I’m sick of hearing about the US presidential election, aren’t you? Let’s talk about France instead.
France elects a president every five years. And the next election will be in April 2017. But everyone in France knows that the country is really picking its president this month.
First, a quick explanation of the French electoral system
The president is elected in two rounds of voting. The first round is a kind of free-for-all, with nearly a dozen candidates from parties large and small. The big parties are the Socialists on the left, the Republicans on the right and the National Front on the far right. But these are boring. My favorites are the New Anti-Capitalist Party (so French) and the Royal Alliance (bring back the king!)
Usually, no one wins a majority in the first round and so the top two winners face off a few weeks later.
Normally, this second round is between a Socialist and a Republican. But right now the Socialists are in disarray, with their leader President Francois Hollande regularly setting new records for unpopularity. And the National Front, led by demagogue Marine Le Pen, is on the rise.
All indications are that the runoff will be between the Republican candidate and Marine Le Pen.
This happened once before, in 2002. In that election the National Front’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, edged out Socialist Lionel Jospin and made it into the second round. Fearing a National Front victory, Socialists went overwhelmingly for conservative Jacques Chirac, who cruised to victory with 82% of the vote.
This is expected to happen again, with Socialists holding their noses and voting for the Republican. So whoever is the Republican candidate will almost certainly be the next president of France.
And who is that?
Until now, the Republicans have chosen their candidate in the proverbial “smoke-filled room.” But this time they are holding their first-ever primary election. And it takes place this month.
The favorites are former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Alain Juppé. The election is expected to be close.
Interestingly, the Socialists may tip the balance. The Republican have decided to hold an open primary, meaning anyone can vote. And large numbers of Socialists are expected to do so, with most of them plumping for Juppé. Their thinking is, why let the Republicans pick the next president all by themselves?
So while the electoral calendar shows the French president being elected next spring, the real action is this month. Keep an eye on it.
As a bonus, the President of France also becomes Prince of Andorra, the only elected monarch in the world. So the French are picking a prince as well as a president.
Interesting country, that France.
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