There remain only two. The French have cast their votes, and the two major-party candidates will advance to the next round. The participation rate, around 80 percent, shocked all of the pollsters who were betting on abstention. But the French were aware of what this election represents, and mobilized strongly in the first round. This is good news for democracy.
The National Front's success is one of the lessons of this first round. It gives us a new priority mission. One by one, we must convince the party's constituents that we understand their concerns. The overwhelming majority of National Front voters are neither racist nor xenophobic. We should not treat them with contempt, as some members of the left have done -- Jean-Marc Ayrault comes to mind. These voters need reassurance of our ability to protect them and to protect France.
Because today more than ever, the challenge is about France, beyond mere partisanship. The campaign must go beyond politics to create conditions under which we can rally our country together. We are witnessing an election that will truly decide the future of France.
Therefore, I call the French people to a burst of patriotism, regardless of how they voted in the first round. A burst of patriotism and a vote for Nicolas Sarkozy, the only candidate who is able to defend France in a world that threatens our decline at all times.
It is a question of who will be most able to revitalize France, especially after the violent crises that have rattled all of Europe. It is on this basis that we need to gather.
Francois Hollande does not address this crisis enough. And when he does, it is mainly to criticize Nicolas Sarkozy. He offers no solution. He simply acts as if it were not there, putting forth proposals more suited to periods of economic splendor, ripe with spending and taxation at all costs.
Today, prisoner of Jean-Luc Melenchon and the Green Party, he is unable to come to his senses. With Francois Hollande, we risk falling into a Spanish scenario. Spain placed its trust in a socialist government that had promised too much, spent too much, and led the country into crisis. We do not want that for France!
I say to Francois Hollande and his friends: politics are about more than just making promises we cannot keep. Politics are about giving hope to the people, acting responsibly, and practicing a discourse of truth.
This is what Nicolas Sarkozy has never stopped doing. He has a record that speaks for itself. He has tirelessly and successfully fought the economic crisis. He reduced public expenditures in the best interests of France. He has accomplished proven results, including a deficit which has decreased much faster than expected. And he did it all without breaking France, without placing an undue burden to the French people. This kind of leadership and prowess is unique in all of Europe!
Ask the staff members whose salary was not decreased if Nicolas Sarkozy was a bad president!
Ask all of our retirees, whose pensions have not diminished, if Nicolas Sarkozy is not the president that France still needs!
Ask the workers, whose factories and jobs have been saved, or who have received tax-free overtime if Nicolas Sarkozy really is the president of the rich!
Ask all of the young people who did not have to choose between work and study if the creation of a tenth month of scholarship did not relieve them of their burdens!
Ask the 150,000 people who were lifted out of poverty thanks to the RIAA if Nicolas Sarkozy took the crisis as an excuse to do nothing for them!
France was able to keep her head up through all of these times of crisis. And it is thanks to Nicolas Sarkozy. He now proposes to step it up a gear and bring France back to greatness.
Many French people have already understood this and expressed it in the first round. This is the message that we must bring to all those who love France but who did not opt for Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round.
This is a message that we must bring specifically to those who voted in "protest." These are the disillusioned voters who want a president who listens to the people and who makes the protection of France a priority. These are the voters who want a president who will truly represent them. To these voters we must say that Nicolas Sarkozy is the only candidate able to truly represent and defend them.
In continuation of what has been done in recent years, we propose to give an even greater role to the will of the people. We will use referendums more systematically for questions central to the future of France. We will protect the interests of the French people against a technocratic Europe not firm enough against its trading partners and too lax in its borders. Without compromise. These are cornerstones of Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign.
Have we heard François Hollande engage the public so frankly? Being a candidate of the left is not enough to count as a candidate of the people. This is the position he has put himself in: a candidate who can rally the left, but not a candidate who can rally all of France.
The reality is that Francois Hollande has never been and never will be the people's candidate. This disconnect is palpable even in the few proposals he made during his campaign: the elimination of family tax splitting, increased employee contributions, or the undercutting of life insurance. Not to mention his attitude, which casts doubt on the reality of his intentions. This is not how we should protect the people in times of crisis. France needs leadership and firm decisions on behalf of and for the people!
Winning this election is not about representing a certain clan. It's about gathering all of the French people in the name of a certain idea of France. On behalf of the eternal France, that of labor, of renewed growth, of a strong and respected voice in Europe and worldwide. On behalf of a France that we cannot simply abandon to an economic, moral, and social collapse under Francois Hollande. A vote for this France is a vote for Nicolas Sarkozy.