I just re-listened to this story. I am writing from notes I took, which could be wrong. Anyway, the jist of the story is that registration to vote amongst "French born children of African immigrants" is up 300%. How many new voters that might be was not quantified.
French radio stations and recording artists popular to those folks are leading the effort. [..]
I've used up all my notes so I must be done. If this story is true, it strikes me as a significant trend, not only in France but in other places in Europe, Australia and the United States. [..]
Sarkozy shifts to right by posing as angry outsider
By John Lichfield in Lille
Published: 30 March 2007
Flags waved. The crowd howled. An angry man in a dark suit and tie jabbed the air with his finger. In an hour-long speech, without even a smile, he accused "those who govern, those who run ministries, those who lead political parties" of cravenly accepting a "limited future" for France.
If you had parachuted into Lille from Mars, you might have assumed that this was the speech of a populist malcontent, the rant of a permanently scowling outsider. Not a bit of it.
The dapper, little man in a dark suit - looking like an undertaker or waiter - was Nicolas Sarkozy, presidential candidate of France's ruling party, and the opinion pollsters' favourite.
Until two days earlier, M. Sarkozy, 52, was himself one of "those who govern". He has been one of "those who run ministries" for most of the past five years. He remains the leader of France's largest political party, the centre-right Union pour un Mouvement Populaire.
After two months of trying to persuade France that he is a changed "Sarko" - less driven and less scary - the former interior minister has cut loose.
Partly, this seems to be a response to a slow melting of his ascendancy in the opinion polls. Partly, it is a reaction to this week's events at a Paris train station. A mini-riot at Gare du Nord on Tuesday night has degenerated into verbal scuffling between presidential candidates. At the main railway station gangs of youths, chanting anti-Sarkozy slogans, fought with police after the allegedly brutal arrest of a passenger without a ticket.
For the other leading candidates - the Socialist Ségolène Royal, and the centrist François Bayrou - this was an opportunity to assault M. Sarkozy's record as an authoritarian, no-nonsense interior minister.
Not only had he failed to control crime, they said, he had created an explosive enmity between police and young people in the poor suburbs of French cities.
For M. Sarkozy, this was an opportunity to rewind the tape to the crime-driven campaign of his mentor, President Jacques Chirac, in 2002. "Our side stands for authority and respect," he told the Lille rally. "The others stand for delinquency and fraud."
He has been hailed by some commentators abroad assomeone who will put France back to work and reconcile the French with the market economy. In Lille he spoke of his ideas: of reducing the tax burden on business and the need to "revalue" work in France, after decades of promoting early retirement and shorter working hours.
M. Sarkozy attacked the European Commission, accusing it of being obsessed with free trade. He said France should lead the way in Europe for an "economic government" that should push down the exchange rate of the euro. He said France and Europe should protect their industries in the way the US and China do.
André, a 50-year-old police officer, approves of M. Sarkozy. "I like the way he says things that the others won't say. When he is president, he will do things the others wouldn't do."
Isabelle, 23, a social worker who attended the rally "out of curiosity", said: "He scares me. Nothing I saw today changed my mind."
* A BVA-Orange opinion poll suggested yesterday that M. Sarkozy was losing ground. The survey gave him 28 per cent support for the first round of voting on 22 April, just ahead of Mme Royal on 27 per cent. M. Bayrou had 20 per cent.
* The daily tracking poll by Ispos/Dell put M. Sarkozy on 31 per cent in the first round, with Mme Royal on 24.5 per cent and M. Bayrou on 18 per cent. Both gave far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen around 12 per cent, with the eight other candidates in low single figures.
Shall I conclude that the 'Bayrou moment' has passed and the basic trends are with Sarkozy?
Frontrunner Sarkozy vows to solve French identity crisis
Kim Willsher in Paris
Tuesday April 3, 2007
Nicolas Sarkozy, the man who would be France's next president, yesterday vowed to haul his country from its "political, economic and identity" crisis.
Less than three weeks from the first round, Mr Sarkozy, 52, published a raft of election pledges in another book Ensemble setting out his political vision and plan. In it he pledged to "govern differently" following the principles of transparency, getting results with consultation and practising capitalism with a human face.
He promised to halve unemployment to under 5% and said those who worked longer would earn more and vowed to draft a "Marshall plan" to train school dropouts in troubled areas.
"The president should represent a vision. The French should elect him for what he proposes - but they should choose him for who he is," he said. "I wanted the French people to know my values, my conception of politics and the exercise of power, the ambition I have for France - and the way I will run the country if I am elected ... It expresses what is in my heart and my convictions."
Mr Sarkozy has sparked a row over his plan to create a ministry of immigration and national identity. However, he accused his main rival Ségolène Royal of "hysteria" in her reaction to the suggestion.
"France is exasperated by the dispute about national identity, by uncontrolled immigration, by fraud, by waste."
Mr Sarkozy's previous manifesto book, Témoignage (Testimony) became a surprise bestseller last summer.
Both the other main candidates, Socialist Ms Royal, 53, and François Bayrou, have published books outlining their plans. Mr Bayrou's missive, Project of Hope, topped the non-fiction chart this week.
Mr Sarkozy last week resigned as interior minister to focus on his campaign. He said he was feeling calm: "I'm not afraid of defeat because I've known it. I'm not afraid of success because I feel ready."
I don't see any trends in the poll data over the past two weeks - except perhaps for a levelling off of the previously growing support for Bayrou.
Is that your view as well?
Wild card has good hand in French race
Polls indicate centrist candidate is within striking distance of left, right leaders
By Tom Hundley
Tribune foreign correspondent
April 8, 2007
PARIS -- In the last presidential election, French voters gave themselves a severe fright when they propelled perennial far-right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen into a second-round runoff against the none-too-popular incumbent Jacques Chirac.
To avoid further embarrassment, the nation rallied around Chirac, handing him an 82 percent majority.
This time, the French have settled on a more moderate choice for their wild-card candidate: a folksy, tractor-driving, farmer-turned-politician named Francois Bayrou.
Bayrou, 55, heads the Union for French Democracy, a small centrist party. If he can make it into the second round -- and the polls show him to be within striking distance -- it is almost certain that he would be able to beat either of the two leading candidates, the right's Nicolas Sarkozy or the left's Segolene Royal.
Two weeks ahead of the April 22 first-round vote, most polls show Sarkozy leading with about 28 percent of the vote, Royal with about 25 percent, Bayrou with 20 percent and Le Pen with as much as 17 percent. The two top finishers face each other in a May 6 runoff.
For months, the French media have portrayed this as two-horse race between "Sarko" and "Sego," as they are popularly tagged. But last month, Bayrou, a former education minister, surged out of the crowded pack of also-rans and briefly drew even with Royal.
"One reason for this is that French people do not like to be told for whom they are supposed to vote," said Corinne Lepage, a prominent environmental lawyer and former Cabinet minister who is backing Bayrou.
Although the gaffe-prone Royal seems to have rebuilt her lead, Lepage is convinced the race is still wide open. She explained why: More than 30 percent of those polled say they have not made up their minds, and more than 4 million new voters have registered since the last election, an unprecedented increase and an added measure of uncertainty.
Avoiding political labels
The new voters tend to be young, and they tend to rely on mobile phones rather than land lines, which makes them inaccessible to conventional pollsters.
"A lot of these people don't believe in the left-right divide. They don't believe it is good for the country," said Lepage.
That is the gist of the case that Bayrou has been trying to make to the French people.
A self-described centrist and "son of the soil," Bayrou has promised to end the dominance of what he calls the "left and right mafias" that have defined French politics for the last quarter of a century.
His political track record puts him slightly to the right of center, so he has focused his campaign on wooing voters from the left who have doubts about Royal. He has hinted that he would choose a left-wing prime minister.
A gentleman farmer who enjoys showing off his two tractors to journalists who make their way to his small village in the Pyrenees, Bayrou is a man of little pretense. On the stump, he is hardly dazzling, but his simple, unslick style seems to have clicked with French voters.
"He's clear, he's credible. He doesn't make a lot of promises. Instead, he explains that we can make certain choices," said Anne Perru, a retired recruitment executive who said that her politics generally leaned left but that she was not impressed by Royal.
Gerard Michel, a barman in a Paris bistro, describes himself as a Gaullist. Normally, he would be expected to support Sarkozy, but Michel shook his head.
"Sarko is a little bit too far right for me, a little bit too much like Le Pen," he said. "Bayrou is really good. He's simple, down-to-earth; he has good ideas. I don't think he can win, but I'll vote for him anyway."
Although most of the conventional polls have him trailing Sarkozy and Royal, at least two popular Internet polls show Bayrou leading the field. And even the professional pollsters agree that in head-to-head competition with either Sarkozy or Royal, Bayrou wins easily.
Lesson learned in 2002
The French often use their first-round vote to make an ideological statement and reserve the second round for a practical choice.
But after the debacle in 2002 in which the French left dispersed its vote so widely among fringe candidates that the far-right Le Pen was able to make it into the second round, it is expected that voters, especially on the left, will not take that risk again.
That caution may explain Royal's recent recovery in polls, according to Bruno Jeanbart, a Parisian pollster and political analyst at OpinionWay.
Jeanbart believes that Bayrou's support has plateaued and that it will be difficult for him to make it into the runoff.
But he also notes that unlike Le Pen, Bayrou is seen as a legitimate candidate, not a statement of protest or ideology.
"The people who vote for him really want him to be president," he said.
Bayrou's critics -- mainly operatives from the Sarkozy and Royal camps -- argue that his party is too small to govern alone and that it would be unable to find coalition partners from the left or right.
Lepage, the environmental lawyer, scoffs at this.
"So who is Sarkozy going to form his government with? Le Pen? And Madame Royal? With the postman?" she asked, referring sarcastically to Olivier Besancenot, a 32-year-old letter carrier who heads a Trotskyite party.
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
José Bové 40 % d'affinités culturelles
Ségolène Royal 25 % d'affinités culturelles
[Bayrou, de Villiers, Sarkozy, Nihous, Besancenot, Voynet, and Buffet all between 9-13 % of "cultural affinities"]
Jean-Marie Le Pen 5 % d'affinités culturelles
Floating voters and Bayrou add suspense to race for president
By Anne Penketh in Paris
Published: 20 April 2007
France has given added significance to the term float-ing voter, with an astonishing 17 million of them still weighing up the four main presidential candidates ahead of Sunday's election.
The "undecided" voters make up more than a third of the electorate, and according to party campaign-ers, they could continue agonising until they reach the polling booths.
In what has been billed as the most important vote in a generation, they are turning out in their thousands to the final rallies of the campaign, which winds up today.
An estimated 17,000 people flocked to a Paris sports hall last night to hear the centrist candidate François Bayrou talk about his "orange revolution" to overcome the old left/right split in the strongly polarised world of French politics.
His consistent poll ratings of around 19 per cent have injected suspense into the campaign which had appeared in recent months to be a two-horse race between Ségolène Royal and the conservative candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, the front-runner who gained the approval of the outgoing President Jacques Chirac, through clenched teeth last month. M. Sarkozy is still tipped to emerge as the winner in the run-off vote on 6 May.
Until M. Bayrou galvanised the debate, the only - major - uncertainty had been the size of the vote for the far-right leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, whose poll ratings are usually underestimated and who could once again shock the country by gaining a place in the second round, as he did in the last presidential election in 2002.
"Everything is open," Mme Royal said on RTL radio yesterday before heading to a rally in Toulouse, expected to attract 20,000 people and had the Spanish Prime Minister José Zapatero as the guest of honour.
One of her senior campaign aides, the Paris Senator David Assouline, told The Independent that he was not worried about the high number of undecided voters. "People want a real change in their lives," he said. "They are looking at each candidate - this is a new generation of candidates and they want to get to know them better."
The most volatile voters are believed to be among M. Bayrou's supporters,say the polling experts. The former education minister leads the centre-right UDF party which has traditionally allied itself with the UMP of M. Sarkozy, who is the former interior minister. Prominent UDF leaders - such as the former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and the former minister Simone Veil - have formally declared for M. Sarkozy, whose supporters accuse M Bayrou of being a traitor to his party. Meanwhile, the Socialists say he is an "impostor".
M. Sarkozy, speaking at a rally attended by 7,000 party faithful in a Paris suburb last night, taunted his opponent, by saying: "I've always known him to be on the right, but now he's on the left. I hope that he asked his voters' permission."
Just 39 per cent of M. Bayrou's supporters say that they have taken a firm decision to actually vote for their preferred candidate, while 19 per cent say they could switch to Mme Royal and 16 per cent to M. Sarkozy.
"In terms of volume and uncertainty, Bayrou's electorate is the most floating," said Emmanuel Rivière of the poll analysts Sofres. One million people - including many young voters - will be voting for the first time in this election. That is partly due to the efforts of Mme Royal, who ran a "participatory" campaign before she knocked out party heavyweights to gain the Socialist nomination.
The Socialist party clearly hopes to benefit from what is expected to be a high turnout - unlike the party's disastrous 2002 performance when its supporters stayed at home in the first round in the belief that Lionel Jospin would sail through. Instead, he was defeated by M. Le Pen.
But it could be that young people, some of whom have voted with their feet by moving to the UK, prefer M. Sarkozy, who has promised tax cuts in his much-touted "rupture" with the past.
Pollsters also do not rule out the French defying expectations with a "protest" vote. Last time, M. Le Pen benefited. This time it could be M. Bayrou.