Unsurprisingly, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande took first and second place in the French election Sunday, but what is really newsworthy is that the nationalist candidate, Marine Le Pen, took third place. Sarkozy faces a strong challenge from Hollande, stemming largely in partly from his criticism of Sarkozy’s presidency.
This surge by Le Pen signals good news for Sarkozy, however, as the conservative candidate will almost certainly court her voters during the second round. Both of these candidates have a lot to prove to the French people, chiefly that they are capable of being the strong, deliberate leader that France needs during a time of turmoil.
Le Pen faces a challenge herself, chiefly whether she can turn disenfranchised French voters who support her because they are fed up with the establishment into a real constituency with a platform for change. Her 20% support in the first round signals increased levels of nationalism and fear, unsurprising given recent violence. Sarkozy will almost certainly attempt to capture these voters by pivoting to the right, and thus drawing clearer comparisons between himself and Hollande.
Pundits have mixed reviews, but nobody is jazzed up about either of these candidates. Nicolas Sarkozy is criticized for having run a dismal campaign, and not being explicit enough with his presidential platform. At the same time, François Hollande – who ran on his claim to be “the normal candidate” – is proving himself to be just that, a candidate with well-defined values but who lacks enthusiastic appeal.
There are of course supporters outside the conservative headquarters – chanting “Nicolas, president,” while earlier they were chanting “we have one.” Throughout the election there has been myriad mixed feelings from voters, with some people certain of victory for their candidate, others not so much. What is sure is that people believe the television debates will make the difference in who wins the second round.
Political polling (both official and unofficial) predicted these results, though there was still anxiety and political interest the day of the election. The twitter thread #RadioLondres brought speculation, fake updates, and challenges to traditional French election rules during the French election results. The hashtag started with recognition that voters looking for early election results would have to seek out non-French sources, as French election rules restrict the release of results until after 8pm in France.
This thread has provided estimates of voter turnout – which is close to 80% with polls closing soon. Although turnout is high, more voters turned out for the first round in 2007. It is remarkable, however, that voter turnout is much higher in France than in United States presidential elections, due in part to a system of compulsory voting.
While some tweets reported “official” early results, others took a different route. One French political blogger wrote, “In Canada, maple syrup from Holland is at $33 much more expensive than that from Hungary which is only worth $26,” clearly referencing the two leaders.
With election results now officially in, Twitter users are boasting of the early results that were broadcasted. It will be interesting to see how French election rules are reformed (or not) following this presidential election – particularly as the predicted results from twitter were not as close to official results as they might have been.