Tuesday, April 17, 2007


The French voters hold their noses, and not because of their smelly cheeses:

"I'll probably vote for Sarko -- but with no great enthusiasm," said cheese-porter Thierry Dumesnil, 40.

"We've become a society of do-nothings. Everyone's on welfare. It's all very well being 'France -- land of asylum', but ordinary people end up paying the tab for the immigrants. I can't vote left. In France, we've tried that. If the Socialists get in again, it really will be the end of the road."

Florian Sicard, selling wheels of "comte" cheese from eastern France, said he is hesitating between Sarkozy, 52, and centrist candidate Francois Bayrou, 55.

"It's not that I find Sarkozy scary -- which some people do -- but I do think he can be a bit extreme.The problem with Bayrou is that nothing will change with him. He's too soft.

....Even supporters of the Socialist candidate Segolene Royal, 53, said that Sarkozy's campaign themes of ending welfare dependency and encouraging people to work harder are factors in their choice. Royal has herself spoken of the need for welfare recipients to give some service to society in return.

"All the ideas are getting mixed up. Sarkozy's got some left-wing ideas and Segolene's got some right-wing ones. So in the end it comes down to personality, and I find Segolene more reassuring -- less scary," said Karfalla Sylla, 47, a fruit and vegetable porter born in Ivory Coast.

"But the welfare problem is really important. Here we keep getting people looking for a job, but when they're told the pay they say it's not worth their while. As soon as they start work, they'd lose all these advantages like free television licences and free public transport," he said.

"The big problems facing France are the lack of freedom to do your own thing, the lack of reward for people who take risks, and an administration that never changes, that blocks everything," said Albert Ohayan, who runs the Raphael fruit and vegetable wholesale business.

"I would vote for Sarkozy, but I can't -- because when he was interior minister he was the one who put up all the speed cameras and set the police against ordinary motorists. It's his coercive side. Giving police all that power is not right.

"What with the rioting in the 'banlieues', he's managed to get everyone united against the police -- good guys and bad guys alike," he said.

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