photo: au chai de l'abbaye, rue buci

Sunday was fine for voting, and whatever 'after' you wanted.

Socialists Blow Election

Paris:- Monday, 22. April 2002:- Until yesterday morning the media were telling voters the name of the probable winner in the first round of France's presidential election. With this as a comfortable certainty, Le Parisien treated its Saturday edition readers to a round-up of the campaign - with tidbits and highlights of the campaign, under the headline of:

A 'Drôle' of an Election

In order to make sure there really would be an 'Au Bistro' column this week, I decided to get an early start, by plowing through past issues of the paper.

Everybody was in a dither during the last week of the campaign for the election for Président of France. Surveys indicated voters intended to stay away from polling stations in droves.

With Easter holidays beginning or ending - they take place at 'Easter holiday time' rather than during Easter - other hundreds of thousands of voters planned to be in traffic jams instead of polling booths.

Meanwhile, all the polls showed the leading candidates - Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin - losingphoto: ponts des arts points, dropping below the 20 percent levels - while Jean-Marie Le Pen, an extreme right-winger, was climbing upwards.

Or - Sunday was good on the Pont des Arts too.

Being in New York, I missed the part where Le Pen was supposed to produce his 500 endorsements. This he did on Easter weekend - as if by magic - beating the filing deadline by a hair. Who were saying they are gong to vote for him anyway? Where have they been hiding?

At the opposite end of the scale, Arlette Laguiller, the five-time Trotskyist candidate, was scoring seven points - ahead of the Communist Party's leader, Robert Hue. Greens and other Trotskyists were nipping on his heels. All the Trotskyists and Greens added together could beat Le Pen though.

Adding the Communists, the Greens and the Socialists to the Trotskyists - then Jacques Chirac and everybody in the 'liberal' centre or on the right, wouldn't have a chance.

The total in the polls was over 100 percent - but, wait for it! - thirty percent said they had no intention of voting, 46 percent hadn't made a choice yet and 47 percent said they were unhappy with the campaign. People will tell the polls anything.

But the TV-news showed many candidates, which the polls only credited with only a couple of percentage points, holding big campaign meetings before enthusiastic crowds.

One way or another, it seemed as if Sunday would produce the expected candidates as leading vote-getters. Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin would fight it out head to head in the finals, on Sunday. 5. May.

'Le Choc' - 'Stupefication' - 'Non!'

Polling stations in smaller towns and villages closed at 18:00 and closed in France's bigger cities at 20:00. Four out of the six national TV channels began their first round of the presidential election coverage between 19:00 and 19:45. I tuned in to France-2 TV-news at 20:00.

The first estimates placed Jacques Chirac in the lead, followed by Jean-Marie Le Pen, with Lionelphoto: oysters Jospin in third place and effectively eliminated from the 2nd and final round of the presidential election, in two weeks.

Later results did not change the situation. Le Pen, credited with 17.08% of the vote by the Ministry of the Interior, led Lionel Jospin by a comfortable margin of 1.04 percentage points.

And, after voting - a dozen strength-giving oysters?

Le Pen was the first to get his victory speech broadcast from National Front party headquarters in the Paris suburb of Saint-Cloud. He was surrounded by supporters gone ga-ga with joy and besieged by media lenses, who possibly outnumbered the party faithful.

Le Parisien's comment - "It's more than a simple earthquake." At age 73, it is Le Pen's fourth attempt to capture the presidency of France - and most likely his last.

The abstention rate yesterday was calculated as 28.4% of registered voters. Of the remainder who cast ballots, 82.2% voted against Jean-Marie Le Pen. France has been turned upsidedown.

Maybe it's a European thing. In German state elections yesterday, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a Social Democrat, got bombed too.

In France, with right-wing candidate Chirac facing extreme right-wing candidate Le Pen, the polls are giving Chirac an advantage of 77 percent to Le Pen's 23 percent. On Sunday, 5. May, abstentions are expected to be 26 percent.

The False Mono-Issue

The Président, Jacques Chirac, based his reelection campaign on the issue of 'security,' or to be more precise, the civil 'insecurity' that the French think is a menacing reality of their daily lives.

This somewhat minor theme outweighed the positive achievements of Lionel Jospin, who as prime minister for the past five years, has been managing the country.

With 'insecurity' as the sole issue, Jean-Marie Le Pen, considered to be 'authoritarian,' did not need to campaign and he didn't. If you were listening, therephoto: peniche resto, batobus was nothing to hear. Unlike in his past campaigns, he was careful to say nothing.

Amazingly, many Le Pen voters 'heard' - 'between the lines!' - in small towns with no delinquents and no immigrants, they voted 'for' anti-immigration and 'security.'

More on the Seine - more eating and drinking, or cruising.

With yesterday's outcome, the French have only a narrow choice - one that has nothing to do with resolving the question of what sort of future France wants to have, or whether it wants to have one.

Many of Le Pen's voters have and will continue to vote for the past.

Rally Around Chirac?

A good part of the Socialist's defeat yesterday is being attributed to the various other leftist parties of 'outsiders' who managed to gather over 20 percent of the votes cast.

Included with these are the good fifth-place score for rlette Laguiller and her Trotskyist 'Lutte Ouvrière' party, and the miserably lousy score of 3.41 percent for Robert Hue and the formerly very powerful French Communist Party.

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