There was much uncertainty during the lead-up to today's presidential election in France; one could even be forgiven for indulging in a measured amount of optimism... was France waking up, shedding its flirtation with nihilist socialism?
Then this morning came the voting results to torpedo such positive daydreams. Reality is that France is in a lot of trouble.
The official website for France's Minister of the Interior lists the entire voting breakdown, candidate by candidate, department by department. Here is some overall voting data:
On the left:
Ségolène Royal, PS ("Parti Socialiste", Socialist Party): 9,402,797 (25.83%)
Oliver Besancenot, LCR ("Ligue communiste révolutionnaire", Revolutionary Communist League): 1, 494,446 (4.11%)
Marie-George Buffet, PCF ("Parti Communiste Francaise", French Communist Party): 705 487 (1.94%)
Dominique Voynet, "Les Verts" (Green Party): 570 240 (1.57%)
Arlette Laguiller, LO ("Lutte ouvrière", Worker's Struggle): 486 495 (1.34%)
José Bové: 479,125 (1.32%)
Gérard Schivardi, PT ("Parti des Travailleurs", Worker's Party): 123 305 (0.34%)
Out of the total 36 395 644 votes cast, left-leaning candidates totals come to 13,261,895, or 36.45% of the total vote.
On the right:
Nicolas Sarkozy, UMP ("Union pour un mouvement populaire", Union for a popular movement): 11 323 599 (31.11%)
Jean-Marie Le Pen, FN ("Front National", National Front): 3,824,258 (10.51%)
Philippe de Villiers, MPF ("Mouvement Pour La France", Movement for France): 815,789 (2.24%)
Frédéric Nihous, CPNT ("Chasse-Pêche-Nature-Traditions", Hunting-Fishing-Nature-Traditions): 420,097 (1.15%) (sounds libertarian, so I'm including them with the right-wing party totals until I'm advised otherwise)
Out of the total 36 395 644 votes cast, France's equivalent of conservative candidacies received 16,383,743 votes, or 45.01% of the total vote.
Now, I've left one candidate out of these calculations: the "third man" (you'd think that was his Party name, as the French media refer to this expression so frequently when citing him), François Bayrou, candidate for the UDF ("l'Union pour la démocratie française", Union for french democracy). Considered a "centrist" candidate, his platform seemed to lean much more to the left than the right. With a final tally of 6,750,006 votes, his supporters could swing the election in the second round. His 18.55% block is up for grabs, since Bayrou, in his consession speech, failed to recommend either Sarkozy or Royal.
Listening to the various consession speeches this morning streaming over the net, there seemed a common theme within each respective side of the political spectrum. Neither Le Pen or de Villiers made recommendations for their conservative supporters to vote for Sarkozy in the second round. Meanwhile the leftist candidates tended to be more strategic in their consession speeches, urging voters to choose Royal "with no illusions", but out of desperation to beat the "right".
I think it's a safe bet that the next election will probably not see another 84.6% turnout rate, as France's right of center voters may not feel there is sufficient difference between the remaining candidacies of Sarkozy and Royal. Still, while not the best of choices, there's still difference enough between the likely success of each candidate's taking the helm of the ship of state.
Let's hope that the center-right can accept Sarkozy as the lesser of two evils, and return to the polls in sufficient strength to save France from perpetual civil unrest, rapid economic decline, and Segolene Royal.