Top of the Agenda: Hollande Beats Sarkozy in First Round of French Election
French Socialist challenger François Hollande beat President Nicolas Sarkozy in the first round of France's presidential election yesterday by 28 percent to 27 percent, even as far-right candidate Marine Le Pen captured an unprecedented 18 percent of the vote. Hollande and Sarkozy will face off in the final runoff vote on May 6 (Guardian), in an election that is expected to have significant implications for European integration and the eurozone's response to its ongoing sovereign debt crisis.
"Mr. Sarkozy will have to find a way to attract most of Ms. Le Pen's votes as well as the 9.2 percent who voted for centrist Francois Bayrou, who finished fifth. This is no easy task, and his appeal will probably include a combination of anti-immigration riffs and more attacks on the European Central Bank (which has become the modern French substitute for running against the Germans)," notes this Wall Street Journal editorial.
"This election is a referendum on Sarkozy's presidency. Many French people consider him to blame for the fact that they are worse off today than they were in 2007, and they consider him to have demeaned the office of president. His first-round result is poor, as was expected--Sarkozy is the first incumbent in the Fifth Republic who didn't win the first round," writes Mathieu von Rohr for Der Spiegel.
"And the wooing of what many people consider to be xenophobic, Muslim-baiting, anti-European voters has caused many of his mainstream supporters to flee in revolt. Indeed, in order to win the runoff, Sarkozy must not only lure extreme-right-wing voters, but also Bayrou's centrist supporters, who are repelled by the president's appeals to Le Pen's flock," notes TIME's Bruce Crumley.
North Korea Threatens South
North Korea threatened today to attack South Korean targets by "unprecedented peculiar means" (Yonhap), amid rising tensions between the two nations following a failed North Korean rocket launch earlier this month.
EGYPT: The country cancelled a twenty-year contract to supply natural gas to Israel (Guardian) following a dispute over payments between private companies, officials from both countries said. The move further escalates tensions between the two neighbors, which signed a landmark peace treaty in 1979.
Sudan Bombs South Sudan
Sudan carried out air strikes on a South Sudanese oil town (Reuters) near the countries' shared border, killing three people. The move came three days after South Sudan vowed to pull out of the disputed Heglig oil field, which it had occupied for ten days.
MEXICO: An examination by the New York Times documents widespread corruption at Wal-Mart's Mexican subsidiary, Wal-Mart de Mexico, and a failure of Wal-Mart's executives to pursue an investigation into evidence showing the company used bribery to secure a greater market presence in Mexico.
Axelrod Makes Obama's Economic Case
President Obama's chief campaign strategist, David Axelrod, appearing on both Meet the Press (NBC) and State of the Union (CNN) said the economy is "moving in the right direction," with last quarter's job creation and manufacturing numbers the best they have been in years. The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows that less than half of voters polled approve of the president's handling of the economy.
The Associated Press contends increased defense spending and reduced government deficits under the Romney plan would mean less money for health care for the poor and disabled, and big cuts to day-to-day federal government operations.