Venstresiden i Frankrike kjører en skrekk-kampanje mot Nikolas Sarkozy: TSS (tout sauf S.) – alt bortsett fra Sarkozy er mottoet. Ironisk nok er det de som anklager Sarkozy for å spre frykt som selv skremmer.
The demonisation of the favourite is one of the most striking phenomena of the 2007 campaign, academics and historians say. Max Gallo, an historian who served as spokesman for the late President Mitterrand, said: «Putting aside Jean-Marie Le Pen, I cannot think if any other case of a politician being execrated like this since the hatred of opponents of de Gaulle.»
For the Left, vilifying Mr Sarkozy offers a last hope of breaking his march to the Elysée Palace on Sunday. Ms Royal’s aim is to stir anti-Sarkozy fears among those who voted for the centrist candidate, François Bayrou, who was eliminated with 18 per cent of the vote on April 22.
The Socialists set out to demonise Mr Sarkozy months ago, according to Eric Besson, a senior campaign official who defected after falling out with Ms Royal. «Since we had a weak candidate, it was the best path to take,» he said.
As a tough Interior Minister until last month, the ambitious Mr Sarkozy earned the dislike of many young people — especially those from the immigrant ghettos. His doctrines of radical economic reform and individual responsibility — never before aired by a senior French politician — have been welcomed by many as a revolution, but cast by opponents as divisive, cruel and unFrench.
Mr Sarkozy has offered opponents new ammunition over the past month by breaching politically correct taboos on immigration and national identity and successfully wooing supporters of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the far-right candidate.
With his character increasingly a campaign issue, Mr Sarkozy mused at the weekend over the antipathy that he stirs: «Why so much hate? Maybe it is because I say out loud what everyone thinks to themselves.»
He proceeded to spur fresh fury among the left-wing Establishment by blaming the «generation of 1968» for the moral crisis of France. The Socialist party elders and many top civil servants and academics were students in that year of revolt.
Pro-Royal campaigners have called him a «French Berlusconi», a new Bonaparte and a «French George W. Bush».
Det er tendens til panikk på sosialistsiden. En meningsmåling viser at 65 prosent finner Sarkozy «solid», mot bare 24 som mener det samme om Royal. Derimot er rollene omvendt når det gjelder hvem folk finner sympatisk: bare 27 prosent liker Sarkozy som person, mens hele 57 prosent liker Royal. Her har Venstresiden en mulighet: hvis de kan snu sympatien for Royal til politisk aversjon mot Sarkozy.