Saturday, April 21, 2012

Previews of Coming Attractions – The Two Stage Election for the Presidency of France – Shows Starting Sunday at 6 P.M.

An Important Election No One in America Cares or Knows About

It always comes as a surprise to many Americans that there are other countries in the world that hold elections for President.  For example, this month and next month will see the two part election for the French President.  The results will have extreme consequences for France and for Europe.  And because the world’s economic and political systems have become even more integrated, the election outcome will have significant meaning for the United States.

The process in France is a two parter, the first phase being a free-for-all ballot in which all major parties have candidates.  This will take place on Sunday.  In May the two top vote winners will face off mano-to-mano (sorry ladies) in a second election to determine who will actually become President.  All in all it seems like an eminently reasonable process, even if it is French.

The election on Sunday is actually two races.  The main race is to see which of the two main candidates, incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy or Socialist challenger Francois Hollande finishes first.  That race is very close, and although both are expected to make it to the second round, finishing first will provide some sort of momentum for the winner going into the second round.

However, a final Ipsos poll published in Le Monde on Friday, the last day of campaigning, showed Mr Hollande still on course to become the first Socialist in 17 years to govern France.

It gave him 29 per cent support in the first round, reopening a lead that had closed a week earlier over Mr Sarkozy, who was backed by 25.5 per cent of those polled.

The second part of the election is de facto between the far right party headed by Martine le Pen and the far left party headed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a fiery left wing politician, anti- European and a man who has just recently burst into national prominence.  That race for third place is also very close.

The Ipsos poll put Mr Mélenchon on 14 per cent, two points behind Ms Le Pen.

So far the incumbent Mr. Sarkozy has partnered well with German Chancellor Angela Merkel to provide leadership for Europe, even if that leadership has also been to pursue the wrong policy.  Also, as a large economy France’s future economic performance is critical for European prosperity.  But France already has an excessive amount of state involvement in the economy and the austerity programs pushed by Mr. Sarkozy and the expansion of state programs and lower retirement age pushed by Mr. Hollande are both dangerous not only to France but to Europe and hence the world. 

So pay attention America, the rest of the world matters even if you don’t want it to.

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