Turnout solid in French presidential election
Voters were turning out Sunday in solid numbers for the first round of France’s presidential election, with conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy’s political career on the line amid frustration over his personal style and inability to turn around a stagnant French economy.
Sunday’s balloting will trim down a list of 10 candidates from across the political spectrum to two finalists for a decisive May 6 runoff, which will set a course for the next five years in this pillar of the European Union.
The Interior Ministry said early turnout figures showed 28 percent of France’s 44-million-plus voters cast ballots before noon - less than the 31 percent in 2007 at the same time, but more than in the four previous races.
Sarkozy and his main expected challenger, Socialist nominee Francois Hollande, have pushed for a strong turnout on the idea that it would help the political mainstream and dilute the impact of more ideological voters.
“More ideological voters” is press shorthand for far right Eurofascists and EU Skeptic parties, fringe people led by the likes of Marine Le Pen and others. The fringe in French politics, much like the paleolibertarian wing of the US GOP, hopes to raise enough votes to get to a point where they can apply “tail wags the dog” type leverage in government coalition building. Failing that they will try to at least force some of their populist fear mongering policy into the mix to gum up the works, because when there aren’t fears and government is working even reasonably decently nobody pays the Far right any heed at all.