(Swans - April 23, 2012) There were about 20 personalities on the starting block a year ago. Some did not survive the socialist primaries that were organized in the wake of the Strauss-Kahn scandal. Others were not able to collect the minimum of 500 signatures from elected officials (essentially mayors) needed to qualify for the race. For example, Dominique de Villepin -- former chief of staff of Jacques Chirac, foreign minister, and prime minister -- did not clear the final hurdle, but insignificant candidates like Jacques Cheminade -- a sort of French Lyndon LaRouche -- did. This election is essentially a referendum against the current president, Nicolas Sarkozy. All over Europe governments have fallen due to the economic and financial crises as well as the crisis of the euro (e.g., Ireland, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Britain).
Here are the official results of the first round of this election (with 94% of votes counted) in which over 80 percent of voters have participated.
28.50% -- François Hollande (Parti socialiste, PS) -- A socialist in name only, Hollande is a bland and insipid neoliberal politician. His major appeal is to not be Nicolas Sarkozy. Polls have shown that 2/3 of his electorate are voting for him against Sarkozy.
27.09% -- Nicolas Sarkozy (Union pour un mouvement populaire, UMP) -- a vulgar, though intelligent politician, he is also a neoliberal with a Nixonian touch, calling upon the "silent majority" to come to his aid. He's kept France more or less afloat, but he has promoted very divisive issues on immigrants, national identity, and the like.
18.17% -- Marine Le Pen (Front national, FN) -- a xenophobic, extreme-right nationalist, she has benefited from Sarkozy's right-wing rhetoric. Her high score, far superior to what her father ever attained, is very troublesome.
11.07% -- Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Front de gauche, FG) -- a remarkable orator, a highly cultured individual, but also quite able of being nasty and arrogant. His main objective, besides defeating Sarkozy, was to weaken Marine Le Pen and the National Front, which he did not realize. His score is worse than expected.
9.13% -- François Bayrou (Mouvement démocrate, MoDem) -- a wishy-washy center-right candidate whose raison d'être was to be neither for Sarkozy nor for Hollande, the typical third-way politician, but with no charisma.
2.26% -- Eva Joly (Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, EELV) -- A good, friendly woman but utterly incapable of connecting with the electorate. She did a disservice to the ecological cause.
1.81% -- Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout la République, DLR) -- Hard to know what this candidate was about except for himself, and his self-description of being a social Gaullist.
1.16% -- Philippe Poutou (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste, NPA) -- Perhaps the most authentic and sympathetic candidate, a unionist working in a car manufacturing plant as a mechanic, Poutou presented a real anticapitalist front. But he did it with great humor and franc-parler that made him a darling of the media in the past two weeks. He was a true original, someone who kept saying that he was running, though he did not really want to become president, because the position in his opinion ought to be abolished. He felt and explained time and again that democracy should come from the bottom and be controlled locally by people. Again, such an authentic person it was hard not to like him. He received more than twice the votes he was expected to.
0.57% -- Nathalie Arthaud (Lutte ouvrière, LO) -- The only self-described communist candidate of Trotskyist lineage, she did not have the charisma of her predecessor, Arlette Laguiller, and a poor speaker who like Eva Joly was unable to connect with her electorate.
0.25% -- Jacques Cheminade (Solidarité et progrès) -- Just a nut conspiracy theorist who wants to colonize Mars. How such a guy could find over 500 signatures is a mystery, or just a part of this French spectacle.
So, eight candidates have been eliminated. Bayrou and Mélenchon scored much less than what the polls had predicted, and Marine Le Pen made a killing that does not bode well for France. The second round will take place in two weeks: Hollande vs. Sarkozy. Polls are projecting Hollande the ultimate winner by 54% against 46% for Sarkozy. Keep in mind, however, that the polls have been consistently incorrect for the past few weeks, though the referendum anti-Sarkozy seems implacable.
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