France, troubled by national austerity and a broad range of social issues including anti-Semitism, a current ban on niqabs (face covering veils sometimes worn by Muslim women) and more, will hold elections for the presidency with a two round election in April and May of 2012.
Former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has announced he will be a contender in that race wherein most involved deny political motivation, and are focused on economic principles and policy. Villepin is best known for his opposition to the war in Iraq, and his disdain for austerity in economic policy. He says:
The French do suffer. Like many French people I feel that France is humiliated when it’s subjected to the laws of a republic run by parties. When one sees the Greens and the Socialists horse trading on nuclear issues, and the role of France at the United Nations security council, I feel worried. I feel the same when I see that France is humiliated by the law of the markets that keep imposing more austerity on us. And what about social justice? What about employment, growth, our factories, our suburbs, our rural countries? I can’t accept this situation. That’s why I’ve decided to be a candidate in the 20121 presidential election. I don’t believe that the truth is on the right, on the left or in the centre. I believe it’s a mistake that in presidential elections we turn to political parties.
Villepin, a centrist, will draw votes from President Nicolas Sarkozy, who runs the conservative UMP (Union for a Popular Movement ) party, as well as from François Hollande, the socialist candidate. These gentlemen have supported economic liberalism and the building of Europe since the 1980s. They are seen as being on the parliamentary right. It has been said that the flaw which prevents either from greater popular support is their ongoing rivalry.
Sarkozy(pictured) and Hollande have tried to distance themselves from partisanship since there is a perception that France’s high debt and poor economy is the fault of the established parties.
Villepin has recently been cleared of charges of taking part in a smear campaign against Sarkozy. Speaking last weekend, Villepin criticized Sarkozy for failing to protect the interests of France at a recent European Union summit, and for imposing several rounds of austere budget cuts. Last week, Villepin dismissed a deal authored by Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that was designed to bind countries that use the euro, and which gave Brussels more control of national budgets. Villepin said, “We’re falling in line behind interests that are not those of France. I think we need more courage than that.”
A possible candidate in the 2012 election is 32 year old Kenza Drider (at right), who has been involved in a court defense regarding her wearing a niqab, a face covering veil. Drider supports lifting the French ban on the traditional garb, while most French voters approve of it.
Forty three year old Marine Le Pen, the attractive leader of France’s far-right Front National party will also seek the presidency. She would provide a sharp contrast to the austerity policies of President Nicolas Sarkozy. Although her partisan affiliation is known for anti-Semitic, anti-Islamic, and anti-immigration stands, she is now trying to reduce severity in those matters to broaden the party’s appeal. She is calling for tighter surveillance of the borders and customs posts at the frontier. As it is now, goods and people can cross freely, without checks.
These elections could carry weight as they pertain to economic issues. Their outcome is by no means certain.