Article- French Presidential
Today, Nov 7, 2006, is election day in the U.S., and for at least the last week or more
elections. In fact it is not unusual to have several references to what is happening in
the U.S on the French evening news. They watch us pretty closely.
An important election will be held in France soon, the presidential election taking place
next April and May. There are usually two rounds of voting in France. A candidate can
win outright in the first round by having 50% or more of the vote. This is almost
impossible, since there are usually 5 or 6 candidates on the ballot and the votes get
split. The top two will be on the second ballot, and obviously one of them will get more
than 50% of those votes and become the winner.
The two major parties in France are the PS, or Parti Socialist (Socialist Party), and the
UMP, which is right of center politically. The PS is loosely analogous to the Democrats
in the U.S., but they are somewhat to the left of the Democrats, I think it’s fair to say.
They are not crazy left-wingers like people in the tiny Socialist Party in the U.S. Those
people certainly exist in France, but they are in other left wing parties. In any case the
PS will decide on its candidate soon, as the first round of party voting takes place on
Nov. 16. If a second round is needed, that will occur a week later on Nov. 23rd.
The leader by a large margin in the polls is a woman named Segolene Royal. Her
opponents for the PS nomination are Dominique Strauss-Kahn, often called DSK, and
former Prime Minister Laurent Fabius. These candidates have been taking part in
“debates” prior to the party nominating election. I say “debates” with quotes because
the rules are that the nominees can’t criticize each other. This would be a bizarre
situation in the U.S. Candidates for party nominations routinely confront each other in
no uncertain terms. The PS made these rules because they are afraid to cause
divisions in the party and cause harm to the eventual candidate. In fact the candidates
cannot address each other or take issue directly with another candidate. Basically they
are asked questions and get to deliver a speech which will not the challenged. This
makes it very difficult for Fabius and DSK to differentiate themselves from the current
leader, Royal (whose followers are referred to as “Royalists”- a great play on words).
Right now the strategy for both DSK and Fabius is to hope for a second round of
voting. If that occurs, the opponent of Royal can try to forge alliances and upset her.
Certainly the rhetoric would become more confrontational in the week before the
second round, and this would also give ammunition to the UMP candidate in the general
The PS has another problem that just surfaced on Monday of this week. Well-known
former minister Jean-Pierre Chevenement has decided to enter the race as the head of
his own party. He did the same thing in the last election and took over 5% of the vote,
no doubt pulling votes from the PS, of which he was formerly a member. This certainly
helped cause the PS debacle in the last election in which their candidate, prime minister
Lionel Jospin, did not even make it to the second round. He came in behind the ultra
right wing firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen.
The next six months of French politics will be very interesting, leading up to the