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07PARIS1595 2007-04-20 11:27:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Paris
Cable title:  

ELECTION EVE: BETWEEN SARKOZY AND ROYAL

Tags:   PGOV ELAB EU FR PINR SOCI ECON 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 PARIS 001595 

SIPDIS

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DEPT ALSO FOR EUR/WE, DRL/IL, INR/EUC, EUR/ERA, EUR/PPD,
AND EB
DEPT OF COMMERCE FOR ITA
DEPT OF LABOR FOR ILAB

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ELAB EU FR PINR SOCI ECON
SUBJECT: ELECTION EVE: BETWEEN SARKOZY AND ROYAL

REF: A. (A) PARIS 1566


B. (B) PARIS 1491 AND PREVIOUS

C. (C) EMBASSY PARIS DAILY SIPRNET REPORT FOR
20APR07 AND PREVIOUS

PARIS 00001595 001.2 OF 003


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. Please treat accordingly.



1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In the final days before the April 22
first round of the French presidential election, the latest
polls continue to predict that center-right UMP candidate
Nicolas Sarkozy, followed by Socialist Party candidate
Segolene Royal, will be the two victors for the May 7
run-off. Centrist UDF candidate Francois Bayrou and
right-wing extremist Jean-Marie Le Pen are still placed third
and fourth. The well-respected SOFRES polling firm's latest
sounding of opinion taken April 16-17 puts Sarkozy at 28.5
percent of first-round voter intentions, Royal at 25 percent,
Bayrou at 19 percent and Le Pen at 14 percent. This
one-two-three-four relative standing in the polls has not
changed since mid-February, when Bayrou surged past Le Pen.
That said, each of France's seven presidential elections so
far has had its "surprise," usually a reversal of fortune for
a leader in the polls. The most likely "surprise" outcome
for Sunday, according to polling reports, is a reversal of
the order of the first two candidates. A first-place finish
for Royal -- or even a very close second-place finish --
could dramatically change the dynamic, and the momentum going
into the second round. The probability of centrist Bayrou
qualifying for the second round appears to have diminished
significantly in recent days.



2. (SBU) SUMMARY CONT'D: France's eighth election of a
president by universal suffrage has a number of
distinguishing features. The leading candidates represent a
change of generation. Both Royal and Sarkozy have challenged
the status quo in their parties and in France. Royal is
France's first serious female presidential candidate. One of
the leading candidates -- Sarkozy -- is a polarizing figure,
as feared as he is respected. The political context is
characterized by a shifting to the right of the political
mainstream. Sunday's outcome seems fairly clear, setting up
a likely very close second round, with Royal and Sarkozy
pulling out all the stops between April 22 and May 6. END
SUMMARY.

THE LINE-UP IN LATEST POLLS


--------------------------




3. (U) As France enters the final days of the first-round
presidential campaign, polling data suggests that
center-right UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy is still on track
to win on April 22, with Segolene Royal likely to place
second. The well-respected SOFRES polling firm's latest
sounding of opinion taken April 16 -17 puts Sarkozy at 28.5
percent of first-round voter intentions, Socialist Party
candidate Segolene Royal at 25 percent, centrist UDF party
candidate Bayrou at 19 percent, and right-wing extremist
Jean-Marie Le Pen at 14 percent. Two other leading polls
also taken earlier this week -- by the BVA and IPSOS firms --
reflect the same line-up with the following percentages:
Sarkozy, 29 and 30; Royal, 25 and 23.5; Bayrou, 15 and 18.5;
and Le Pen, 13 and 13. Bayrou clearly remains the wild card;
some polls show him going up, others going down. For Bayrou
to finish second, he would need to capture a large, probably
unattainable, majority of the undecideds.

BUT LOTS OF UNCERTAINTY


--------------------------




4. (SBU) Given the notorious unreliability of French voters,
many nonetheless continue to believe that France's 8th
presidential election, like nearly all preceding ones, still
holds a possible surprise. In the very first election in
1965, General De Gaulle was "humiliatingly" forced into a
run-off by Socialist Francois Mitterrand when he unexpectedly
failed to obtain 50 percent of the vote in the first round.
In the most recent presidential election, in 2002, Socialist
PM Lionel Jospin was unexpectedly eliminated by Le Pen. This
year's election features a number of "uncertainty factors"
that could still affect the outcome:

THE SARKOZY FACTOR

PARIS 00001595 002.4 OF 003




--------------------------




5. (SBU) Sarkozy has emphasized issues such as immigration
and opposition to Turkey's membership in the EU in an effort
to draw Le Pen voters into the political mainstream. At the
same time, Bayrou has taken away political space in the
center. Sarkozy's strategy is consistent with the general
view that the French electorate overall has itself moved to
the right, but it also represents an attempt to deprive the
far-right of its oxygen (much along the lines of Mitterrand's
strategy vis-a-vis the Communists). The shift itself, as
well as Sarkozy's pugnacious and hyperkinetic personality,
has served to limit his appeal despite an overall
appreciation of his competence. If, in addition, far-right
voters choose in the end to stay with Le Pen rather than vote
for Sarkozy, Sarkozy's score in the first round would be
insufficient to give him the strong first-place finish he
seeks in order to build momentum going into the second round.

THE ROYAL CALCULUS


--------------------------




6. (SBU) Royal has focused increasingly in the last week on
the symbolism of electing a female president as well as the
necessity of unifying the left in order to avoid a repeat of
the 2002 first-round defeat of her party. She has attempted
to appeal to the center enough to win votes away from Bayrou
and has highlighted Sarkozy's scariness in order to mobilize
the left behind her as the only way to stop Sarkozy. Fear of
Sarkozy serves also as a justification for drawing away
potential Bayrou voters who may support Bayrou's centrist
views but believe he cannot ultimately win. Moreover, French
voters can choose change simply by voting for a woman.
Royal's strategy appears to be paying off in the last days of
the campaign, to the point where it is possible that she
could still surprise everyone and come in first place in the
first round. Even if she ultimately places only second to
Sarkozy, if she succeeds in closing the gap substantially
between them, she could enter the second round as the
candidate with momentum.

BAYROU THE SPOILER?


--------------------------




7. (SBU) Bayrou has continued to pound the left and the
right, but in a manner aimed at increasing his attractiveness
primarily to those uncomfortable with Sarkozy. On the one
hand, he genuinely appeals to those who are tired of
left-right gridlock and are seeking a "third way" for dealing
with France's challenges. A number of analysts continue to
insist that Bayrou still has a chance of edging out Royal and
getting into the second round if he should surge in the 48
hours preceding April 22. But we see this as highly
unlikely. A key element in Bayrou's appeal was that he, not
Royal, could defeat Sarkozy. As Royal's fortunes have
improved, and his standing declined, the "anyone but Sarkozy"
rationale may be moving back in her direction.

A DIFFERENT ELECTION


--------------------------




8. (SBU) This may not be the watershed election it was
originally billed as, but it does have some distinguishing
features. For the first time, a woman has a clear chance to
become president. (It is not clear whether Royal's gender
will ultimately work for or against her.) One of the
candidates is a polarizing figure; indeed, Sarkozy in effect
has become the theme of the election. Both Sarkozy and Royal
represent a new generation of leaders. Both can be seen as
rebels in their own camps, shaking up the status quo. On the
other hand, specific foreign policy issues, including how to
relaunch Europe following France's 2005 rejection of the EU
constitutional treaty or relations with the U.S., have not
featured prominently.



9. (SBU) We will only know in retrospect what this election
really was about, and the first-round results could take on
new significance two weeks later when the French have made
their choice between the two finalists. For now, we are
looking at a Sunday election result that will likely set up a
classic left-right confrontation, but with very non-classic,
next-generation candidates. The order in which these
candidates -- Nicholas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal -- finish,
and the relative strength of their showings, will have a

PARIS 00001595 003.2 OF 003


strong impact on the election of France's next president on
May 6.


Please visit Paris' Classified Website at:
http://www.state.sgov.gov/p/eur/paris/index.c fm

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