Sunday, 22 April 2007

Sarkozy v. Royal: the final chapter begins

Some new updates on the presidential election in France...

Although votes in this close election, which has enjoyed high turnout, are still being tallied, it looks as if there will indeed be a left-right battle in the second round of the French presidential election.

Centre-right Nicolas Sarkozy will meet Socialist Segolene Royal in the run-off of France's presidential election on 6 May, according to initial results.

Mr Sarkozy, a former interior minister, came first with 30%, ahead of Ms Royal, who is bidding to be France's first woman president, on about 25%.

Centrist Francois Bayrou got 18%, and far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen 11%.

Voting throughout the day reached record numbers, with turnout put at 85% - the highest for nearly 50 years.

On a bright spring day, disillusionment with politicians and their promises did not translate into apathy, reports the BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Paris.

For such a close election, these results look almost identical to what the candidates were polling in the days leading up to today's vote.

Campaigning will restart on 27 April, with the second round of voting on 6 May and the final results coming four days later. One should prepare for an intense campaign as left meets right in the nation that came up with the political identifications of "left" and "right" — a country that shows that history in its oft-partisan politics.

Royal, according to the aforementioned preliminary results, polled higher than previous opinion polls had speculated, in part because of the old-fashioned manner polling is done and the fact Royal has many young supporters.

It is very good that turnout was so high, as a politically apathetic France would hardly be the France we know. In a democracy the people must take action and that's what we've seen — for better or for worse — today in France. And even though centrist, left-right bridging Bayrou did not make it to the second round, his decent support has shown a politician in the middle can make it somewhere. Maybe someday that gap between left and right will be bridged for the Fifth Republic, whether by Bayrou or by someone else. It would have been interesting if Bayrou could have made it to the run-off. He was polling higher than Sarkozy in head-to-head polls before the election.

More worrying, however, is the support for extreme rightist Le Pen: one in 10 voted for him. At least this time he didn't make it to the second round, though. The fact Le Pen still enjoyed such support only illustrated further the political repair France is in dire need of.

Now: I am still torn between the gaffe-prone, old left-styled Royal and the xenophobic, right-wing-courting, 'mini-Bush' Sarkozy.

It's official...
Nicolas Sarkozy - 30.78%
Segolene Royal - 25.32%
Francois Bayrou - 18.47%
Jean-Marie Le Pen - 10.89%
Source: French Interior Ministry at 2100 GMT

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