France replicates most Western societies. Elections give voters little choice at best. Most often there's none. Two dominant parties usually compete. In France, there's three.
On April 22, first round presidential election voting took place. Three main parties competed. Former Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) leader and current president, Nicolas Sarkozy, faced two main challengers.
He squared off against Socialist Party's (PS) Francois Hollande and the far right National Front's (FN) Marine Le Pen.
All three represent wealth and power. Popular interests aren't considered. Sarkozy is far to the right of center. Neo-fascist best describes him. Le Pen's even worse.
Sarkozy's hugely unpopular. Voters aren't fooled by demagogic rhetoric calling himself "the people's candidate," wanting workers "to live from (their) labor."
How can they be with fast disappearing jobs. They want leaders committed to creating them. They want banker bailouts and euro straightjacket austerity ended.
One size fits all doesn't work. Uniting 17 dissimilar countries under rigid euro rules failed. Eurozone monetary union was doomed to fail. Nonetheless, it was engineered fraudulently to look workable.
Membership means foregoing the right to devalue currencies to make exports more competitive, maintain money sovereignty to monetize debt freely, and legislate fiscal policy to stimulate growth.
European Central Bank (ECB) officials run financial policies. Sovereign governments have no say. French voters and others across Europe want measures hurting them reversed.
They chafe under ECB enforced rules, terms and diktats. They control parliaments. They pressure, bribe or otherwise force capitulation in ways no no shark would demand.
Predatory finance is a new form of warfare. What it wants it gets. Mass layoffs, wage and benefit cuts, and other painful measures assure bankers get paid first.
France is entrapped like other Eurozone countries. Sarkozy fronts for powerful financial interests. It's hard imagining why anyone but elitists support him. Since taking office in May 2007, hundreds of thousands lost jobs.
Official unemployment's at 10%, the highest in over 12 years. Around three million wanting jobs can't find them. In the past decade, France lost more industrial jobs than any European country. Many came during Sarkozy's tenure. He's a job destroyer, not creator.
In 2008, he pledged 100,000 new ones. He was elected on a promise to revive employment, let workers earn more, and protect their pensions.
He pledged one thing and did another. He deplores worker rights. He supports reducing labor costs and cutting payrolls.
Over 1.4 million lost jobs. Around half a million were industrial ones. Wages and benefits were cut. So were pensions. Austerity harms European workers, including French ones.
Voters want him out. He advanced to a May 6 runoff. Polls show him well behind, though two late ones reflect a closer race. Let them eat cake policies win few friends. Neither does supporting imperial America.
New information surfaced about Gaddafi offering millions to fund his campaign. The French web site Mediapart said it had a 2006 Libyan document Gaddafi's intelligence chief Moussa Koussa signed. It offered Sarkozy $66 million.
"It's a setup, a slanderous" claim, he responded. He accused Mediapart of being a leftist mouthpiece. Opposition candidate Hollande urged judicial authorities investigate. So did Segolene Royal, the 2007 race runner-up. Gaddafi, of course, can't confirm or deny reports. Dead men tell no tales.
Sarkozy's right wing agenda can't be denied. Nor can his hostility to democratic rights, immigrants, Roma, and and Islam.
France has Europe's largest Muslim population. It's about 10% of its populace. Sarkozy calls wearing the burqa a "symbol of enslavement," adding:
"We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity."
His solution is force-feeding secularism. It's also about Islamophobia. It's increasing dangerously. Right wing extremism fuels it. Sarkozy's neo-fascism shares blame. The French umbrella Muslim group CFCM said attacks and insults rose 22% in 2011.
Interior Ministry figures show dozens of reported cases. According to CFCM's president Abdallah Zekri, official numbers way understate reality. Many victims stay silent.
They face physical attacks, insults, provocations, Koran burnings or profanations, as well as incidents affecting mosques and cemeteries.
How likely winner Hollande handles these and other vital concerns won't likely please voters. They're being set up again for disappointment. They especially want pocket book issues addressed. Hollande's agenda is opposite of what they need.
Ahead of the May 6 vote, he pledged more structural harshness. He supports worker layoffs. Hard hit French companies plan them. Sweeping ones are likely. So are more plant closings, wage and benefit cuts, and other measures on top of everything harming labor so far.
Called "Mr. Normal" by some, his political record is noticeably undistinguished. Perhaps he's the least worst choice, but France deserves better.
New Yorker contributor Adam Gopnik calls him "the inoffensive, myopic, weight-conscious Socialist candidate, a man so milky-mild that one has to project onto him a secret life to make him seem not just a fully credible politician but a fully credible human being."
His appeal rests on Sarkozy's failure and Le Pen's extremism. His rhetoric belies what's coming with him as president. He supports austerity, deficit reduction, social spending cuts, and other polices serving finance capital.
His book titled "Let's talk about France" attacked welfare state policies. He's more right-wing than left. He was one of former President Francois Mitterrand's economic advisors. He stayed loyal when austerity, factory closings, and layoffs became policy.
In 1999, he became the Socialist International's vice president. In 2004, he organized the Socialist Party's campaign for the neoliberal EU constitution. He also supports France's imperial alliance with Washington. As president, he'll resemble Obama, not FDR.
France's financial aristocracy prefers Sarkozy. It finds little fault with Hollande. During his tenure, social democratic change won't reemerge. At issue is how long will French workers tolerate him?
April 22 was round one. Sarkozy and Hollande advanced to a May 6 runoff. Le Pen finished third. Her National Front (FN) party received its highest ever support. Popular discontent fueled it. Pocket book issues matter most. Ten candidates competed. Only three mattered.
Late polls show Hollande winning with from 53 - 55% of the vote. Sunday, May 6 will decide. Progressive change won't triumph. Workers are again set up for disappointment.
Finance capitalism dominates Europe. Hollande supports it. Socialist Party (PS) politics govern from the right, not left. Its name belies its policies.
PS is to Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) as US Democrats are to Republicans. Not a dime's worth of difference separates them on issues mattering most.
Europe is much the same, including in France. On May 7, expect finance capital and France's privileged to awaken knowing they're in good hands with Hollande.
Same old, same old always wins. Worker interests haven't a chance. Ballot box activism doesn't produce change. Much more robust efforts are needed.
The way France, all Europe, and America are heading, maybe it'll show up one day and try. There's no other way popular interests can beat monied ones.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.