Sunday, 6 May 2007

France: voting for change

Sarkozy v. Royal comes to an electoral close in less than two hours...

Some French voters think Sarkozy would do a better job at changing France for the better; some think Royal would. Sarkozy would be more likely to make tough, necessary changes, but his policies are sometimes undesirable and he has been courting the far right in order to ensure a win in this election. Royal, on the other hand, may be too weak and politically inexperienced to enact the change France desperately needs, and she still sticks to her old left foundation — something she, and France, needs to move away from. Job security and market liberalization are two issues at hand, as are immigration and law enforcement. The reform of the government structure in general is also needed. Royal spends too much; Sarkozy invades privacy and uses power too much.

As of now, over 75% of voters have cast their ballots for either Sarkozy or Royal in the second and final round of the French presidential election. This is the highest turnout in decades. The first round also brought out near-record turnout.

Some are pessimistic about whether this election will bring change. No matter who wins, they need to be open to defying protests and what seems like the defiance of the public to reforms for the greater good. Current President Jacques Chirac was too afraid to follow through on his initiatives for change, and many French politicians flinch every time they see protests against the reforms they wish to pass. Whoever wins has the support of the public, and should use that support to actually change whatever needs changing — and many things do. On the other hand, the winner does not want to turn into a dictator by public choice, per se.

This election has been full of controversy and debate, bringing the French seemingly closer to the politics France is known for. However these are politics with a new face: voters, forced once again to choose between left and right, are not following traditional voting labels. One memorable event has been Royal warning that her left-wing supporters could riot if Sarkozy wins, which can either be taken as a political threat or a misunderstood musing. Riot police and extra law enforcement have been sent to Paris to avoid mass riots (remember 2005?) if political tempers flare as the result of a Sarkozy win, especially among the poorer suburb dwellers and immigrants.

In France, the president is a very powerful figure, and one could only hope Sarkozy or Royal will not abuse that power. So will it be the traditional leftist with a new spin, Socialist Segolene Royal, or the center-right (neo-)Gaullist, Nicolas Sarkozy? I’m guessing the latter. Although he has the will power to pass the reforms France needs, he also has a tendency to misuse power. Royal just doesn’t seem cut out to be the leader either.

Nonetheless its not my choice that counts, the votes of the French people will decide who the next leader of France will be, and those votes are important indeed. Bolstering France in the international community will be yet another task for the next president; and globalization is a huge issue at hand, politicially, culturally (immigration), and economically (trade and jobs). For example, both candidates have been bad-talking the EU, an overused scapegoat for poor government policy and an 'evil' Sarkozy or Royal are trying to make voters think they could fight against and protect France. This protectionism will certainly not help France's troubled economy.

Early results will be announced later today, and official results will come on 10 May. Several polls from very late on 4 May put Sarkozy 10 percentage points in front of his challenger.

Centrist Francois Bayrou, who lost the first round, has seen his popularity skyrocket and may yet be able to form a moderate political coalition with his weak UDF party. Go Bayrou!

Wikipedia has an extensive article on the election.

Early results claim Sarkozy as the winner of this second round vote. Royal has admitted defeat and police are preparing for political unrest in case rioting brakes out as a result of Sarkozy's electoral triumph.

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