The strongly pro-America candidate Nicolas Sarkozy has now resigned as Interior Minister to campaign full-time for the French presidential elections. The first round is now less than a month away (April 22) and the second round (between the first and second place finishers of the first round) will be on May 6.
Both Sarkozy and the centrist candidate François Bayrou having been losing ground to the charmingly naïve socialist, Ségolène Royal. Sarkozy and Royal are now essentially neck-and-neck in the first round, but Sarkozy still has a fairly comfortable margin for the second round assuming he faces Royal. Here are the latest polls. You can toggle between the two rounds (“Tour 1” and “Tour 2”) at bottom left.
One potential disaster scenario that appears to be receding is that Bayrou knocks Royal out of the second round to face-off against Sarkozy in a two-man race. Virtually all the socialist vote would go against Sarkozy, which would give Bayrou a clear shot at winning in the second round. This would be bad for us, because as to foreign policy at least, Bayrou strikes me as a murky version of Jacques Chirac.
But if all goes well, and Sarkozy coasts to victory as he seems set to, the United States will gain a powerful ally on the Continent—and not a moment too soon. As one senior official said to me a few years ago, “Gotta’ hand it to the French. They may be annoying, but they’re very capable.”