April 22 at 8:00 p.m., Paris time. Each and every person sat in disbelief as they discovered that in France, the land of Freedom and Human rights, 18% of voters had chosen the far-Right candidate.
In the last week, both the French and international press have struggled to understand the outcome of the first round of the French Presidential election. Some have called it a “rise in populism,” others wrote that millions of French people now subscribe to the ideas of the far-Right. Some claim candidate Sarkozy’s campaign took a “hard-right turn,” pandering to the National Front.
I reject these analyses.
France is not a racist country. Racism and xenophobia are contrary to our identity. The French have always had a visceral connection to respect for others, to welcoming the stranger and to equality. These are values that are deeply anchored in our collective subconscious. And this election will not change that. I am not looking to give justifications or reassurances, only to reestablish what’s true.
In the first round, we were witnesses to a “crisis” vote, a vote whose purpose was to send a signal to the entire political class. This was not a vote of support for the appalling ideas defended by both Le Pens, father and daughter, nor was it a vote of hope.
What the French want in this time of crisis is to be protected. Just like the Americans, just like all people who today are experiencing the consequences of a violent crisis, which is first global and then national.
The signal has been received loud and clear. And together with Nicolas Sarkozy, our mission is to respond in a precise and targeted way in view of the 2nd round on May 6.
This commitment is not only in keeping with Nicolas Sarkozy’s record as President, but also with his campaign.
I have known him for the past 10 years. I was his advisor, his spokesperson, his Justice Minister. Today, I am an elected member of his majority and I am actively involved in his campaign. Nicolas Sarkozy is a statesman. He is profoundly humane. He has never lost touch with the people and their demands, which is nowadays a rare virtue in politics. It has always been his ambition to protect them.
In this campaign, only three candidates spoke to the French people about protecting them: Marine le Pen, Jean-Luc Mlenchon and Nicolas Sarkozy.
While the first two made some good diagnoses of the situation in France and Europe, the solutions they proposed were neither adequate nor republican.
Marine le Pen wants to isolate France. She has promised the French people an autarky, a France that would no longer welcome anyone and a France that would champion trade protectionism. We can forget about our fundamental values, our competitiveness and our jobs! Her platform is one of cultural, moral and economic decline for France in the name of a sickening ideology. It is an anti-French platform.
On the other extreme, Jean-Luc Mlenchon has resurrected a “far-Left” that we thought was dead and buried. 11% of voters chose the candidate who promised to revolutionize and dismantle the system.
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