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French Presidential Elections: Nicolas Sarkozy vs. Francois Hollande

Nicolas Sarkozy continues to lag behind socialist rival Francois Hollande in the exit polls, despite recent attempts to claw back the trust of French expats living abroad. The latest Ipsos poll released today gives Hollande the lead by 29% to 25.5% in the first round of votes. However with, all of the smaller candidates eliminated, the consensus is that Hollande would then romp to victory with 56% support in the second round.

The result of the election is crucially important for the Eurozone because Hollande has frequently cited his public desire to renegotiate the new fiscal compact. Hollande has also vowed to wage war against the ‘world of finance’ that he feels puts marketplaces ahead of the needs of the people. He has promised to introduce new taxes on banks and the wealthy, in an attempt to fund higher state funding. He wants to employ tens of thousands more teachers and plans to set up an initiative that involves 150,000 subsidised positions for young people.

Should he win relationships between France and Germany would become rather more strained. At the moment the close link between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seen as one of the only strong foundations in a crumbling currency bloc. If this relationship, affectionately/sarcastically termed ‘Merkozy,’ were to be broken down then it would enshrine the region with further doubt and anxiety.

Matthew Lynn from Marketwatch has gone as far as to describe a Hollande victory as a ‘disaster for Europe’ and feels it has the potential to spark the next stage of the Euro crisis:

As president, he will be a catastrophe for the European economy. He has no experience of running anything, he is pushing an old-fashioned borrow-and-spend policy, he will have a poisonous relationship with Germany’s Angela Merkel, and he has shown no sign of understanding the scale of structural change France needs.

In a twist of fate, the desire to clampdown on the banks and the wealthy that is attracting Hollande’s most severe criticisms, is also his greatest asset and one of the reasons why he is proving so popular among the French citizens.