Eyes on Burgundy bellweather village

By Kim Willsher

Opinion polls come and go, but when it comes to elections the 1600 souls of the pretty Burgundy village of Donzy always seem to know best.

Famous for its Pouilly-Fume wine and foie gras, Donzy has, with uncanny prescience, mirrored the voting pattern of France since 1981.

That year, it turned left behind Francois Mitterrand. In 1995 it went right behind Jacques Chirac; in 2007 it veered further right behind Nicolas Sarkozy. In 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen caused a political tsunami by knocking out the Socialist candidate to reach the second-round vote, Donzy did too, reflecting an entirely unexpected national trend.

The town's reputation as a political bellwether has been fixed in the national psyche by its history of picking not only the winner but also the runners-up in the correct order, and within a percentage point or two.

A week from the first round of the presidential election, the latest polls showed Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist rival Francois Hollande almost neck-and-neck for first place in the first round, but gave Hollande a sizeable victory in the second round a fortnight later.

The only activists handing out leaflets in the village are those from Jean-Luc Melenchon's Front Gauche, currently tussling with the far-right Front National (FN) leader, Marine Le Pen, for third place in the polls.

One leafleter, Gilbert Moser, 71, a retired local councillor from Paris, explains that Donzy, 200km from the French capital, is a microcosm of Gallic society. "We have a very mixed population and the same range of concerns here as in the rest of the country; unemployment, the cost of living, education, and with a large number of retired people, pensions."

His neighbour, Herve Huet, 65, added: "They're talking of closing the school here and that will mean death to the place. Already young people are moving away and this will be the death knell."

Karl Thill, 79, a retired advertising executive, and his wife Marie-Helene, 62, a former adult-education worker, are leaning towards Melenchon but have not quite made up their minds.

In Donzy, Sarkozy seems more disliked than Hollande is liked, with the political mood more anti-Sarkozy than pro-Hollande. Melenchon and Le Pen both have their camps. Of the six other candidates, including the eternal also-ran Francois Bayrou, there was not a single mention.

If Donzy, the bellwether village, has got it right yet again, it looks like being a bleak second round for Sarkozy.Observer

THE POLLS SAY

First round
* Francois Hollande: 28.4%
* Nicolas Sarkozy: 27%

Second round
* Francois Hollande: 55.5%
* Nicolas Sarkozy: 45.5%

- Sources: Opinionway, BVA, LH2, CSA

- OBSERVER

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a3 at 18 Apr 2014 18:59:10 Processing Time: 337ms