This Wednesday at 7:30 CPU and The French Cultural Society are holding a informal discussion on the French Elections in the IAB. It’s a deeply fascinating subject because these elections will shape the balance of power throughout Europe for five years. But if you aren’t up to date with France’s politics this might be all news to you. Well never fear Pub goers, we’ve broken it down for you. So sit back, grab your favorite French import to snack on, and join us on a brief tour de French electoral politics.
Nicolas Sarkozy is the incombent president of France. In 2007 he won in his race against Socialist Party candidate Ségolène Royal for his first five year term as president. But his Union for a Popular Movement (UPM, center-right) wasn’t just running against the Socialist Party. Twelve parties ran in France’s 2007 presidential election. See, in France voting works differently than in the United States. Instead of one big election there are two rounds, one in April and one in May. If no party received more than 50% of the vote in the first round, then the top two candidates go head to head in round two. That allows for France to have a larger amount of political parties, and ideally a more fluid political system. It also means that parties one might consider fringe groups, such the National Front who’s main platform is preventing Muslim immigration, can be very successful in the first round. This happened in 2002 when Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front won second place in the first round with only 16.86% of the votes, only to be trounced by Jacques Chirac in the second round.
Sarkozy didn’t win his second round in 2007 nearly as easily as Chirac did, partially due to his opponent not being a far-right radical. His presidency was marked by some early successes, especially in environmental policy (Columbia even ranked France as the most environmentally respectful out of all the G20). But Sarkozy’s popularity has waned. He’s to liberal for the right who supported him and still to conservative for the left to adopt him. He also has a nasty habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time, with several gaffs during his presidency that have been criticized as either racist, intolerant, elitist, or some combination of the above. Once he even tried to convince people that he was present during the fall of the Berlin Wall by posting a doctored photo on Facebook. All that plus a struggling economy after the global economic turndown doesn’t give Sarkozy much momentum going into the race.