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22 April 2007

The election’s giving me a headache

French journalist Frederic Niel explains why the poll makes you want to reach for the aspirin

By Frederic Niel

Here goes the typical conversation in the France nowadays:

So come on now, who are you going to vote for?

I’m still hesitating. Generally, I vote Green in the first round and Socialist in the second round of each presidential election. But when Le Pen got to the second round in 2002 – to everyone’s surprise, since he was behind both Chirac and Jospin in the polls – I was sorry I didn’t vote Jospin from the first round onwards.

Many left-wing voters like me thought that enough voters would go for Jospin straight away, to let the socialist candidate get in just behind Chirac, and then that we could come together and beat Chirac in the second round. The result was that I had to hold my nose and vote for Chirac in the second round, to crush Le Pen. So, this year, I’d decided to vote pragmatically – “voter utile”. That is to say, I’d vote Segolene Royal from the beginning, so that she will get in behind Sarkozy and stop Le Pen from getting through to the second round. And so much for my sweetheart, the Greens’ Dominique Voynet.

So, you’ll vote for Royal?

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It’s not that simple. When Francois Bayrou began to climb up in the polls, I told myself that voting for Royal might actually do nothing, and that splitting the votes of the centre-left public like me between Royal and Bayrou would simply play into Le Pen’s hands.

So, you’ll vote for Bayrou?

Not sure: I’m waiting for the final moment, I’m going to look at the last polls, and I’ll vote for Bayrou if he’s ahead of Royal, and for Royal if she’s ahead of Bayou. The important thing is that Le Pen doesn’t get to the second round. It would be too shameful.

So that’s the plan…

I don’t know. According to the polls covering second-round scenarios, only Bayrou could beat Sarkozy. Royal has basically almost no chance of winning the presidential elections. So why push her into the second round? But if I vote for Bayrou, since he’s behind Royal in the polls at the moment, I would simply have stopped Royal from having enough voices to take over Le Pen. And if he got into the second round again…

Well then, what are you going to do?

Well, since Le Pen is pretty low in the polls, and since there’s maybe little risk that he’ll get ahead of Royal and into the second round, I’m wondering if I won’t, after all, vote Voynet…

What?

Yes: Royal, ultimately, may not need my vote, so perhaps I can afford the luxury of voting of voting for the Greens, for pleasure… having said that, if we all make the same calculation, neither Royal nor Bayrou will have enough votes to get past the first round, and we’ll have Le Pen versus Sarkozy. A surprise is always possible, like in 2002… I’ll decide in the voting booth. And you, who are you voting for?

Me? I’ve got too much of a headache this year. I’ll vote next time.