France Elects A New President
Update May 6, 2012: France has a new President. In a nail-biter of an election, President Nicolas Sarkozy has conceded defeat to Francois Hollande after a second round of voting on Sunday. Crowds rejoiced, and car horns blared on Paris's famous Champs-Elysees to welcome the winner. With more than two-third of the votes counted, Hollande was leading 50.8% to Sarkozy's 49.2%. Polls suggest Hollande may end up with 51.9% of the vote.
Based on the results of the first round of elections held last week, it seems that a strong wave of protest is underway against Nicolas Sarkozy the incumbent (existing) president. The people of France seem to be leaning to the left [see side notes]. Opinion polls had put Sarkozy far behind in the second round ‘run-off’. It will be the first time in over three decades that a sitting president has not been re-elected for a second term in office.
Presidential election in France
The French presidential election is based on a two-round system - also known runoff voting. A single winner is elected when voters cast a vote for their chosen candidate. If no candidate receives the required number of votes - a majority with a clear winning margin of 5-15%, then those candidates who have less than a certain proportion of the votes are eliminated and a second round of voting occurs.
In this year’s first round of Presidential elections held on April 22, 2012, 10 candidates contested for the Presidency. Francois Hollande, a candidate of the center-left Socialist Party received 28.6% of the votes, ahead of the incumbent center-right president Nicolas Sarkozy who received 27.2%. Accordingly, the next French president will be selected in the ‘run-off’ to be held on May 6, 2012.
Sarkozy’s first term of office
When Nicolas Sarkozy was elected as president in 2007, he had promised radical social changes. He raised the official retirement age from 60 to 62, gave universities more autonomy and loosened the 35-hour work week. His international achievements included France co-leading military action in Libya and returning NATO’s military command to France. Sarkozy’s labor policies have however antagonized the left. At the same time his right-wing allies have not been very happy with his flamboyant ways and public leadership style.
Another sensitive election issue in France is the tightening of immigration. Since the 1980s, France has been a country of mass immigration. Now, a struggling economy with an influx of population puts a toll on the country.
Winds of change
The implications of a Hollande victory can be sweeping for EU. With the recent collapse of the Dutch government, if the current anti-EU wave gains strength in France, it will raise a crucial question. Can Europe dig itself out of the financial mess it is presenlty in?
Both the EU and Sarkozy hope for a “silent majority” that will sweep him to surprise victory on May 6. In the meanwhile, Hollande and Sarkozy are busy wooing the far-right wingers ahead of the runoff.
Courtesy: BBC, Wikipedia