France’s campaigning for the European Parliamentary elections has begun. But, as in other countries, national politics is the main attention-getter, and there is little European excitement. Less than half of French voters are expected to take part.Brice Teinturier, a polling expert with TNS Sofres, says the 47 percent prediction is not surprising: “An election moves people when something is at stake. How useful you think your vote is gets you going. A person goes to the ballot box because of that feeling. There has to be something at stake, and for that there has to be a confrontation. Yet we don’t see confrontation very well at European level.” Heading the list for President Sarkozy’s UMP party are Agriculture Minister Michel Barnier and Justice Minister Rachida Dati, although she initially resisted her boss naming her to run for a seat in Strasbourg. This party is currently predicted to take around 27 percent of the vote. The opposition socialists are tipped for some 21 percent. But their initial campaigning against Sarkozy and against a second mandate for European Commission president José Manuel Barroso has been criticised as boring and out of step. Francois Bayrou’s liberal-centrist MoDem is currently polling around 13 per cent support, followed by Europe Écologie (led by Greens veteran and 1968 rebel Daniel Cohn-Bendit) at 10 per cent. He has mocked Dati, saying he does not see the minister in the role of an MEP, as it is not glamorous enough. The New Anticapitalist Party and far-left Front de Gauche are not getting the support they might like, given the state of the economy, charismatic leader Olivier Besancenot and rallying calls such as “Ban layoffs!” If the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen is re-elected, a rule-change means he will not have the customary honour of opening the new assembly’s first session, as doyen by age.
French EU campaigns launched