The French Presidential Election: A View From Outside the Metropole

This weekend, more than 60 million French cast their ballots in the first round of the French presidential election, narrowing the list of candidates to two: conservative UMP candidate Nicolas Sarkozy and Socialist Party candidate Segolene Royal. Both face a run-off vote on May 6th.

In the five years since the last presidential election, and in particular after the 2005 riots and the headscarf controversy, immigration and race have moved to the center of the political debate.

This, combined with the fact that the election marks the first time in France's history a woman has come this close to the presidency, might account for Sunday's unprecedented voter turnout, the highest since 1965.

Here's a view of the election from outside the metropole–voters in overseas French departments, interested bloggers in former French colonies, and the growing ranks of hyphenated French.

Around Francophonia

Few Warm Feelings for Sarkozy

Like many francophones, Vive la Francophonie is skeptical of Sarkozy‘s sincerity when it comes to solving France's racial problems and improving relations with the francophone world.

Ecoutant Sarkozy à 20 30 j’en avait les larmes aux yeux, il voulait me protéger, il voulait la fraternité de la grande famille française, il était contre les « parachutes dorés » . Pour un peu il serait devenu social-démocrate en un clin d’œil ! Fini le Sarkozy condamnant tout le monde au bagne perpétuel, avec une retraite entre 65 et 70. Dernière volte face : Coassgen, sur « RCJ » annonce un référendum sur l’Europe…

Mais d’autres arguments plaident pour Royal : les jury populaires, la proportionnelle à l’assemblée nationale, le droit de pétition, l’encadrement militaires des petits délinquants, les internats de proximité, la flexisécurité, peut-être une plus grande attention à la francophonie puisqu’elle est née au Sénégal

Listening to Sarkozy at 20:30, I had tears in my eyes. He wanted to protect me, wanted brotherhood for the big French family, he was against “golden parachutes.” For a moment it seemed he could have become a social democrat with the blink of an eye! Sarkozy finished by condemning everyone to prison for a life sentence, proposing retirement between age 65 and 70. Last about face: on “RCJ” Coassgen announced a referendum on Europe…

…there are other arguments in Royal's favor: popular jury, proportional representation in the National Assembly, the right of petition, the placement of juvenile delinquents in military academies, local boarding schools, flexisecurity, and possibly a greater attention to francophones because she was born in Senegal.


At Demain Le Congo Brazzaville, Mouvimat, who clearly has no love for Sarkozy, maintains that nothing is certain; but as if anticipating a Sarkozy win, wonders what France will be like under Sarkozy.

Si la raison l'a emporté au premier tour, rien n'est moins sûr, même si l'on se rend compte que pour une fois, les élections sont conformes aux prédictions des sondages. Les sondages sont-ils devenus une science exacte ? Certainement pas ! Mais nous savons qu'ils influencent les petits esprits et les petites opinions qui se disent :”la majorité a raison donc je vote comme la majorité !”

If reason carried us through the first round, nothing is certain anymore, even if we admit that the polls did predict the outcome. Has polling become an exact science? Of course not! But we know that it influences the weak-minded and those without opinions who say: “the majority is right, so I will vote like the majority!:

Si Sarkozy passe, il se pourrait que les Français le regrette mais ce peuple est pétri de contradictions et c'est ainsi qu'il aime à avancer en se vautrant dans sa propre contradiction…s'il gagne dans quinze jours aura tous les pouvoirs…

If Sarkozy wins, he will make the French regret it. But these are a people riddled with contradictions and this is why they prefer to soldier on, wallowing in their own contradiction…if he wins, in fifteen days he will have all the power…

Mouvimat goes onto call Sarkozy the “standard bearer” (Fr) of the monied classes, one step away from supreme power, and says that Jews are the “masters of global finance.”

Morocco: Overwhelming Support for Royal

Community web portal posts an online poll which suggests that like other minorities, French Moroccans remain suspicious of Nicolas Sarkozy, who received only 7% of 1057 votes. Centrist candidate Francois Bayrou received 25% and Segolene Royal was most popular, with 48%. Royal and Bayrou have benefited, Yabiladi explains, from the French Moroccan community's position of “Anything but Sarko” (Fr) .

Lebanon: A Center-Right Blogger Laments Both Royal and Sarkozy

Of the election results, French-Lebanese blogger Frencheagle –a rightest in favor of Bayrou, not Sarkozy–writes of that France has chosen “mediocrity and arrogance” (Fr). Segolene Royal is the mediocre candidate making promises she cannot possibly keep, and Sarkozy the arrogant one, notably for his handling of the 2005 riots.

Frencheagle, who seems to have preferred Bayrou, writes that the results show France has significantly shifted to the right. A rightist himself, Frencheagle thinks this is generally a good sign, but he's not keen on seeing Sarko in the presidency.

la France n'a jamais été autant droite qu'aujourd'hui, si on accumule les votes de François Bayrou, Nicolas Sarkozy, et Jean-Marie Le Pen. Plus de 60 % de la population française estiment en effet que désormais seule une politique de droite pourraient venir à bout des problèmes auxquels fait face leur pays. Je ne peux qu'être bien sûr que content de cela, étant et me considérant de droit. Je déplore cependant en soit arrivé à avoir un Sarkozy deuxième tour, ne fait plutôt penser à un roquet plein président de la république, il a l'art de polémiquer, de provoquer, mais sûrement pas de se poser comme arbitre entre Français qui agissent dans l'intérêt de tous.

If you tally the votes of Francois Bayrou, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Jean-Marie Le Pen, France has never been as conservative as it is today. More than 60% of the French population has in effect judged that only the Right can bring an end to the problems that the country faces. That can only make me happy as I consider myself a rightist. Nevertheless, I regret that Sakozy made it to the second round. It does make me think of what will happen when such an ill-tempered man becomes president of the Republic. He knows how to stoke debate, how to provke, but he definitely does not know how to be a mediator for alll French people, to act in the interests of all.


Global Voices author Samsoum has an in-depth roundup of the Tunisian blogosphere's coverage of the French presidential election. Girl from Mars wonders why Tunisians seem to be more interested and knowledgeable about French politics than their own.

Overseas Departments Vote

Guadeloupe and Martinique

Guadeloupe and Martinique both saw record turnouts, with the majority of voters in Guadeloupe voting for Sarkozy (42.6%) and in Martinique, for Royal (48.4%).

Overseas departments voted on April 21st, one day ahead of France, so as to “avoid the impression their vote was useless” (Fr), explains Greg at Internet Rapide. Because of the early vote and the time difference, broadcasts of television and radio news from France were temporarily suspended in order to comply with the ban on campaigning after the Friday before the poll.

Segolene Royal is “Dangerous for France”

As passionately as Et Si Nous Parlions writes about his loss of faith in Sarkozy and his support for Royal, Trop Nul en Guadeloupe explains why Segolene Royal is “dangerous for France.”

Marie-Ségolène Royal qui s'est présentée comme une mère aux Français, n'est en fait qu'une fourbe dissimulée sous un beau visage, refait lui aussi pour endormir l'électeur. Depuis le début de “SA” campagne, il y a six mois, Marie-Ségolène Royal n'a cessé de suivre l'actualité au plus près pour adapter ses thèses aux souhaits des uns et des autres. Dans ses tentatives de précisions, sont apparues ce que l'on a appelé des bourdes, mais qui n'étaient en fait que le résultat d'un creux sidéral au niveau de ses idées.

Méprisante avec le PS, son parti, puis à nouveau une fidèle partisane, Marie-Ségolène Royal n'est en fait qu'une courtisane se donnant au plus offrant.

Marie-Ségolène Royal, who styles herself a mother of France, is nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing, a cheat hiding under a pretty face (that too redone to lull voters). Since the beginning of “her” campaign six months ago, Marie-Ségolène Royal has not stopped following current events to adapt her position to the wishes of someone or another. In her attempts to be specific, she has made many so-called blunders, but these were in fact the result of the hollowness of her ideas.

Once disdainful of the Socialist Party, she has become its newest, devoted member. Marie-Ségolène Royal is nothing more than a courtesan giving herself to the highest bidder.

Trop Nul en Guadeloupe also thinks many Sarkozy supporters may have voted for Royal so that Sarkozy would face Royal–and not the more moderate Bayrou–in the second round of elections.


Politics as Farce

Samson Point Com writes about the election from Tahiti. As in the French Antilles, French Polynesia votes a day earlier. However in this case if they did not vote a day ahead, with the time difference Tahitians would know the outcome of the election in France before the polls even opened in their country.

Like many before him, Sampson notes the record interest in this presidential election. However, he thinks that attention has become somewhat farcical and does not represent genuine civic engagement.

Maintenant, les candidats, on les découvre autant dans VOICI et GALA que dans LE MONDE ou L'EXPRESS…

On entend que cette campagne a passionné les français. Mon oeil comme dirait Le Pen ! C'est de l'auto persuasion non ? On nous bassine avec des petites phrases…on se demande qui est le personnage en photo dans un cadre derrière Arlette Laguiller (est-ce qu'elle a un “mec” ?), on nous montre des photos de Ségolène en jeans parce qu'elle ne met pas que des robes, etc…

Il y a les attaques verbales plus ou moins frontales, et puis les pervers (enfin surtout un…) qui répond “qu'il ne répond pas”, que les autres se querellent et que lui s'occupe des Français…

Now, you are as likely to find the candidates in VOICI and GALA [i.e., tabloid magazines] as in LE MONDE our L'EXPRESS

You've heard about how this campaign has enthralled the French. Yeah right! as Le Pen would say. Aren't we just talking ourselves into it? We swim in a sea of meaningless words…we ask ourselves who is this person in the photo behind Arlette Laguiller (did she go get herself a “man?”), we show photographs of Segolene in jeans because she normally only wears dresses, etc…

Samson once went through an “angry adolescent-abstentionist period” (Fr). He is full of doubts. Nevertheless, he writes that it is important to vote and that if people are ever to practice a higher level of politics, civic education is essential. Parents should talking to their children about politics.

An African Living in France Explains His Support for Royal, Disillusionment with Sarkozy

Sarkozy and the 2005 Riots

Et si nous parlions, written by a francophone African, country unknown, explains his reasons for supporting Segolene Royal, even though as recently as one year ago, he was a Sarkozy supporter.

Sarkozy's handling of the 2005 riots have made the author of Et si nous parlions believe that Sarkozy, and the majority of the French, are not really interested in building a multicultural, multiracial France.

Il y'a un an, j'étais prosarkozyste, je suivais avec attention ses idées qui avaient l'air d'apporter du changement dans cette France sclérosée. J'étais pour la discrimination positive parceque j'ai toujours cru que “un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras”. En effet, au lieu d'attendre, probalement 1000 ans que la France change de mentalité et réintègre sa partie colorée dans son histoire. Je préfère qu'on discrimine positivement en attendant que le monde soit meilleur.

A year ago I was pro-Sarkozy. I attentively followed his ideas, which promised to bring change to this fossil, France. I was for affirmative action because I had always believed that “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” In short, instead of waiting, probably 1000 years, for France to change its mentality and integrate the colored part of its history, I prefer to have positive discrimination while we wait for a better world.

Puis un jour, il y'a eu les émeutes des banlieues, j'ai attendu que cet homme politique traite ce problème de manière pragmatique. C'est a dire remettre du calme mais aussi essayer de comprendre, trouver des solutions sociales au problème des exclus de banlieue. J'ai attendu qu'il profite de cette occasion pour relancer l'idée de dsicrimination positive. Avec 40% de chomage dans certains villes, on peut comprendre que l'emploi est la première solution contre l'émeute des banlieues. C'est alors que nous avons tous compris avec stupéfaction que Sieur Nicolas comptait se servir de la peur qu'a naturellement, historiquement, psychologiquement et socialement un blanc de neuilly pour un jeune basané de clichy sous bois en France.

Then one day, there were riots in the suburbs. I waited for [Sarkozy] to treat the problem in a pragmatic manner, to restore calm, but also to try to understand and find social solutions to the problem of the excluded in the suburbs. I waited for him to take advantage of this opportunity to revive affirmative action. With unemployment at 40% in some towns, it's not difficult to see why employment is the first answer to the riots in the suburbs. And so we were completely dumbfounded when Mr. Nicolas decided to count on the fear that in France, naturally, historically, psychologically and socially, a white from Neuilly has for a brown-skinned youth from Clichy-Sous-Bous.

C'est alors que j'ai compris a quelle sauce Sarkozy comptait nous manger. Et c'est alors que j'ai décidé de regarder ailleurs. Si Sarkozy avait été au pouvoir pendant cette dernière decennie, jamais quelqu'un comme moi ne serait arrivé en France. Je ne scierai pas l'arbre sur lequel je suis assis.

And that is how I came to understand what sauce Sarkozy was counting on us to eat. That is how I decided to look elsewhere. If Sarkozy had been in power this last decade, someone like me would never have come to France.

Race & French Politics

Et Si Nous Parlions is deeply skeptical that either the Left or the Right is seriously committed to addressing racism in France, but that the Left represents the lesser of two evils.

C'est vrai qu'il ya presque autant de noirs /arables voire plus à l'UMP qu'au PS. Mais l'UMP de Sarkozy a viré à l'extreme droite. C'est une UMP qui dit aux basanés, nous ferons rien pour que vous reussisiez mais une fois que vous serez riche et populaire, nous oublierons que vous venez d'ailleurs. C'est une UMP qui ne veut garder que les meilleurs, les favorisés ecrasant sur son passage ceux qui souffrent de l'exclusion dans les coins pauvres de France. Je ne pense pas qu'il y ait moins de racistes a gauche mais je pense qu'il ya une difference entre legitimer le racisme et ne pas en parler. La difference est que l'auteur du racisme doute du bien fondé de son acte. Je ne veux pas d'un pays qui croit que c'est normal d'habiter en cité parce qu'on est noir, que seuls les etrangers posent problème, que la polygamie est source des emeutes de banlieues…

It's true that there are almost more blacks in the UMP than in the Socialist Party. But the UMP of Sarkozy has moved toward the far right. It's a UMP that says to people of color, we won't do anything to help you succeed, but once you are rich and famous, we will forget where you came from. It's a UMP that only wants the best, the favored who, on their way to the top, have stepped all over those who suffer from exclusion and poverty. I don't think there are fewer racists on the Left, but I think that there is a difference between legitimizing racism and not speaking of it. The difference is that the author of racism doubts the legitmacy of his act. I want nothing from a country that thinks it's normal to live in poor suburbs because you're black, that only foreigners cause problems, that polygamy is the source of riots…

J'ai tout prévu , Si Sarkozy et Le pen passent au second tour, j'estime que la France l'aura merité. Il n'y aura plus aucune raison pour moi d'etre pacifique, plus aucune de croire en une France qui se veut diverse. Je ne resisterai pas pacifique et je voterai a ce moment la pour le repli communautaire parceque je pense que de toute facon on ne pourra rien faire contre un majorité de gens qui les aurons sciamment choisi. Je créerai donc ma boite de noirs pour des salariés et des clients noirs. J'adhererai à des associations de noirs etc… Vous me direz, tu feras exactement ce qu'ils veulent. C'est exact mais au moins ce sera pour mon propre intéret.

If Sarkozy and Le Pen make it to the second round, France would benefit. I have no more reason to be calm or to believe in a France that wants to be diverse. I will not remain pacifist, I am voting now for communitarian interests because I think that in any case, there is nothing we can do in the face of the majority who will have knowlingy chosen them. So I'll start my own black company for black clients and black workers. I'll join black associations…You'll tell me, I'm doing exactly what they want me to do, and you'll be right, but at least it will be in my own interest.

Cautious Support for Royal

While the blogger is not sure Royal will be better able to represent him than any of the other white candidates, Royal, at least, has more convincingly spoken to the interests of African immigrants.

Les intellectuels nous diront ne pas voter pas pour elle parcequ'elle est une femme. J'ai des milliers de raisons qui pourraient me pousser a voter pour elle objectivement. La premiere est que je suis africaine et que c'est la seule candidate qui a dit à la télé à des millions de francais sut TF1 que la France a participé aux pillages de l'Afrique. Ceci ne veut pas dire qu'elle fera mieux que les autres. Mais arretons d'etre idealiste, c'est a nous de changer nos pays d'origine. Cepndant, le fait qu'elle le dise est deja un bon debut. C'est aussi la candidate qui propose des visas aller/retour France/pays d'origine pour permettre aux africians ici de retourner plus facilement vers leur pays et aujourdhui, je pense que pour la diaspora qui est installée ce n'est pas negligeable.

Intellectuals tell us we should not vote [for Segolene Royal] just because she is a woman. I have a thousand objective reasons that have compelled me to vote for her. The first is that I am African, and she is the only candidate that has said on television, in front of millions of French watching TF1, that France exploited Africa. This does not mean that she will be better than any of the others. And let's be realistic; it's up to us to change our countries of origin. Nevertheless, the fact that she said this is already a good start. She's also the candidate who is proposing “roundtrip” visas allowing Africans to return to their country of origin much more easily, and I think that today for the diaspora that has established itself [in France], that is no small thing.

Woman President As Symbol of Hope and Change

Although the fact that she is a woman is not the primary reason this blogger is voting for Royal, the symbolism of her gender is not lost on him

…pour la premiere fois, une femme risque d'etre presidente en France. Au fond, je ne crois pas qu'elle soit moins au plus competente que les autres. Mais je pense que le symbole qu'elle represente va au dela de la politique. Je m'explique.

Les femmes sont globalement discriminées dans cette société malgré toutes les lois de parité. Un femme a ce niveau de l'état est une amorce naturelle au changement. Nous ne changerons plus nos hommes mais nous changerons nos petits garcons qui sauront q'une femme peut aller la ou un homme peut aller. Qu'est ce que ca change pour la minorité que je suis ? C'est le symbole dans l'esprit des gens. Aux USA, il fallait compter avec Hilary clinton, aujourdhui il faut compter avec Barak Obama. On en est pas la en France mais c'est une amorce.

…for the first time, a woman has a shot at being president of France. Deep down, I don't believe that she will be any more or less competent than the others. But I think that what she sympbolizes goes beyond boplitics. Let me explain.

Women are discriminated against in this society, despite being equal before the law. A woman at this level of power is naturally the beginning of change. We can no longer change our men, but we can change our young boys, let them know that a woman can go wherever a man can. What does that change for the minority I belong to? It's a symbol in people's minds. In the US, you looked to Hillary Clinton, now you look to Barak Obama. We're not there yet in France, but it's a beginning.

Photos: Nicolas Sarkozy and Segolene Royal; Source: Wiki Commons


  • faridpouya

    Excellent report on election…original…U can not find it in Le monde or Figaro…merci

  • I think as in many other democratic elections, the question that surfaces and resurfaces is how much the candidates actually believe in their proposed platforms. Are they really committed to what they claim or are they just trying to please their voting segments? Do candidates knowadays really believe in anything or are they just mouthpieces satisfying different interests and coupling these interests with personal ambition and gain?

  • That is quite an awesome review of what bloggers say about the French Politics. Thanks.

  • Carmelo Lisciotto

    Interesting take on French Politics.

    Carmelo Lisciotto

  • BRE

    Whoa, excellent roundup on the French elections Jen. Instead of Sarkozy and Royal “duking it out” on French national TV in the upcoming debate where (presumably) all of the questions and responses have been carefully rehearsed, the candidates should go LIVE before these blog authors and their readers.

    Neither of the two, Sarkozy or Royal, would emerge from such an encounter as a clear winner and the people of France and the Francophone world may be better informed about which of the two can best lead France for the next 5-10 years. Viva la France! Good luck.

  • […] “France’s first round presidential election not only brought a record turnout of voters to the polls; it also inspired a wealth of commentary from Francophone bloggers in locations as diverse as the Congo, Morocco, Lebanon, Tunisia, the Caribbean, and Tahiti. Thanks to Jennifer Brea’s faithful translations and added context, we too can take part in the conversation.” […]

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