Monday, April 23, 2007


Several lessons might be learned from the result of the French presidential election yesterday. The questions are which lessons, and who will learn them.

The Results

Here are the first round final results from the French Ministry of the Interior, awaiting validation by the Constitutional Council. (Note that the candidates are presented in the order that was determined randomly by the Electoral Commission in March, when each was assigned her/his numbered outdoor electoral billboard throughout France. In every venue, Besançenot was always '1', Buffet '2', and so on.)

Registered Voters: 44,472,867
Votes cast: 37,255,846
Valid votes: 36,723,900
Abstention: 16.23%
Participation: 83.77%

Olivier Besancenot / 1,498,780 / 4.08%
Marie-George Buffet / 707,294 / 1.93%
Gérard Schivardi / 123,577 / 0.34%
François Bayrou / 6,820,882 / 18.57%
José Bové / 483,062 / 1.32%
Dominique Voynet / 576,740 / 1.57%
Philippe de Villiers / 818,645 / 2.23%
Ségolène Royal / 9,501,214 / 25.87%
Frédéric Nihous / 420,759 / 1.15%
Jean-Marie Le Pen / 3,834,996 / 10.44%
Arlette Laguiller / 487,940 / 1.33%
Nicolas Sarkozy / 11,450,011 / 31.18%

Mme Royal and M Sarkozy are the candidates in the runoff election in two weeks' time.

The Voter Participation

All day Sunday the media focused on the lines and waiting times at the polling stations. With voter participation at 83.77%, the number of voters for this first round far exceeds that of the last elections in 2002, when only 71.6% voted. Since 2002, approximately 3.5 million new voters have registered to vote, bringing the total to about 44.5 million. It looks as though many of these new voters might have voted for change, or, at least, what they perceive as change.

The Rout of the National Front

After having been shamefully demonized in the media for a number of years, especially since his surprise second-place showing in the first round of the 2002 presidential elections, M Jean-Marie Le Pen only managed to obtain 10.44% of the votes yesterday. So, with more electors overall than in 2002 and with fewer candidates against him than in 2002, what happened this time ? It's clear that some of M Le Pen’s ideas and vocabulary now became part and parcel of what might be termed mainstream politics (nationalism/patriotism, national identity, security) and were addressed by the other three "big" candidates: M Bayrou, Mme Royal, and M Sarkozy. The French call the phenomenon le lepénisation des esprits. With a Sarkozy score over 30% coupled with the National Front's dismal results ('dismal' at least in their eyes), it can be assumed that many Front National voters bolted their party and jumped on what they consider to be the Sarkozy nationalist bandwagon. To paraphrase M Le Pen, the voters seem to have preferred the copy and not the original.

In some respects, perhaps M Le Pen has only himself to blame. Amerloque's sources dans les cités and en ville indicate that M Le Pen shot himself in at least one foot last week, politically speaking. After proclaiming to the immigrant community that "you are French à part entière, branches on the tree of France", he began for some reason (desperation ? racism ? senility ? panic ? pigheadedness ? stupidity ? reversion to type ?) to babble on repeatedly about how M Sarkozy, only one of whose grandparents was apparently '100% French' , was 'not French enough to be President', that he was 'not of the terroir'.Such utterances were certainly out of his strategic line of addressing 'all the French people', and probably put paid to any hope of ever playing a major role – or any further role whatsoever, perhaps – among French citizens under the age of 40 who are issus de l'immigration. One cannot with impunity assure them that they are 100% French one week … and during the following week state that a candidate with origins somewhat similar to theirs is not 100% French ! Ca ne fait pas sérieux.

The Eclipse of the Small Parties

Yesterday was a rude awakening for all of the small parties. From the far left to the far right, they were crushed, with only Olivier Besançenot achieving anything resembling an honorable score (4.08%). With just 1.93%, the French Communist Party as a viable political force appears to be dead for the foreseeable future. Even the ecologists – who it must be admitted are addressing issues crucial to France and Europe – scored but a paltry 1.57%. It should be remembered that under French law only parties scoring above 5% are entitled to substantial electoral subsidies from the government. It looks like hard times lie ahead for most - if not all – of them.

The Surveys

Agence France Presse (AFP) reports that since January 15 of this year there have been 123 published surveys regarding voter intentions. That's slightly more than one per day, which, it must be said, is remarkable ! Amerloque can't help but be reminded of the old French phrase: 'Info, ou intox ?' ('Information, or disinformation ?')

The Useful Vote

About two weeks preceding the election, Mme Ségolène Royal was somewhat bogged down in the polls: any expected groundswell in her favor simply hadn't materialized. She and the Socialist Party determined that the 'useful vote' (vote utile) strategy was the one to follow - coupled, naturally, with incessant ad hominem attacks on M Sarkozy. This revised approach paid off handsomely: by encouraging French leftist voters to cast a so-called 'useful vote' - and not 'waste' their precious votes on 'small' left-wing candidates such as M Bové, M Schivadi or Mme Laguiller - Mme Royal apparently managed to incite many voters to put the voting ticket with her name into their envelope on Election Day. One can't help but think that some Front National voters followed their own version of the 'useful vote' tactic, as well – and proceeded to cast their ballots for M Sarkozy, rather than for their champion M Le Pen. Does this 'useful' vote concept herald a significant change in French political life, i.e., the disappearance of the 'small' parties ? Today, observers are divided, but any judgment would be premature, before the June legislative elections have been held as scheduled.

The Next Round

The second round of the election is two weeks from yesterday, on May 6th. If one looks at the numbers, adds and subtracts, one comes up almost every time with a theoretical win for M Sarkozy, if the voters for M Bayrou split 50/50 Sarkozy/Royal … and if the same number of voters decides to go to the polls. Whether or nor M Sarkozy or Mme Royal represent any change at all from previous French policies remains open to debate, of course: one has only to read their programs to see that there are hardly any political innovations whatsoever and that they are both in the camp of 'Europe'. By voting as they did, perhaps the French people have simply indicated that they want a return to the past, to the times when the simplistic Left and the even more simplistic Right squared off to duke it out in the Presidential arena. Perhaps that's what the French really want, forgetting in passing that it's the policies of the past which have led to today's impasses.

As Amerloque (and others, obviously) expected, what worked for several decades against M Le Pen will now be used on M Sarkozy: demonization ! (diabolisation !) It was used during the first part of this electoral campaign, of course: M Sarkozy has repeatedly been described daily – almost hourly, even - as one who 'frightens' (il fait peur !), who is 'violent', who is 'agitated', who is 'worrying' (inquietant), who is 'brutal', who represents a 'threat to democracy' (une menace pour la democratie), who is a fascist (un facho).

Now, of course, with push coming to shove, the Socialists, other 'leftists', and the media, will redouble their insults and vituperation, hoping to distract the voters from the real issues (and there are many !). Why change a tactic which has already paid off quite well in M Le Pen's case, after all ?

Almost immediately after the polls closed last night, Mme Arlette Laguiller – who rarely, if ever, makes a recommendation to her voters after an unsuccessful presidential campaign – called raucously on national TV for 'Anything but Sarkozy' (Tout sauf Sarkozy). The other leftist candidates followed suit, lemminglike. Since yesterday the TV and radio news have dropped some of their pretense to objectivity. In interview after interview with a man or a woman in the street, the reporters ask the same question: 'And Sarkozy ? What do you think of Sarkozy ?' ('Et Sarkozy ? Qu'est-ce que vous pensez de Sarkozy ?'). The response is invariably the same: 'Il fait peur !'.

This, naturally, is set to continue apace, building crescendo, for the next two weeks, and will go a long way toward a lack of any public substantive examination of M Sarkozy's platform, toward a close study of its strengths and weaknesses. It is exactly what occurred in the two-week interval in 2002 between the first and second round of the presidential elections. As M Le Pen did in 2002, so shall M Sarkozy experience his own version, in 2007, of la diabolisation.

Of course, as a convinced 'European', M Sarkozy might take some comfort from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's immortal phrase: "What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger".



On Wednesday April 25th, the Ministry of the Interior published the final figures. In general, the total number of votes for each candidate was slightly amputated, but the percentages remained the same.

Registered Voters: 44,472,834
Votes cast: 37,254,242
Valid votes: 36,719,396
Abstention: 16.23%
Participation: 83.77%

Olivier Besancenot / 1,498,581 / 4.08%
Marie-George Buffet / 707,268 / 1.93%
Gérard Schivardi / 123,540 / 0.34%
François Bayrou / 6,820,119 / 18.57%
José Bové / 483,008 / 1.32%
Dominique Voynet / 576,666 / 1.57%
Philippe de Villiers / 818,407 / 2.23%
Ségolène Royal / 9,500,112 / 25.87%
Frédéric Nihous / 420,645/ 1.15%
Jean-Marie Le Pen / 3,834,530 / 10.44%
Arlette Laguiller / 487,857 / 1.33%
Nicolas Sarkozy / 11,448,663 / 31.18%

Text © Copyright 2007 by L'Amerloque
Images © Copyright reserved to copyright holders, including Amerloque


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