24 April 2007

French toast

I was a little surprised to see the amount of coverage of the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday in the US press, but maybe I run in the wrong circles. (see this article in last week's New Yorker; a bit out of date now, but you'll have some background on the principles involved.) A few observations from the perspective of someone who's only really familiar with US politics:

  • It's fun to look at all the minor candidates and see the relative large amount of support they can muster. Heck, the revolutionary socialist candidate got five percent. Of course, that's tempered somewhat by the self-avowed fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen, who got ten percent. At least they avoided the embarrassment of 2003, when all the left-parties split themselves up and Le Pen ended up in the second round.
  • Turnout was 84 percent, which would put any similar American election to shame. Say, it can't be because they don't have a two-party monopoly and people have the opportunity to vote for someone who actually reflects their views, and aren't cattle-whipped into line behind a party they don't really support because the other guys are Teh Fascists!1!1!, and you don't want them to win, do you?
  • It must be shocking for Americans to see that the "Socialist Party" is a pretty mainstream left party (although how "socialist" it is can be argued about by people smarter than me). This isn't all that uncommon (Chile comes to mind). In the USA, of course, no one's a socialist, because that's the heaviest, most bitter political insult right-wingers can throw at you, and we're so terrified of what they're going to call us.
  • Similarly, I found it humorous that the "old guard" of the PS are called "elephants."
The final will be between Socialist candidate Segolene Royal (who would become the first female head-of-state in France) and Nicolas Sarkozy, who has drawn comparisons to Rudy Giuliani. The CW has Sarkozy as a heavy favorite to win, with most backers of defeated centrist candidate Francois Bayrou breaking right and more small rightist factions (such as Le Pen supporters) to draw from.