Thumbs Down For Sarkozy
Thumbs Down For SarkozyReuters

The voting will take place only on Sunday, but the French presidential elections are essentially over and the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande has won.

He would have to totally collapse in the pre-election debate, but that traditionally has had little effect on the French voter.

Hollande is entering the second round backed by a united left that accounted for 45% in the first round, while his opponent Nicolas Sarkozy had 28% and could offer a fight only if voters for the National Front switched over to him en masse.

Marie Le Pen, the National Front's leader, effectively slammed Sarkozy's political coffin shut when she announced - as expected - that she was going to cast a blank ballot on Sunday and adopted "a plague on both their houses" approach to the two leading parties – the UMP and the Socialist party.

According to Le Pen, Sarkozy's attempt to woo her voters was contemptible and hypocritical - "It is pitiful to see a President defending ideas that are in contradiction with the policies of his first presidency," said Ms. Le Pen. "Such a President cannot become a president of the people."

The two major parties constituted the UMPS system (an ironic amalgam of Sarkozy's UMP and Hollande's PS). The UMP offered a semblance of patriotism and the PS a semblance of equality and fraternity but both major parties were marketing an illusion.

While Le Pen would not tell her party's members, who were free citizens, how to vote and they were free to vote in line with their conscience, there is no doubt that most of them will follow the example of their leader.

There was only one thing that the UMP could have offered Le Pen that would have changed her mind – legitimacy. In the relationship between the Socialists and other parties of the left, such as the Communists and Greens, there are agreements on joint candidates for the legislative seats, particularly after the first round has taken place.

The UMP will not do the same for the National Front, nor has it included members of the National Front in its cabinets, while the PS has taken in its rivals on the left.

In a related development, Sarkozy has apparently given up on another pool of voters --the approximately 9% who voted for Francois Bayrou on the first ballot. Sarkozy announced that he was not going to offer Bayrou the job of prime minister, because the prime minister had to represent the majority party, rather than a minority party.

Since Bayrou was not going to endorse him anyway, Sarkozy saw no reason to grovel before him by dangling the job as bait. This, as well, was tantamount to conceding defeat.