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C'est importante: Why France's presidential elections matter

By Jacqueline Calayag

France’s Nicolas Sarkozy is in danger of becoming the nation’s first one-term president in more than 30 years. Sarkozy narrowly lost Sunday’s first round of elections to Socialist candidate Francois Hollande. A runoff election will be held May 6th.

Hollande garnered 28.6% of the vote to Sarkozy’s 27.2%. Coming in third, with nearly 1 in 5 votes (17.9%) was Marine Le Pen of the far-right, anti-immigration National Front Party.  

News outlets in the U.S. are drawing parallels between France’s elections and our own presidential election, namely based upon a desire for change, complaints that candidates aren’t focused on actual problems faced by voters, a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment, and anger among the working class.

Exit polls estimate voter turnout at about 80%, but the Christian Science Monitor notes voters on the whole were unexcited: “Many French said they voted for the candidate they felt would do the least harm. Several who voted for Sarkozy and Hollande said they did so with little enthusiasm. Voters often said it didn’t matter who was elected, and that regardless of who won, the winner would not follow through on campaign promises…”

Come November, could we substitute “Obama and Romney” for “Sarkozy and Hollande” in that quote?