Elections for France’s highest office will be held today (Sunday, April 22). There are ten candidates for this year’s Presidency in France, and multiple rounds of elections, will whittle the field. Following today’s first round of elections, if no candidate among the original ten, receives 50% of the vote, a second round of elections will be held on May 6, for the two highest vote earners.
The French elections have been unusually competitive this year, due largely to weakness in the French economy. The current President, Nicholas Sarkozy finds himself threatened by the candidacy of François Hollande. Sarkozy is a conservative and his opponent is a Socialist. Both men represent the right and left of French politics.
World wide, (in America, Canada and Europe) conservatives have addressed the global recession with Austerity measures (slashes to government spending). In France, unemployment is at 10% and the Austerity measures have failed, in the minds of many. And this has led to a rise in France’s left.
The Socialist standard bearer, François Hollande is offering France, a very different set of growth oriented policies. Hollande is currently leading Sarkozy in the polls and another Far Left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, is poised to come in third place, which signals the rise of a far left, socialist block in France.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
U.S. voters are faced with a choice, similar to French voters. They must choose between the investment growth and spending policies of President Obama (although he is not a socialist), and the cuts of the GOP. It remains to be seen if Americans will reject Austerity as French voters seem poised to do. The U.S. has persued a dual strategy which has restricted the levels of investment preferred by the President, while tempering the austere cuts desired by the republicans. This likely, makes it harder for Americans to choose between the two paths and differentiate between which policies have failed or worked. While America has faired much better then it’s European counterparts, in recovering from the global slump, Americans are divided on who deserves credit.
The final lesson from the French elections is that the continually struggling economy, is not friendly to incumbents of any political stripe. President Obama could simultaneously be the reason that America has faired better than Europe, through his stimulus package, infrastructure spending and bailouts, and still be the victim of a restless electorate.