If you’re an expat living in France, you might take little interest in the French Presidential election, which is now in full swing, on the basis that you don’t have a vote. On the other hand, despite being disenfranchised, and in all probability paying tax without representation (sound familiar?), whoever wins the race to the Elysée Palace could have repercussions on the lives of expats in France. Incumbent President Sarkozy, for example, echoing the policies of the Fronte Nationale candidate Marine Le Pen, has been campaigning on the number of foreigners in France and setting out his plans to reduce immigration.
For the moment, whoever gains office as President will require to operate in accordance with the provisions governing the free movement of citizens within the European Union but the unsettling noises from President Sarkozy concerning the Schengen agreement, which abolished border controls at most EU state borders (UK being a notable exception), may be setting the tone of political debate over the next few years.
Also in the mix, though standing little chance of success, 70 year old Jacques Cheminade whose policies include ending casino banking by separating commercial banking from investment banking, a system of public credit for major development projects and a Eurasian/Transpacific alliance against the "world of finance" might strike a chord not just with French voters but with many in the Western economies who have seen standards of living plummet since the financial crisis hit in 2008.
Another interesting outsider is centrist François Bayrou, the only 2012 candidate apart from Sarkozy, who ran in the last French Presidential race in 2007. Bayrou could well be the dark horse taking votes from both left and right as voters tire of Sarkozy’s ‘bling’ but shy away from socialist solutions to France’s economic woes. Interviewed by the New York Times, Bayrou said, "I am a democrat, I am a Clintonian, I am a man of the 'third way'." His policies would seem to position him as the ‘sensible’ candidate advocating job creation, improvement of educational standards, improved conditions in the French suburbs, reduced government spending, a balanced budget and a stronger European Union. In contrast to Sarkozy, Bayrou has been highly critical of the American economic model and of the unregulated free market in general.
Seconds out....Round 1!
With less than a week to go before French voters voice their opinion in the first round of voting in the French Presidential election on 22nd April. The candidates’ campaigns are heating up and even the innocently by-standing expat cannot have failed to notice the “rogues’ gallery” of presidential candidates staring down earnestly, or should that be pleadingly, from billboards in the smallest commune to the largest cities all over France. Under French election rules, each candidate is entitled by law, to equal prominence on communal spaces hence the line-up of ‘no-hopers’ with the front runners Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande.
Only winner and runner-up qualify
In all elections in France, where there is a single official to be elected, a two round run-off voting system is used and the French Presidential election is no different. In the first round of voting, what counts is finishing in the top two. The two leading candidates from the first round of voting then go head to head in a second round of voting. In 2012, the second round of the French Presidential election will take place on 6th May.
To better explain the French presidential voting system and the significance of the two rounds, CNN’s Paris based news correspondent Jim Bitterman had this amusing take aimed at his US audience:
The full list of candidates for round one of the 2012 French Presidential election is:
- Eva Joly: Green Party and currently an MEP
- Marine Le Pen: Front Nationale, far right party with controversial policies on immigration
- Nicolas Sarkozy: The UMP candidate and current President
- Jean-Luc Mélenchon: Candidate of Front de Gauche (left wing) and currently MEP
- Phillippe Poutou: New Anti-Capitalist Party candidate
- Nathalie Arthaud: Candidate for extreme left Lutte Ouvrière meaning Workers’ Struggle
- Jacques Cheminade: the oldest of the ten candidates at age 70. Candidate of Solidarité et Progrès.
- François Bayrou: Ran in last presidential finishing third in round 1. Centrist Mouvement démocrate candidate
- Nicolas Dupont-Aignan: Independent Gaullist candidate and former UMP member
- François Hollande: Socialist Party candidate and arguably main challenger to Sarkozy
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