Impact of Toulouse killings on French elections

March 22nd, 2012

France will hold its presidential election next month. Most of the candidates suspended campaigning following the shootings at a Jewish school in Toulouse which resulted in 7 deaths. The alleged assailant, Mohammed Merah, a Frenchman of Algerian descent, claimed to have ties with al-Qaida. Merah was shot and killed by French police. William Keylor is an international relations professor and an expert on the history of modern France. He offers the following comment on the impact the extremist’s killings on the French elections:

“The major question concerning the French presidential race is if Sarkozy – in the face of polls suggesting that he will be beaten by Socialist candidate Francois Hollande in the second round of the elections – will be tempted to exploit public anxiety about the internal threat posed by radical Islamists by veering to the right in search of votes that would otherwise go to Martine Le Pen of the anti-immigration Front National.

“If he does not stoop to this level, Sarkozy might be able to capitalize on the recent tragic events by presenting himself as a healer best suited to bringing the country together and defending the humane values of the Republic. In times of crisis, voters often tend to support the known commodity rather than taking risks with an untested, unproven alternative.”

Contact Keylor at 617-358-0197;

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