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First Round of Presidential Election 2007 in France- Sarkozy
and Royal in the Final
The first round of the French presidential election took place
today, 22 April 2007.  The two candidates who will be in the
second round of voting are the favorites, Nicolas Sarkozy of the
UMP party (right of center politically) and Segolene Royal of the
PS (Parti Socialist).  Sarkozy took 30.4% of the vote, and Royal
took 25.0%.  Francois Bayrou of the centrist UDF party took
18.3% of the vote in a good showing.  The firebrand ultra-
nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen finished 4th with a surprisingly
low 11.2% of the vote.  He was actually in the final two in the
last election in 2002.  The remainder of the vote was spread
over 8 other candidates, none of whom garnered more than
4.3%.  One commentator noted that both extremes were
soundly defeated, on both the political left and right.  

For once the polls leading up to the election proved to be
relatively accurate this year, which has not always been the
case in French politics.  Shortly after the first round results
were announced, a poll showing that Sarkozy would defeat
Royal 54% to 46% in the second round was announced.  This
is consistent with polls taken before the first round of elections.  
All is not lost for Royal, however.  In 1981 Francois Mitterand,
also of the PS party, was behind in the polls by the same
amount, yet he managed to win.  The second and final round of
voting will be held in two weeks, on May 6th.  

Turnout for the election was exceptionally high, with almost 85%
of the electorate casting votes.  There is great interest in the
elections this year, as there will be big changes on the political
scene no matter who emerges as the winner.  Both Sarkozy and
Royal are young by French political standards, both in their
early 50’s.  According to a discussion panel after the election,
the big question for the second round will be how the followers
of Bayrou will vote and how he might try to influence them.  With
such a strong showing, Bayrou will be a force to reckon with in
the French political world in any case.  It is probable that the
influence of the outspoken Jean-Marie Le Pen will diminish,
both because of his unexpectedly poor showing of only 11.1%
of the vote and the fact that he is over 80 years of age.  

The next two weeks will be intense on the French political
scene.  Both candidates claim to be for change and promise to
eliminate the high level of unemployment in France, but this will
be difficult if the welfare-state mentality which discourages
employment is not modified.  The French are proud of their
“social model”, however, and it is not obvious that the political
will to make changes in work rules, taxation levels, the power of
unions, and attitudes about work and globalization will carry the
day.  If such reforms are not addressed, France will likely hold
on to high unemployment levels, typically at least double those
of other industrialized countries.  
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