Chatroom buzz shows centrists backing Royal

25th April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 25, 2007 (AFP) - Driven away by Nicolas Sarkozy's tough talk, many French centrist voters who could sway the presidential run-off plan to back Segolene Royal as "the lesser of two evils", according to the buzz on Internet chatrooms.

PARIS, April 25, 2007 (AFP) - Driven away by Nicolas Sarkozy's tough talk, many French centrist voters who could sway the presidential run-off plan to back Segolene Royal as "the lesser of two evils", according to the buzz on Internet chatrooms.

Feverish speculation has gripped France over how the 6.8 million people who backed the defeated centrist Francois Bayrou on Sunday will vote in the May 6 duel between the Socialist Royal and the right-winger Sarkozy.

Experts say Bayrou's supporters break into four groups: hard-and-fast centrists, right-wingers put off by Sarkozy's tough talk, left-wingers unconvinced by Royal and protest voters disillusioned with politics.

A majority were expected to swing behind the right-wing former interior minister in round two, since Bayrou's small Union for French Democracy (UDF) has long been allied with the right.

But posts in the online chatrooms of the UDF, where scores of centrist voters have logged on to debate their next step, confirm poll findings that suggest strong resistance to Sarkozy.

According to a poll by SOFRES, only a quarter of Bayrou voters plan to transfer allegiance to the right-winger compared to 46 percent for Royal.

A small minority on the UDF forum said they tipped towards Sarkozy as a better chance for economic reform.

"For me it'll be Sarkozy," one of them wrote under the pseudonym Fertil. "Anything but the mammoths of the Socialist Party" (PS).

"With Sarkozy we'll have five years to agree or not with his reforms -- but at least there will be reforms, whereas with the PS all we'll have to denounce is deadly immobility."

"It's a cruel dilemma," said Stanouch. "I can't relate to either of the candidates' visions. Royal has a new, dynamic style and her institutional reforms are interesting -- but on the economy..."

"And that's what I think will make me tip towards Sarkozy, though it'll hurt me to do it."

But many others refused to make their choice based on economic grounds alone, worrying that Sarkozy's tough-talking style as interior minister was the sign of a dangerously authoritarian streak.

Though scathing about Royal's campaign style and firmly left-wing programme, they planned to back her as "the lesser of two evils."

"When Nicolas and his cronies talk, I can hear the sound of boots crunching. I don't like it at all and I'm not sure democracy will survive with such a cynic in power," wrote Laurent, from Nantes in western France.

"At least with the airhead in a Chanel suit we can limit the damage and prepare for the future."

"I will vote Royal -- at the risk of having to demonstrate against her policies," agreed D'Avalie Noire. "Because at least with her I'll still have the freedom to demonstrate. With Sarkozy, I'll go straight on police file and I'd worry about losing my job."

Ouroboros saw the vote as "a choice between danger and the status quo. Segolene Royal is clearly the lesser evil. At worst she will carry on in the tradition of French politics: little change, no progress."

"Nicolas Sarkozy has surpassed all the candidates in terms of populism. He has no project for society, none at all!"

Reacting to Royal's calls for a debate with the centrist leader ahead of round two, some, like Bip, were hoping "Royal will change the course of history by accepting a true alliance around common themes."

"Don't ask me to say I think Royal is wonderful -- I don't -- but since she HAS to pull people together, she will," said Coalition.

Finally, there are those who cannot bring themselves to back either candidate -- who make up some 29 percent of round one centrist voters according to SOFRES.

"I can't vote for Sarkozy -- I find his ideas repulsive. But really nothing would make me vote for Royal either," wrote Zapataz.

"Sarkozy's methods are dangerous for society. But Sego is just as dangerous for her lack of understanding of the economy. With her we can kiss goodbye to the middle classes and small entrepreneurs," agreed SN2.

"I will vote blank -- neither left nor right -- so that the ideas of the centre develop in future," wrote Knoop.

Bayrou, a 55-year-old former education minister who campaigned for an end to the left-right divide, has so far refused to give voting instructions for round two, despite overtures from both Royal and Sarkozy.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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