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Our Little Marine Le Pen Town

April 23rd, 2017 · No Comments · France

Polls closed at 8 p.m. in France tonight in the vote for the country’s next president.

The results were announced one minute later.

At 8:01 p.m., a polling company that an hour earlier had retrieved results from 200 key voting stations … announced which two candidates were going to get the most votes and advance to the final vote, May 7.

So much for election-night drama.

What in the U.S. might mean seven or eight hours of waiting for results to come in, state by state … was over in 60 seconds.

Eleven candidates were on the ballot, but two were favored to get the most votes, and did, and the 8:01 prediction held up: Emmanuel Macron got 23.8 percent, Marine Le Pen received 21.5 percent and that was that.

The two will campaign for 12 days until the final election, which Macron is heavily favored to win.

He is only 39, and leads a party of one (himself) and had never run for elected office, but he was almost immediately endorsed by most of the also-rans, including center-right candidate Francois Fillon, third with 19.9 percent of the vote.

The election was watched closely by those who have an interest in global politics. Macron was a member of Francois Hollande’s failed Socialist government, but quit it in time to launch his independent campaign. What it was he might do as president remains more than a little fuzzy.

But that does not matter significantly because his final opponent, Le Pen, of the controversial National Front, is considered too far right to win a national election, and Macron will win just by not being Le Pen.

Word on the rue is that Macron should win the runoff by 20 percentage points.

Le Pen, however, is popular in the south of the country, which is where we live.

This part of France, the Languedoc, tends to be poorer and more conservative than most of the country and is known for supporting Le Pen — and her father before her.

(Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the final vote in 2002 and was roundly thrashed, 82 percent to 18, by Jacques Chirac. His daughter is expected to do better, but not enough better.)

An interesting aspect of French elections is that results are available for every little town in the country. Including ours, and its 506 eligible voters, 407 of whom cast ballots.

We were not surprised to find that Le Pen got the most votes, 112.

It was a bit surprising that “hard left” candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, whose role model is the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, was only one vote behind, with 111 votes.

Macron was third, with 82.

Results in nearly all the little towns in our area found Le Pen and Melencon first or second (or second and first), which would seem to indicate one thing:

People in the Languedoc clearly would welcome change, and they tended to vote for the candidates who were on the far left (Melenchon) or far right (Le Pen).

Even Macron, who tended to finish third or fourth in villages here, has not been around long enough to be considered a fixture of the political landscape, as were Fillon of Les Republicains, and Benoit Hamon of the Parti Socialiste.

The big news from France today, in the minds of many, was that what had been the two major French parties for the past six decades were crushed at the polls. Fillon got his 19 percent, and Hamon straggled across the line with 6 percent, and it is not clear if either man’s party will survive the drubbings.

To put it in U.S. terms, imagine the presidential candidates for the Democrats and Republicans between them got only 25 percent of the national vote — with the rest going to small parties, extreme parties or to someone with no party at all.

Yeah. Odd.

Thing about our little town? People are friendly, at least as far as we, as anglophones, can tell. Even if they voted mostly for two candidates considered by many to be extremists.

We can guess at who might have fallen in which direction on the spectrum, and maybe the French have some special political radar which allows them to more closely ID each other.

To us, they pretty much all seem like regular folks who have been nothing but polite and mostly friendly.

I feel a bit bad for them that they got the results so quickly. Half the fun of a U.S. election is the two or three hours or more before it is clear who won.



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