January 6, 2012 5:37 pm

Presidential contenders bidding to win

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François Hollande, Socialist

Once described by former president Jacques Chirac as being less well-known than the Labrador of then-president François Mitterrand, Mr Hollande, 57, is bidding to be the first Socialist party candidate to win the Elysée since the late Mr Mitterrand gained a second term in 1988.

Mr Hollande was party general secretary for a decade, but has never been a minister. He won the Socialist primaries after Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the favourite, was undone by a sex scandal.

He has pledged to stick to rigorous targets on reducing France’s debt and budget deficit, but has criticised eurozone leaders for overemphasising austerity and neglecting growth.

Marine Le Pen, National Front

Marine Le Pen, 44, has proved an effective successor to her father Jean-Marie as National Front leader, matching his talent for populist rhetoric but softening – at least in public – the party’s harder racist edges.

Her trenchant calls for the abandonment of the euro, for protectionism against imports, for a restoration of sovereignty from Brussels – and for a halt to immigration – have struck a chord with blue collar workers especially. Her candidacy is mainly a threat to Nicolas Sarkozy – and will be especially so if the polls underestimate her support, as they did in the past for her father.

François Bayrou, Democratic Movement

Maverick centrist campaigner François Bayrou, 59, caused a surprise in the 2007 election when he came third in the first round with 18.5 per cent of the vote. Leader of the Democratic Movement, known as Modem, Mr Bayrou’s political roots were on the centre right, but he is a critic of Mr Sarkozy’s government.

Strongly pro-European, his call for a break in the two-party dominance and attacks on corruption attract support from left and right. He caught the mood in the current debate about France’s loss of industrial strength by calling for a national “Made in France” campaign.

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