Society

Why France's Election Results Don't Bode Well For The Future

Analysis: François Hollande is well-positioned after Sunday's first round of voting to take the presidency from Nicolas Sarkozy. But the strong showing by far-right candidate Marine Le Pen confirms that the French Republic is a deeply divided pla

Are Sarkozy's reelection hopes dead? France, in any case, appears torn apart (Ruadhán Mac Cormaic)
Are Sarkozy's reelection hopes dead? France, in any case, appears torn apart (Ruadhán Mac Cormaic)
Pierre Veya

PARIS - With the results of Sunday's first round of presidential voting, the French electorate has called for change.

Three main points confirm this fact. First, voters rejected Nicolas Sarkozy, who finished with 27.18% of the ballots, behind his main rival, François Hollande (28.63%), in the initial round of balloting. Secondly, they handed third place to far-right candidate Marine Le Pen (17.9%), a choice that will destabilize the right and its ability to bring in centrist voters. And finally, they have given Hollande a very real opportunity to become the next president of France.

Of course, if Le Pen's tally had been lower, Hollande could be more confident about victory on May 6, when he will face off against Sarkozy.

As a standing president, Sarkozy ended up with historically poor first-round results, but his showing was still credible within the context of the serious economic crisis. Still, it's impossible not to notice that the center-right candidate lost his ability to attract support outside of his own party. The French seem tired of his promises and missteps, irritated by a president who constantly fires off new proposals, lacks coherence and loses credibility with each new day.

In 2007, Nicolas Sarkozy was a man of promise, of hope, of disruption. In 2012, the voters see a president without a project for governing.

And then there is François Hollande, who has run a campaign with hardly a false step. It allowed him to take and keep an early lead from his impatient and agitated rival. No, Hollande does not arouse fervor and passion, but he reassures a France that feels abused by the powers-that-be.

He also knows that he can rely upon the supporters of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who finished the first round in fourth place. Alhough the Front de Gauche candidate did not explicitly cite François Hollande by name during remarks he made Sunday evening, Mélenchon's endorsement of the Socialist Party candidate seems sincere and will probably guarantee most of his supporters' votes.

All eyes on Le Pen

It is all the more important because Mélenchon fears Marine Le Pen's popularity. The latter's result is the real surprise of Sunday's vote. The rightest National Front leader is the key to the second round in two weeks. She won't spare Nicolas Sarkozy. On the contrary, she introduced herself as the leader of the opposition on Sunday, in the face of a Socialist Party on its way to victory.

Nicolas Sarkozy had succeeded in weakening the far right thanks to his tough speech on immigration and security. But he is now an easy prey for Marine Le Pen. The traditional right is weakened and Marine Le Pen will do anything to step into the vacuum and become the anti-left heroine.

To sum up, François Hollande is in a strong position to become the next president of a France whose divisions are too deep to make clear choices. The country is going through a deep economic and moral crisis. The first round of the 2012 election is a bad omen for France's future. The country that desperately needs reforms could grow increasingly unstable and unpredictable.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Ruadhán Mac Cormaic via Storyful

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.


It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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