France is poised to elect Socialist Francois Hollande as its president this weekend. The latest blow to incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy occurred when centrist Francois Bayrou, the fourth place finisher in the first round, announced that he would vote for Hollande. Bayrou said he would do so despite his opposition to Hollande’s pledge to back out of an EU agreement binding France to reduce its deficit. The centrist leader cited Sarkozy’s strident positions on immigration as the reason for his decision.
Sarkozy hopes that these positions will appeal to the portion of the electorate that voted for third-place finisher Marine Le Pen. But Le Pen refused to endorse Sarkozy, and her bloc of the electorate does not seem to be breaking decisively for Sarko.
Sometimes you just can’t win.
The root of Sarkozy’s problems is the economy. And the same play that, for Sarko, will close tomorrow seems to be finding its way to the stage in Britain. Yesterday, the Labor Party gained more than 800 seats in local elections. The underlying reason isn’t difficult to identify — Britain fell back into recession in the first quarter of this year. The Conservatives did manage, though, to re-elect Boris Johnson, the mayor of London. He defeated leftist Ken Livingstone, the former mayor.
Britain’s right-wing Independence Party surprised observers with its strong showing, just as Marine Le Pen’s right-wing party did in France. And Britain’s centrist Liberal party, a partner in the government, lost ground, just as Francois Bayrou’s centrist party did. The patterns is difficult to miss.
The only good news for the Conservative Party is that national elections aren’t until 2015. But I wonder whether there is much reason to believe that Britain will be on a good economic footing by then.