French first round Presidential voting went off relatively seamlessly on Sunday; in fact, it makes one wonder why we can't have such efficiency in the United States!
With a record turnout that would make any nation proud (over 84%), the French put the two widely expected candidates – a right-wing liberal (European style, not American) and a Socialist – through to the second round.
As an outside observer who lived in France a number of years, it felt pretty good to see a Western nation actually exercise its right to vote. As stated, this first round turnout was a record – and infinitely better than in 2002 when voter apathy sent the far-right National Front candidate to the second round.
But don't get me wrong, despite the appearance of a new day in France, things never change – not even the politicians. Some of them have been hanging around since the 1950s.
But despite the younger facer and a more American-style campaign, the messages are basically the same, too. The right threatens to turn France on its head with social and labor reform; the left promises to continue fueling a social model that, while great, has left the French economy in tatters, with a shocking 22% youth unemployment rate.
Still, one has to wonder whether Ms. Royal actually would have the guts to get up on the world stage and criticize the policies of Mr. Bush; its way beyond time that someone does so, but would she really be the likely candidate as she claims?
As for Mr. Sarkozy, for a man who openly admires the United States with such fervor, it's always amazed me that he never lived here – his vision of the US is most likely much like that of anyone who's never been there – that of a sitcom. Even more appalling is to find an Amero-phile who doesn't speak English!
A wise statesman here once said, "the people get the government they deserve". How true! Let's hope that France gets someone who can start making some necessary reforms while still allowing France to be the social model she's always been.