"Springtime for Democracy"

photo, election posters, presidential election 2007, 23 april Election posters outside polling station today.

G o o d B l o g W e e k

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Sunday, 22. April:– After five agonizing years following the last election for president of France, won by conservative Jacques Chirac after a tense face–off with ultra–rightist Jean–Marie Le Pen, the French voted massively today for 12 candidates of all colors from black to red, but showed no more than routine support for the nationalist leader.

A majority of the French voted left and right of centre, giving the largest portion of votes to the former minister of the interior, Nicolas Sarkozy, who has taken over the leadership of Chirac's party, the UMP.

The leading challenger, Ségolène Royal, emerged with a strong second place. Madame Royal carried the banner of the Socialist Party, or PS as it is known in France.

She handily outdistanced the leader of the other mainstream centrist party, François Bayrou, who nevertheless obtained a more than respectable score.

photo, poster, nicolas sarkozy

Third place is not as bad as last place but it is still out of the money. On Sunday two weeks from today French voters will return to polling stations around the country and in overseas territories, to chose between the UMP leader Nicolas Sarkozy and the champion of the PS, Ségolène Royal.

The big question tonight after the estimated results were announced at 20:00 – 8 pm – was whether François Bayrou would suggest to his supporters that they vote for Nicolas Sarkozy, or cross the right–left divide and lend support to Ségolène Royal.

Meanwhile all the parties of the left, the far left and the Greens, have no candidates left in the running to support. Tonight during France–2's TV coverage, Green Euro deputy Daniel Cohn–Bendit – formerly known as Danny–the–Red – urged everybody to vote for Ségolène Royal. Similar suggestions were made by PCF leader Marie–Georges Buffet and Dominique Voynet, leader of the Green party.

photo, poster, segolene royal

Also in the TV studio, Marine Le Pen of the Front National, maintained that Nicolas Sarkozy legitimized Le Pen's ideas – meaning that FN voters could have cast their support for him instead of the original. The Socialists probably wouldn't disagree with this view.

Voter turnout was reported to be heavy, with 84.8 percent of voters making trips to polling stations. Voting was held yesterday for the offshore territories, and many French residents in the USA and around the world voted at consulates as well. Former prime minister Jean–Pierre Raffarin said that it was, "Springtime for democracy."

The candidates that will run off in two weeks gave rousing speeches at their polling day headquarters, and third–place finisher François Bayrou spoke to a sizeable crowd of supporters who acted as if their campaign is continuing.

photo, poster, francois bayrou

The polls, which stopped on Friday, proved to be remarkably accurate, except for Jean–Marie Le Pen. France–2's last estimate credited Sarkozy with 29.5 percent of the intention to vote, and his estimated score tonight was 30.5 percent. In the same poll Ségolène Royal got 24.5 and the actual vote estimate was 25.7. François Bayrou scored 18.5 both in the poll and at the ballot box.

Today Jean–Marie Le Pen received an estimated 11.5 percent of the vote, down from 13.5 according to the poll, and a big drop from his first round score in 2002.

The weather today in Paris was perfect for the election. There were no clouds, only the lightest of breezes, and the temperature late in the afternoon was 24 degrees. Tonight on TV, there were no other news, sports or weather reports.

Goodblognight from Paris
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