French Presidential Elections...
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Sarko vs Sego
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The French presidential elections will take place in the Spring of 2007: the first round will be on April 22, the second on May 6. This will be followed by parliamentary elections taking place again in two rounds, June 10 and 17. There will be plenty of candidates, left and right, but today we focus mainly on the two major candidates, from the Conservative and Socialist sides. That should not prevent us from talking about some others, but Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy are the two main “players” in this game. One should remember however that Royal has already been designated by the Socialist party as its main and only official candidate, where Sarkozy will have to wait until January 14 for such an official designation from his own party.

Comparing Ségolène Royal and Nicolas Sarkozy campaign speeches, they have at least three common features:

Sarkozy and Royal deliver the same message about bringing “hope” back to the country and its people. Royal uses the word “hope” all the time, Sarkozy uses the following formula: “allowing France to be a country where everything is possible again” ; both of them put a strong emphasis on the individuals versus groups/categories: Royal says “every individual should be able to choose his destiny and to manage in a context of world turbulences,” Sarkozy talks about the need to “respect every French taken individually.” One of the reasons why Royal beat her opponents within the socialist camp may be precisely that she developed an “unusual” political discourse about the need for individual well-being versus the classical, left/socialist-oriented approach toward socio-economic categories and “groups.”
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Both candidates also underline the need for “new ideas,” which should come from the “citizens” according to Royal and from “the French” according to Sarkozy. Now, both of them balance this approach by reaffirming the need for collective policies to make sure individual rights will be protected (come on, this is France after all…) ; both of them play on two simultaneous dimensions: the need for change, the need for reassurance. Sarkozy uses the term of “quiet rupture,” Royal balances the need for “new ideas,” new way of doing politics with the need for “order” and security.
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Source : GMF Blog
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Profile: Nicolas Sarkozy
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Nicolas Sarkozy casts himself as a moderniser, championing a clean break with France's traditional ruling elite.

Nicolas Sarkozy's straight talking is popular with many French votersOn 14 January he won the ruling centre-right UMP nomination to succeed President Jacques Chirac, setting up an intriguing contest against Socialist candidate Segolene Royal.

As interior minister and UMP leader he has sharply divided opinion in France - not least by adopting a tough stance on immigration. He famously described young delinquents in the Paris suburbs as racaille, or "rabble". That blunt comment - made before the 2005 riots - encouraged some critics to put him in the same category as far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Integration policy

Mr Sarkozy, 51, pushed through measures to curb illegal immigration - including deportations - and to integrate skilled migrants into French society. But he has also advocated positive discrimination to help reduce youth unemployment - a challenge to those wedded to the French idea of equality. His call for state help for Muslims to build mosques was also controversial.

Unlike most of the French ruling class, Mr Sarkozy did not go to the Ecole Nationale d'Administration, but trained as a lawyer. The son of a Hungarian immigrant and a French mother of Greek Jewish origin, he was baptised a Roman Catholic and grew up in Paris. One of his main political influences is not French but British, according to his other biographer, Nicolas Domenach. "He admires Tony Blair hugely - for many reasons," he says. "Tony Blair was able to seduce the media, in the way Sarkozy does. And Sarkozy looks at how Tony Blair was able to sell his political ideology."

Mr Sarkozy has called for "a rupture with a certain style of politics", saying he wants to encourage social mobility, better schools and cuts in public sector staff.

Rise through the ranks

He served as mayor of the affluent Paris suburb of Neuilly from 1983 to 2002, then became interior minister. He also had a brief spell as finance minister in 2004.

"He's hyperactive, he's ambitious, he's a heavy worker, a workaholic, he never rests," says Anita Hausser, who wrote a biography of Mr Sarkozy and is political editor at the French broadcaster LCI. She says his appeal is simple. "He was a lawyer, so he seems close to the people, and he wants to show them that he understands their problems and that he will solve their problems."
It seems that rather than a new ideology, he is a pragmatist who will use any solution as long as it works, the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris says.

Initially a protege of President Chirac, the two fell out dramatically when Mr Sarkozy backed a Chirac rival for the presidency in 1995 - a slight that has never been forgotten. Even those on the left in France admit Mr Sarkozy is a formidable political force.
He has shown strong protectionist instincts - pouring state funds into saving the ailing French company Alstom. Yet he also promises to make the French less scared of economic success. He is often described as an Atlanticist, but he too was against the war in Iraq. He is not too keen on the old Franco-German alliance - but upset new EU members by saying those with lower taxes than old Europe should not receive EU subsidies. He has voiced opposition to Turkey's bid to join the EU. Twice married, Mr Sarkozy has three children - the third by his current wife Cecilia.
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Source : bbc.co.uk
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Profile: Ségolène Royal
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Ms Royal, 53, was the only woman candidate and the most popular, with a 30- to 40-point lead over her closest rival going into the ballot, according to opinion polls among Socialist voters. Recent polls have also shown she is the only candidate capable of beating right-wing Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy in the presidential race.

A former environment and family affairs minister, she is currently the leader of the south-western Poitou-Charentes region. She has shocked fellow Socialists in past months with tough plans to cut crime and by questioning the party's key 35-hour working week policy.

Critics say she is a political lightweight with no experience of big ministerial posts and vague, populist policies that sometimes lean to the right.

Supporters say the mother-of-four brings a new style to jaded politics and is trying to establish a genuine rapport with the French electorate.
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Source : bbc.co.uk
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