Monday, April 23, 2007

the triumph of democracy over apathy a slightly grandiose title for a blog post, but there it is. I'm referring to the results of the first round of the French presidential election yesterday. It seems that either the French voting public was genuinely engaged and energised by the candidates on offer this time round, or that they were keen to avoid the debacle of 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen qualified for the second round of voting at the expense of the Socialist candidate Lionel Jospin.

Whatever the reason, voter turnout was a startling 84.6% compared with 71.6% in 2002, and what most neutral-ish observers would consider the "right" pair of candidates, Nicloas Sarkozy and Ségolène Royal, qualified for the run-off on 6th May. At least this way there'll be a meaningful second round, unlike last time where Jacques Chirac was guaranteed a landslide victory as soon as Le Pen qualified alongside him.

It'll be interesting to see where the unsuccessful candidates' votes go in the second round; you would assume that the Le Pen vote will largely gravitate to Sarkozy, despite the two men's mutual personal loathing. Where the Bayrou vote might go is a bit trickier. Not to mention the significant numbers (16% of the turnout) who voted for the various other candidates, including José Bové and his comedy moustache. Here's a picture (above) so you can compare it with Dick Strawbridge's from a few posts back. I think his startling resemblance to Asterix (also above) might have won him a few votes, as well.

Personally I hope Ségolène Royal wins, just because it would give the chauvinistic conservative status quo an almighty hoof in the family jewels, which would be quite amusing. There may be an element of me quite fancying her, in a quintessentially French older woman kind of way, as well, but I'm not prepared to comment on that.

This might be a good moment, also, to revive the hoary old quote which I've just looked up and seen attributed to Gore Vidal: "Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so." Or, for French consumption: "N'importe quel français qui est disposé à courir pour le président devrait automatiquement, par définition, être éliminé de faire jamais ainsi." Well, "courir pour le président" probably isn't the right idiom, but it'll have to do. Sarkozy really really wants to be president; you can see it in his eyes. Some people might find this a bit alarming.

It's instructive to contrast the turnout with the turnout at the last two UK general elections - 61.3% in 2005 and 59.2% in 2001. That's what you get in a system (i.e. the French one) where every person casting a vote knows that their vote is going to count. Admittedly electing 650 MPs is a bit more complex than electing a single President, but the same principles apply. More here, if you want it.

On a completely unrelated note, this is my 147th blog post, and the World Snooker Championship started this week. Spooky, huh?


Anonymous said...

thanks to you for paying tribute to the french elections.. the whole country is in election frenzy, and most Parisians (around me) are disappointed that the THIRD MAN didn't get through.
Don't forget to mark the 6th May in your diary.. I quite fancy Segolène myself innit.

electrichalibut said...

I do think Dick Strawbridge wins the moustache contest, though. You could park a bus in there.

Anonymous said...

I agree, Dick wins, which is how it should be, as a cheesy Frog shouldn't win any race.