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NewsletterMay 2002

Presidential Election

Shock. Stunned. Earthquake. Political disaster. Ashamed. These are just a few of the words used in France the last four days to describe the events of Sunday night. The event was the second place showing of far right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen, in the French presidential election, thus putting him into a run-off with Jacques Chirac, the incumbent president. Most polls, along with just about all of France, thought that the run-off would be between Chirac and Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. Not just because polls told them so, but because no one wanted to believe that someone with such extreme views could make it into the second round of voting. Le Pen blames for example unemployment and high crime rates on immigration. In the past Le Pen call the holocaust a “detail” of history, some of his supporters in 1995, killed a North African. He personally has a violent past, he once attacked an opposition candidate.
Needless to say the French are in a state of sole searching and deep reflection.
I have had the occasion to witness France’s reaction to the events of Sunday night, up close and personal. The Monday after the April 21 election I was out walking with my wife and one year old son, in the old part of Strasbourg, the city in witch we live. We walked into a demonstration of 10,000, made up mostly of students. It was a cross cultural, very lively crowd and more than likely it was a spontaneous. This type of spontaneous demonstration was typical in France after the election. On April 22 100,000 demonstrators where in the streets, on April 23 80,000 on April 24 70,000 and April 25 330,000 and April 27 200,000. May 1st has been designated as a national day of protest in France.
It seems that the worst of France has brought out the best.
I think that it is interesting to try to understand why 20% of the French electorate voted for the extreme right. The Al Gore factor- Most people feel that Jospin ran a very uninspiring and centrist campaign. Leaving himself open to other leftwing candidates, of witch there were five, to take his votes. Crime- Crime is up in France and has been going up over the last few years. French TV nightly is filled with the crimes of the day, this dose not make people feel as, as I can attest. Nanterre- This event, the killing 8 people for no known reason by a menially ill man, was gold for Le Pen, after Nanterre Le Pen was seen by the French, polls showed, as the person the most capable of dealing with the number one issue in the presidential election, crime. Apathy- A record 28% of the French electorate stayed home. Most people found the campaign boring and saw the choice between Jospin and Chirac as no choice, as their campaign platforms where very similar. Polls- All polls showed that the second round would be between Jospin and Chirac. It is believe this lead many on the left to vote for other leftwing candidates, and not Jospin as a kind of protest against his centralist campaign platform.
Even with Le Pen making the second round, I have been very impressed by the way the French do their elections. There are no political TV ads all official candidates are given equal TV and radio time, mostly through interviews, to state their programs. Each French voter a week before the election got a package of election material that had flyers from each candidate. All candidates that received more than five percent of the vote got reimbursed for their campaign expenses.

Fourteen Years

Patrick Dils sentenced in 1986 to life in prison at the age of sixteen, for the killing to two young children, was acquitted at his second retrial and set free. A few days after the acquittal I saw a TV special, that gave the impression that the police investigating the crime, under heavy public pressure to find the killers, forced a confession out of Dils. He was arrested a year after the crime and not allowed anything to eat and was under heavy pressure to confess, witch he did, that was the main evidence against him. It turns out that in the same town where the killings happened serial killer Francis Heaulme was present. This fact was not known until the early 90’s and not confirmed until witnesses where found that stated that Heaulme was seen riding a bike not far from where the children were playing. One witness reported that the children tossed rocks at Heaulme, some said this was reason enough that he would kill the children.

Loft Story 2

Yes. Even intellectual France has discovered reality TV. The premise is simple, get twelve sexy young things together and let the cameras roll. A brother in-law of mine told me about the first Loft Story, in the first episode two of the Lofter’s, as there known, started having sex in a swimming pool, I was told that you could not see the act itself, but you knew what was going on. The original Loft Story was followed by Star Academe, Pop Star and the French edition of Survivor. The first two shows had as their premise the making of singing stars and Survivor was just like the American edition.

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