Call me crazy, but I’ve just bet on Nicolas Sarkozy to win the
French election. I am not convinced he will — Hollande is rightly the favourite — but at 5/1, Sarko is well worth a punt, I reckon.
As Gideon Rachman notes, last night’s first round was by no means a disaster for Sarko. In
fact, given the extent of anti-Sarko sentiment throughout France, he did remarkably well. In the end, Hollande only beat him by about 1.5 per cent. Yes, no French president has ever failed to win
the first round before, and the statistics are all against the incumbent. But that need not stop Sarkozy. He has always been a sharp operator, someone who relishes adversity. His values and his
tastes fall short of the high-standards which the French pretend to demand, but his political instincts are often spot on. How else could he have won 28 per cent of the vote in a country which
seems to despise him so?
The Times this morning spoke of how Sarko now needs ‘a miracle’. Not true. What he needs is to cobble together as many disgruntled right-wing and centre-right voters as he possibly can,
and fast. It will be difficult, not impossible. Marine Le Pen may tell her voters not to switch to Sarkozy for round 2. But they will not necessarily obey her, particularly if Sarkozy can tie
Hollande in knots over questions of French identity in the upcoming TV debates.
Analysts are also saying that Francois Bayrou’s supporters (8.7 per cent of the electorate) so loathe Sarko that they cannot support him. Again, that’s not altogether certain. Sarkozy might win them over by offering Bayrou the post of prime minister. But even
if he doesn’t go that far, the Bayrou brigade could be persuaded to hold their noses and plump for Sarko anyway. They might find the president a vulgar creep, but they are not modern socialists.
The sight of smug Parisian Lefties celebrating on the streets today will have them running to Sarko in no time.
So, if Sarkozy woos a large majority of Bayrou and Le Pen’s supporters, he may well triumph. Or have I just wasted a tenner? You tell me…