The political fireball that is the EU has continued to cause problems for the Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron who has stated that he would prefer Britain to be a member of the European Union but with renegotiation has the support of a minority of Conservatives and most Labour people. But with the rise of UKIP and the Right in his own party, he has a choice – national vs party interest.
Today marks the 21st anniversary of the creation of the European Union. On 7th February 1992 the Maastricht Treaty was signed by European Community leaders. It proved to be a thorn in Prime Minister John Major’s side with a rebellion of 41 Tory MPs and a by-election in 1993 which saw a Conservative majority of 23,000 turned into a Liberal Democrat majority of over 16,000. Today in 2013 it continues to be a politically sensitive area for another Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, in late 2011, 79 Tory MPs voted for a motion calling for a referendum into UK membership of the EU. Cameron bowed down to the Tory right and was forced into calling for an in/out referendum into Britain’s relationship with the EU if the UK is unable to renegotiate and repatriate powers.
François Hollande has been elected as the 24th President of the French Republic. The election of Mr Hollande will worry EU leaders who see Hollande as being too left wing and a danger to the recovery process for the Eurocrisis. The new President has a mountain to climb and faces a series of challenges such as getting the 3 million people unemployed back to work, working with EU leaders to stabilise the Eurozone and reducing the ever growing deficit.
Turnout at 5PM was at 71.96% according to the French Interior Ministry, and as polls in small villages across France closed at 6PM it really was neck and neck between the two men hoping to serve as President. The abstention figure for the second ballot was 20.1% compared to 16% in the 2007 election. This will largely be due to other candidates who were defeated in the first ballot who called on their supporters to abstain in the second ballot.
Mr Sarkozy was the first incumbent President for more than 50 years to be defeated in the first round of the election which was held on April 22nd. During the first ballot Hollande secured 10,272,705 votes (28.63% of the vote) whereas Sarkozy secured 9,753,629 votes (27.18& of the vote). In the second ballot François Hollande beat Nicolas Sarkozy by 52% of the vote to 48% of the vote (AFP).
Hollande has been the favourite to win throughout the Presidential campaign, he defeated Sarkozy in the first ballot and has now defeated him again in the second ballot. However the impact of Hollande’s election is expected to have a significant impact on the markets and many including the German Chancellor Angela Merkel will be hoping President Hollande softens his approach to the Eurozone.
Voters across France will today go to the polls and decide who they want to serve as the 24th President of the French Republic. The President whoever he or she may be will face significant challenges such as reducing the deficit, working to stabilise the Eurozone and reducing unemployment in France which is currently at a 12 year high.
The bookies favourite to win the Presidential election is the Socialist candidate, Francois Hollande who has called for a 75% tax on the rich; some might argue that from an economic and business perspective that is preposterous. However Hollande is seen as a safe pair of hands and as a result has been ahead in the polls almost constantly throughout the campaign. It is no wonder there are already rumours that he has come out on top by a landslide.
There are ten candidates seeking election to the office of President of the French Republic, they are; Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP), Francois Hollande (PS), Marine Le Pen (FN), Jean-Luc Melenchon (Left Front), Francois Bayrou (Democratic Movement), Eva Joly (Green), Nathalie Arthaud (Workers’ Struggle (Communist)), Jacques Cheminade (Solidarité et progrès), Philippe Poutou (New Anticapitalist Party) and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (DLR).
According to the French Interior Ministry, voter turnout was at 28.29% at midday compared to 31.21% in the 2007 Presidential election. There is no doubt that this is one of the most important elections in a generation. Exit polls are banned from being published in France under French law however several Swiss and Belgian newspapers have said they will publish the exit polls as they do not have to comply with this specific French law.
Today is the first round of voting and unless one candidate receives over 50% of the vote then voters will vote in a second round on May 6th and that vote will be between the top two candidates from round one (likely to be Sarkozy and Hollande). There is hatred for Sarkozy amongst a lot of French people who accuse him of focusing on a champagne lifestyle at a time when people are losing their jobs and struggling. Even former French President Jacques Chirac has said he will vote for Francois Hollande. Perhaps it is time to say au revoir to Nicolas Sarkozy.
UPDATE 19:01: Voting has now closed in France. Exit poll results: FH: 27.4%, NS: 25.7%, MLP: 20%, JLM: 11.5%. The race for the Presidency is now between SARKOZY and HOLLANDE who go to round 2 on May 6th 2012.