At present, Sarkozy seems to be a good way ahead in the race for UMP nomination in the presidential elections, due next spring. The Ifop survey published in Le Journal du Dimanche says that 45 per cent of the electorate wants Sarkozy to be the centre-right candidate with only 8 per cent opting for Villepin and 3 per cent for Chirac. The rest, one assumes, preferred none of the above.
According to Emmanuel Rivière, head of political studies at the TNS Sofres polling institute, Sarkozy may be in the lead as far as UMP is concerned but defeating the Socialists will be considerably more difficult. That’s as may be. As the International Herald Tribune article puts it:
“Several long-time supporters of President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, Sarkozy's main rivals in recent years, used the three-day conference in the port town of Marseille to express their support for the interior minister, among them the budget minister Jean-François Copé and the sports minister, Jean-François Lamour.The three-day conference in Marseilles was for 6,000 young members of the party. They gave Sarkozy a rousing welcome and, apparently, endorsed his rather vague promises of creating a “new French model” and “reinventing the Republic”. The inevitable rock singers and, this being France, aged crooners were also present.
Villepin himself appeared to soften his opposition to Sarkozy, albeit without explicitly endorsing his candidature.
"Thank you Nicolas!" said Villepin on the opening day of the meeting on Friday. "Nicolas, you are a minister of state who is energetic, strong-willed and courageous. I give you all my gratitude."
The show of unity on the right comes one week after a similar gathering of the opposition Socialist Party was overshadowed by divisive squabbling among half a dozen potential candidates, several of whom multiplied their attacks on Ségolène Royal, the front- runner in opinion polls on the left.”
There seems to be some doubt in the reporting as to whether Sarkozy really does appeal to the young. On the one hand, we are told, he has not been forgiven for his references to the suburban rioters of last autumn, as “scum”. Forgiven by whom, one wonders. The suburban rioters are unlikely to vote UMP, anyway.
On the other hand, he has been promising lots of goodies to the middle class youngsters, who are likely to vote for him.
“On Sunday, he sought to woo young voters by proposing to create interest- free loans for students who want to set up a business and special education savings accounts. In a proposal that resembles one in the Socialist Party's program, he also suggested the introduction of a six-month community service for those aged between 18 and 30.Meanwhile with les vacances annuaires over, children back at school, it is time for French politicians on the left to turn their attention to what really matters: next year’s presidential elections.
Sarkozy appeared to criticize a flexible work contract the government introduced a year ago, which allows small companies to fire employees without justification during the first two years. The contract is estimated to have created at least 40,000 jobs that would otherwise not have been created, but it has been fiercely criticized by labor unions and the Socialist Party.”