25 April 2007

French Elections

I am interested in politics all over the world, not just here at home. I listen with interest when NPR covers international elections, which they often do for many nations. Rarely Sweden, which disappoints me, but I'm kind of biased when it comes to all things Swedish.

The French election cycle has been in the news lately, and I've listened, fascinated, about how France handles elections. There are a few great lessons we could take from them. In the days leading up the election, for example, there is a complete media blackout on political advertisement and rhetoric. According to NPR, they do that so the French voters may have some peace and quiet to make up their minds. Isn't that an interesting idea.

During the 2004 presidential campaign, I worked for John Kerry's 'organization'. I use that term very loosely...they were so disorganized that I thought weeks before the election that it'd be a miracle if he did win. I volunteered to be a poll observer, to watch at a polling station for the majority of the day to ensure that no one was disenfranchised. I thought it would be really interesting. In the days leading up to the elections, when I already had my assignment for my polling station and had been through the training, I got countless phone calls from the Kerry campaign, asking if I would volunteer to drive people to the polls, asking if I would do this or do that on election day. By the third phone call, I was no longer nice when I explained that I already had an assignment for election day. By the tenth, I was no longer civil.

I remember how badly that "Swift Boat" advertising campaign hurt the Kerry effort, and how it started shortly before the election. I wonder, first how we could enforce a media blackout when there are so very many media outlets, and also if that would work here. It is an interesting idea, especially when held up before the freedom of speech in the first amendment. Does that inhibit free speech to have a media blackout? Yeah, maybe it does. I still think it might be a good idea.

Each election cycle here in the States seems to get dirtier and dirtier. Attack ads, run by special interests, which twist the truth. (On both sides, liberal and conservative.) Debates which don't hold true to the spirit of Lincoln-Douglas. The amount of money that it takes to be elected President of the United States is obscene, and disgusting.

So I wonder if we shouldn't take some lessons away from France. I'm not crazy about the runoff system that they're using, but really, it isn't much different from the primary election system we use here, just closer together.

I don't have much to say about the two candidates, Royal and Sarkozy. I've written about Sarkozy before, when he was interior minister of France. He said some things that I thought were unfortunate and very anti-immigrant. Some horribly racist things. How quickly we forget! American media has been reporting that he's the most pro-American candidate of all of them, but since most of Europe is anti-Bush at the moment, I imagine that what they mean when they say pro-American is pro-Bush. Which is an automatic strike against him from my point of view. And the anti-immigrant rhetoric he was spouting back in 2006 would have been offensive to anyone descended from immigrants, i.e. most Americans.

Royal I know very little about, other that she's female, in her 50s, and a socialist. I lived in a socialist country, so I can tell you that no, socialist is not communist. There's a big difference. Mostly, I think it would be cool for France to have a female president. And I like socialism.

Interesting, isn't it, that if she is elected, we'd have yet another country beat us in the race to have a female leader. Even Bangladesh had a female head of state before us.

If Sarkozy is elected, immigrants in France will have an interesting road ahead of them. At least Jean-Marie LePen was forced out during the first round of elections, he is quite the nationalist, with his "France for the French" campaign. Scary.

No comments: