Nicholas Sarkozy finished first in today’s French presidential election. Sarkozy gained 31 percent of the vote, meaning that, as expected, he will have to win a run-off against the second place candidate, Segolene Royal, who captured 26 percent.
We’ve written about Sarkozy many times, mostly with approval, over the past three years. He’s the candidate of the ruling party, but is generally pro-American and has been at odds with Jacques Chirac for some time.
Sarkozy perhaps catches a break in facing the Socialist party candidate, Royal, in the run-off instead of centrist Francois Bayrou, who won 18 percent of the vote. Royal is perceived as a bit of a lightweight, a perception she reinforced with several fairly serious gaffes (though she seemed to do better as the campaign progressed). And though Royal hasn’t run as a traditional, pure left-wing Socialist, she may be unable to appeal to as broad a spectrum of voters as Bayrou might have.
Two other notes about the election. First, 80 percent of eligible voters participated, a very high rate even for France. Second, the odious right-winger Jean-Marie Le Pen finished a distant fourth with only 11 percent of the vote. Last time, Le Pen caused panic by making it into the run-off with nearly 20 percent of the vote.
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