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On Sunday, March 16 France will hold a second round
On Sunday, March 16 France will hold a second round of municipal elections.

They have already been dubbed a referendum on the attitude of the French to the policy of President Nicholas Sarkozy, and even more so, to him personally.

The first round on March 9 has shown his low ratings. Contrary to predictions of some left-wing papers, the elections have not and will not become the end of the right-wing presidential Union for a Popular Movement. Nor will they deal a fatal blow at Sarkozy. But, as one Paris newspaper put it, "the first results make it clear that the base of Sarkozism is dwindling like pebble-leather."

This is very true. In the first round, the union's main opponents, the Socialists easily repelled the conservatives' attacks on Lyon, France's third biggest city, and conquered such big centers as Rouen and Nantes. In the second round, they are going to seize conservative bastions like Strasbourg, Cannes and Lille, and have every chance to succeed.

Nobody doubts that Paris will remain in the hands of Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe. If the Socialists also get Marseilles and Toulouse, which is probable, they have every reason to believe that for them, at least at municipal level, "...le jour de gloire est arrive!" (the day of glory has arrived), as La Marseillaise goes. Counting Lyon and Paris, they will establish control over all four French metropolises.

But even if the "day of glory" does not arrive, the Socialists will have achieved a great deal. In most modest estimates, they will take from the conservatives at least 30 major cities and take revenge for the humiliating defeat in the 2001 elections.

Sarkozy himself is to blame for everything that is happening around him. In principle, any municipal elections in France, as in any other countries are about city parks, waste management, schools, hospitals, clean pavements, and functioning sewage systems. But even before the elections, Sarkozy elevated the subject to national dimensions. He turned the elections into a political referendum, having said almost a month before the first round, that he "will personally take part in the elections because the concept of depoliticized elections is absurd." This was obviously an impetuous statement.

By early March Sarkozy's popularity dropped to 30% (right after last May's presidential elections it soared to more than 60%). After the first round, Monsieur le President tried to back off and said that in his position he should not interfere in the municipal elections. But it was too late; in fact, he only made it worse because his compatriots saw this as another evidence of his inconsistency and unpredictability.

The French have become disenchanted with their president suspiciously fast - in a mere 10 months. On the one hand, this is their own fault because they elected him themselves. But on the other hand, for all their light-minded attitudes, the French can be justified. Sarkozy has not even started honoring any of his election promises - to resolve the immigration issue, increase the purchasing capacity of the population, and reduce prices.

The French are most irritated that instead Sarkozy is behaving like an arrogant TV star with a devil-may-care attitude - at a farmer's market, he was rude to a random passer-by, and called one of his press assistants an idiot... Even worse, he not only managed to divorce his wife Cecilia, with whom he was running for the presidency, but also to marry top model and singer Carla Bruni.

Worried about high prices, the French almost always see Sarkozy and Bruni in the company of millionaires against some exclusive background, as if taken from a Thousand and One Nights, when the couple was shown during their vacation in the Middle East. In a country where adultery is nor even considered a sin but is presented as a kind of a secret symbol, he could get away with the marriage. But for the tight-fisted French, this luxurious lifestyle is too much.

Municipal and canton elections in a country of wine, cheese and perfume have one more endemic quality. Any other European nation would find it most bizarre. Indeed, can you imagine a British Prime Minister running for the position of the Lord-Mayor of London's City, or the U.S. Secretary of Justice wishing to occupy the Mayor's seat in Philadelphia? In France, ministers are allowed to simultaneously occupy municipal positions, and this is what 22 out of 33 Sarkozy's cabinet ministers are after. The French voters also elect their ministers to second positions of mayors and deputy mayors. This is very convenient - if a minister is dismissed, he or she can continue getting a mayor's salary.

Sarkozy said that history will judge him in 2012, by the end of his presidential term. He is obviously ready to run for the second term. But if the current situation persists, maybe he should also try to get a back-up mayor's seat at the municipal elections?

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.


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