France's Undemocratic Election
RIA Novosti political commentator Pyotr Romanov, April 24, 2007
The first round of the presidential election in France passed off as expected.
Nicolas Sarkozy, the candidate of the ruling conservative party, scored 31.2% of the
vote, and Segolene Royal, his main Socialist rival and potentially France's first
woman president, received 25.7%, according to preliminary official reports. The
run-off has been slated for May 6.
Right of Sarkozy stands Jean-Marie Le Pen (10.5% of the vote), a far-right
nationalist politician, and left of Royal is a group of left-wing radicals
comprising Communists, Trotskyites and Greens, who long ago abandoned their rallying
cry for a cleaner environment.
It is not clear if Le Pen's supporters will vote for Sarkozy, but all minor
left-wing parties have called on their constituents to vote for Royal, which
promises her an additional 11% and will substantially increase her chances in the
The result of the May 6 run-off will lead to sweeping changes in France. The power
of the president makes the country largely dependent on who is in office, and France
under de Gaulle, Mitterrand and Chirac was three vastly different countries.
It will be a different France either with Sarkozy or with Royal as its first female
president. A strong and extravagant man, Sarkozy will pursue a much tougher foreign
and domestic policy, whereas Royal's policies will not have Sarkozy's sharp corners.
I am not referring to their political stands, but only to their personal traits.
Their political preferences are apparent: Sarkozy will pursue traditional right-wing
European policies, whereas Royal is a traditional Social Democrat.
The less obvious winner of the first stage is centrist Francois Bayrou, who gained
18.5%. According to exit polls, Bayrou, had he made it to the second round, would
have won the election hands down. He is a compromise politician who suits the
majority of the French.
I do not know what kind of president Bayrou would have become, but his political
positions look better for the French than the programs of Sarkozy and Royal, who are
splitting the country into right- and left-wing camps. Bayrou would have united it.
The French race has shown that the election system in the "democratic West" is not
as democratic as it may seem at first glance. If Western democracy does not want to
become ossified, but rather to show genuine respect for the opinions of minorities,
it should analyze the lessons of the French elections, where the minority candidate,
Bayrou, garnered 18.5% of the vote, representing a considerable part of the French
The real task of democracy is not so much to determine the winner in a presidential
race, as to find the most suitable leader for the country.
The current election system cannot do this. It is not a subtle competition involving
may players, but a battle of giants that divides the battlefield between winners and
losers. The former usually believe that victory gives them the right to do whatever
they please, whereas the latter reject the winners' policy outright and start
preparing for a new battle immediately after the elections.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily
represent those of RIA Novosti. -0-