Election day in France

Here are a few random thoughts on today's French presidential election:

I watched parts of the televised debate on TV5 during commercial breaks. Based purely on the candidates' body language, as I barely understood a word they were saying, I got the impression that Sarkozy was winning. The next day some newspapers praised Royal for going on the attack, but I thought she was quite obviously overdoing it, to the point where a neutral viewer's sympathy would go to Sarkozy for having to deal with her constant interruptions. I'll note that polls taken since the debate have mostly shown Sarkozy increasing his lead.

Having a political system where everyone pretty much gets along with everyone else may be a bit boring, but it sure beats a situation where one side can credibly warn of security problems if the other side wins. Former Interior Minister Kari Rajamäki (Social Democratic Party) hinted at that direction (fi) before the parliamentary election, but that was very vague and easy to laugh off besides.

Jacques Chirac may have been an oily old crook, but at least he was an entertaining oily old crook. Do we have any idea about what the candidates think of Matti Vanhanen's sex appeal? What are their thoughts on Ilkka Kanerva's competence? How about Finnish food? (And don't answer, "No thanks.")

It's difficult to figure out what outcome the Finnish government would prefer. Probably the most important issue to them that will be influenced by the result is the EU constitution. Sarkozy's likely victory would be a boost to the mini-treaty camp, which is not the camp in which Finland currently resides; Royal has promised a new referendum on whatever the result happens to be, which is a risky proposition, and would probably want to insert some left-wing stuff in there. Both are cold on Turkey's EU membership, although Royal would shunt the responsibility for closing the door on the French public, proposing another referendum. Again the Finnish government is in the other camp. Neither candidate elicits much enthusiasm in Vanhanen and company, I would wager.

The English language press is often highly condescending toward the French. It's almost as if there's some past history there...

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