22 April and 6 May 2012 have been announced as the dates for the two rounds of the upcoming French presidential election (the second round is only held if no candidate wins 50 % in the first round, but that seems unlikely to happen).
Having been in office since 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy from the conservative UMP party is eligible for re-election, but recent polls leave him little hope of winning a second term, indicating that he will be voted out already in the first round and that the second round will be between whoever stands for election for the Socialist party and Marine Le Pen, leader of the right-wing extremist party Front National.
One year before the election the polls indicate that Sarkozy’s only chance would be if he came to the second round against Marine Le Pen, in which case he would win a landslide victory.
In such circumstances one might perhaps expect that Sarkozy would face a challenge for his party’s nomination, but so far possible candidates seem reluctant to challenge the President.
The Socialist Party will hold primaries in October to elect its candidate for the presidency. Among the possible choices are Ségolène Royal, who was defeated by Sarkozy in 2007; Martine Aubry, who narrowly defeated Royal over the party leadership in 2008; former party leader François Hollande (who has four children with Ségolène Royal); and Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the managing director of the IMF, whose chances seem lost after the news today that he has been arrested in New York suspected of sexual assault on a hotel maid - which shows how much may yet change in the coming year.