With fewer than 100 days left until the first round of France’s presidential election, President Nicolas Sarkozy is behind in the polls (.pdf) and facing an uphill battle for re-election. Although his principal rival, the Socialist Party’s François Hollande, has been losing ground at an alarming rate, Sarkozy’s numbers have stagnated, suggesting he will have his work cut out for him if he is to convince French voters to trust him with a second term at a time when his divisive and jarring style seems at odds with the country’s need for reassurance and unity. And in an election that may very well be decided by which of the two candidates suffer the most defections, there is no shortage of candidates who might benefit from a protest vote.
As always, the domestic outlook does not seem bleak enough to warrant the French electorate’s penchant for pessimism, but neither is there cause for enthusiasm. Meanwhile, the policy constraints imposed by the doctrine of austerity that, for better or worse, has become the new European orthodoxy have rendered much of the fiscal debate sterile.
As a result, foreign policy could end up tipping the scales in the upcoming campaign.