French Election Watch: Reporter Sciolino Still Doesn't Like Conservative Sarkozy

Paris-based reporter Elaine Sciolino still dislikes French conservative, tough-on-crime candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, judging by her review of Wednesday night's televised debate between Sarkozy and his Socialist opponent Segolene Royal for the French presidentialelection on Sunday.

"Mr. Sarkozy, 52, the son of a Hungarian immigrant with minor aristocratic roots, and Ms. Royal, 53, the daughter of a career army officer, faced different challenges. Mr. Sarkozy had to avoid looking like a sexist bully; Ms. Royal had to prove herself presidential.

"Mr. Sarkozy, the former interior and finance minister, had to fight off the demon that has tormented him: his image as an authoritarian figure with a volatile temper. For [Socialist opponent Segolene] Royal, the debate was her last chance to turn around polls that consistently put Mr. Sarkozy in the lead."

That's not exactly a balanced presentation of the challenges, given that Sarkozy took a lead into the debate (Sarkozy emerged with the lead as well).

Sciolino defended his Socialist opponent Segolene Royal in her "news analysis" on Wednesday, "After Chirac, a Question Mark on French Foreign Policy."

"The Sarkozy camp has attacked Ms. Royal for her lack of foreign policy gravitas and her repeated gaffes. France 'doesn't need someone who changes ideas as often as her skirts,' Defense Minister Michèle Alliot-Marie, a Sarkozy supporter, said at a rally on Sunday.

"But when Mr. Sarkozy stumbles, he tends to be forgiven. When Ms. Royal got wrong the number of submarines in France's navy, she was portrayed as a foreign policy neophyte; when Mr. Sarkozy did the same thing, his mistake was largely ignored.

"Similarly, Mr. Sarkozy's apparent ignorance in a television interview in February that Al Qaeda was a Sunni movement was little noticed."