Desperate times call for desperate rhetoric

Nicolas Sarkozy remains the favorite in Sunday’s French presidential election but, as the Washington Post points out, he’s no favorite in the gang-ridden, heavily-minority suburbs of Paris. And his opponent, the opportunistic Segolene Royal, is playing this card as she tries desperately to catch up with Sarkozy. First, she has campaigned tirelessly for votes in these neighborhoods. Her voter registration campaigns pumped up turnout in the Senie-Saint-Denis department, where the 2005 riots began, from 64 percent in 2002 to 82 percent this year. And she outpolled Sarkozy in the first round by 42-20 percent in this department, her best showing anywhere in France.
Second, Royal is warning other voters that a Sarkozy victory will bring new riots. “It is my responsibility,” she intoned yesterday, “to alert people to the risk of [Sarkozy’s] candidature with regards to the violence and brutality that would be unleashed in the country [if he won].” Going further, Royal flatly predicted that a Sarkozy victory actually would produce violence.
In fairness, Royal isn’t the only one predicting this. The Post quotes the 18 year-old son of Senegalese immigrants as saying, “there are going to riots if Sarkozy is elected.” And an “unemployed economist” whose parents emigrated from Cameroon showed an exquisite appreciation of democracay when he told the Post that the people in his neighborhood were willing to put their faith in the ballot box but that “if Sarkozy is elected, it means we haven’t been heard, and we’ll trash everything.”
Meanwhile the latest polls have Sarkozy up by 9 to 10 percentage points.
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