François President!

I feel quite fortunate to be living in France during the transition from Sarkozy (bling bling President as he has been nick-named) to François Hollande.  Maxime and I went to the rally at Hollande’s headquarters in the posh 7th Arrondissement (seemed an odd location for his offices), yet, the crowd was excited chanting: “François President, François President”.  There were flags being waived in the air by young and old and red roses everywhere (the symbol of the socialist party).  At 8pm, there is a huge screen and the countdown begins:
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…and then a computer graphic bleeds up from the feet up to the new President and the crowds either erupt in cheers or cries of disappointment (there were TV images of people at Sarkozy concession speech with tears streaming down their face).  He did get 48.36% of the votes and gave a very good speech to all his supporters but is leaving politics for ever (so he says).

Image courtesy of Reuters

The election process here is quite refreshing.  In this election there were 10 candidates that were narrowed down to two on April 22. Then, there was just one debate.  Apparently, Sarkozy wanted three but Hollande would only agree to one.  Then, on May 2, the voters went to the polls again.

“In general, voting is done using paper and manual counting. The voter gets pre-printed bulletins from a table at the entrance of the voting office (they are also provided through the mail), as well as an envelope. They enter the isoloir, or isolation booth, where they’re hidden from sight, and insert the appropriate bulletin into the envelope. They walk to the ballot box and show their voter registration card (not compulsory) and are required to prove their identity (in towns of more than 5000 inhabitants, an identification document must be shown). After the officials have acknowledged their right to vote, the ballot box is opened and the voter inserts the envelope. One of the officials traditionally loudly says “a voté”, which can be translated as “your ballot has been cast”. It is purely ceremonial and has a double meaning: the voter’s voice will be taken into account and they’ve accomplished their civic duty. They then sign the voters’ list, and their registration card is stamped.” — Courtesy Wikipedia

Courtesy Wikipedia

Also, on election day, there are no predictions made based on closed polling stations.  No one knows until 8:00pm/20:00.  Granted, I could not understand the TV coverage that was taking place during the day so I am sure I am romanticizing the professionalism of the race.  But all in all, it seemed like a quick, frugal and concise process.  Unlike the U.S. elections where candidates, political parties and PAC’s spend hundreds of millions of dollars with smear campaigns and the media almost talking people on the West coast out of going to the polls by predicting a winner. Why would you think your one vote counted if the East Coast and Mid-West’s numbers have already determined the winner?  But a reminder that each vote DOES count (remember Gore? Though he did get bullied and gave up WAY too soon.).  But I digress….

Here’s a bit of info from Wikipedia on François Hollande:

He emphasised his promise to be a “normal” President, in contrast to Nicolas Sarkozy’s sometimes controversial presidential style. He aims to resorb France’s national debt by 2017, notably by cancelling tax cuts for the wealthy and tax exemptions introduced by President Sarkozy. Income tax would be raised to 75% for incomes beyond one million euros; the retirement age would be brought back to 60 (with a full pension) for persons who have worked 42 years; 60 000 jobs cut by Nicolas Sarkozy in public education would be recreated. Homosexual couples would have the right to marry and adopt.

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