France's economic floundering has many citizens worried that their children will not have the same opportunities as they did. Unfortunately, neither Sarkozy nor Hollande are offering any reassurances.
François Hollande's victory over Nicolas Sarkozy in this weekend's presidential election seems so certain that the French press has already moved on to speculating about the legislative elections that will take place in June. In those, fringe candidates will win some victories, setting the tone for French and European politics.
Sarkozy speaks in front of the "Ozar Hatorah" Jewish school in Toulouse, after last month's attack. (Eric Cabanis / Courtesy Reuters)
Nicolas Sarkozy has used his country's recent tragedy -- the killing spree by French-born 24-year-old Mohamed Merah, a self-proclaimed radical Muslim -- as an opportunity to put his campaign on hold. Looking every bit a president (read: not a candidate), Sarkozy responded with solemnity to the rampage that left seven dead -- he rose to the occasion by organizing a national funeral ceremony. Yet, during the funeral, which was televised live, the other candidates elbowed each other to appear in front of the camera, and it became clear how political this mourning period had become. Uncouth, perhaps, but the show must go on.
Of course, the inability of France's intelligence services to prevent the attacks might have undermined Sarkozy's security record, but on balance this incident has energized the president's limping campaign. Polls immediately bumped in his favor. With his bold stance in a time of tragedy, Sarkozy reminded the French that he is the man in charge and could continue to be so for the next five years, should they desire stability in troubled times. He also signified to his opponents that he still has the leading role and that he can set the tempo of the political circus of an election season.
Above all else, this election has become a bizarre political comedy. The main characters are weak campaigners who echo familiar, hackneyed lines. Sarkozy's repeated pledges to "fight and defeat unemployment" while jobless numbers are on the rise make him appear a tired hero. Meanwhile, both the far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen and the far-left, anticapitalist Parti de Gauche candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, attract angry, energized crowds. Their anti-European discourse, inflammatory Islamophobia, and anti-elite mishmash resonate with a population in anguish. While unemployment is on the rise and the public deficit measures 5.2 percent of GDP, however, the campaign has largely sidestepped the dismal issue of the economy, even though it is arguably the foremost challenge facing France today...