The alleged "third man" in the French Presidential Race. Today he is even in the polls with Segolene Royal, both at 24%. He has a very strong chance of taking votes from the Left and if the race was between him and Sarkozi in the second round, would prbably win as being the better of two bad choices.
I'm very willing to say that his rise is due more to Frances misogynistic views on having a woman President than to his own abilities, but then again he has manuvered himself into this position against strong winds!
He was born in 1951 in the Bearn Region of Southwest France, near Lourdes. He has told people that he had a vision of the holy virgin when he was 12 , who told him that one day he would be President of France. He is from a very hardworking farming family and took over the family farm at 20 when his father was killed in a farming accident. At the same time, he was a Latin teacher. As a young man, he overcame a debilitating stutter by reciting poettry in front of a mirror. This story is uused to described his will power and self discipline.
He still makes much of his country farming origins and still lives in the village of Borderes, where he was born. Now he raises horses.
He entered politics in 1979 under the wing of Valery Giscard D'Estaing, whose UDF Party was a coalition of Pro-European and Christian groups and offered a centrist right alternative to the Gaullism of Jacques Chirac. He has served as member of the national assembly since 1986 and Education Minister between 1993 and 1997 in governments that were formed under Chiracs RPR Party. In 1998, he became the UDF party president and ran for president of France in 2002, garnering 6.8% of the vote.
In 2002, a majority of UDF deputies defected and joined Chiracs newly formed UDF Party, now headed by Sarkozi. Bayrou refused to give up his independance and held on to his party and 30 Deputies.
He is outwardly a mild soft spoken man who speaks in platitudes. That seems to be much of his appeal, he appears uncomplicated and simple. Inwardly, he is a determined fighter who has struggled to attain the position he has and keep it.
In this campaign, he has criticized the Socialists for "out of date" policies and Sarkozi of being too far right. He has tried to woo the Left by claiming that he would appoint a Socialist as Prime Minister, but the candidates he has mentioned have all strongly denied that they would be interested and are demanding that he lay his cards on the table as far as his leftist tendencies go. He also states that he would be like Italys' Prodi, forming a coalittion of Right and Left. He has gotten a lot of attention and probably a few polling points in his claims that the media too early turned this election into a two party campaign and he was excluded.
He is a father of six and a practising Catholic. He has also written a very good biography of Henry IV, the king of France after the Wars of Religion who came from the Bearn and was probably the most competent king France ever had.
As I said above, his current jump in the polls represent to me, Frances hemming and hawing about electing a woman. He certainly has gotten very far with out a major policy statement, just speeches about uniting left and right and reaching out to the Islamic community.
I would be very surprised, given the volatile nature of this campaign, that this surge in his popularity is sustained. Sarkozi has more to fear from him than Segolene does. I think that if it played out to Bayrou against Segolene in the second round, she would win. If it was Bayrou/Sarkozi....I think Bayrou would squeak in!
My analysis of his personality was formed from a news cast I saw one day about 2 weeks ago. He was on a train being interviewed and there was an American woman reporter who started to ask questions in bad French. He stopped her and answered in English that she could interview him in English. So she did and it was immediately obvious that he couldn't speak English. He belives he can do something and is always astonished when he can't.
LePen is lurking in thte shadows at 17% and still hasn't gotten his 500 mayoral signatures to be an official candidate.