the copy has certainly been proved. However, an IPSOS-Le Point opinion poll done on February 11 and 12 on the desirability of a Sarkozy candidacy in the 2012 presidential elections modifies the pertinence of the analysis and may help explain the presidency’s insistence on continuing on this terrain. Thus, the results, compared with an August 2010 opinion poll done before the widespread protests over increasing the retirement age, show that the proportion of voters favoring the UMP remains steady overall, but that there has been a qualitative fall in conviction, with more people thinking a Sarkozy candidacy is “rather good” compared with those who think it is “really good.” At the same time, among Le Pen voters the proportion favorable to Sarkozy has increased by 12 percentage points.

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