François Bayrou is an extraordinary candidate in every respect. Brought up in a small village, he was a farmer and a country teacher and is a practicing Catholic as well as father of a numerous family. On public meetings he recites poetry and shines with erudition; he doesn’t feel abashed while conversing with foreign journalists in English (“France isn’t alone in Europe”, as he says). During his first presidential campaign in 2002 he slapped a pickpocket in the face that tried to rob him on an electoral meeting. In popularity rankings he drastically outdistances his rivals (70% of positive opinions), but this does not convert into voters’ support.
For Bayrou is a centrist, which in the French majority system remains a guarantee of marginalisation.
For many years Bayrou has been the leader of UDF, a party assembling centrists, who still traditionally inclined towards the right. In 1993-1997 he was the Minister of Education of the right-winged government, however from that time he continues on his solitary political way, rejecting alliances with the right and the left. In 2007 election he was close to success – he gained 19% of votes, leading an anti-establishment campaign stigmatising two great parties (the right-winged UMP and the left-winged PS) and the media connected with them. Tractor became the symbol of his campaign which he had been driving in the fields of his family farm in Pyrénées-Atlantiques to the media’s delight.
Current campaign does not go according to his plan. The issue of fighting with the debt that remains his leitmotif surprisingly didn’t become the centre of attention in the electoral debate, and after the shooting in Toulouse it has been completely pushed aside. To cheer himself up, he is left with a recent article from The Economist in which he has been listed as the only candidate that does not contradict the reality.
Before the elections’ second round his dozen or so of percents may become a tempting morsel for Sarkozy and Hollande. For now, the majority of his supporters lean towards supporting the socialists’ candidate. In 2007 Bayrou turned down all the pacts before the second round; this uncompromising attitude was supposed to pay off in 2012. Does he already think about the campaign in 2017?
Translation: Alicja Bratkowska