Saturday, January 20, 2007

Sarkozy's Funny Primary Election

On Jan. 14, France's major center-right political party, the governing Union for a Popular Movement, or UMP, will select their candidate for this year's presidential election.

Commenting on the UMP's upcoming nomination, the French magazine Marianne said that it had already lost its thrill or suspense. The "funny primary election," as it called it, had only one candidate competing for investiture: Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been president of the UMP since 2004.

A female candidate was believed to be entering the race -- Michele Alliot-Marie, the minister of defense and a former president of the UMP -- but she recently announced that she would not be running for president in 2007.

Candidate Rachid Kaci, the chief of the Free-Right within the UMP, has removed his name from the list of candidates.

Despite the lack of competition, voting for the UMP nominee is now officially open. Unfortunately, the voting machines are missing. Electors in Paris waited for them for a whole afternoon, to no avail.

Delegate Didier Beoutis said, "The machines should arrive within a couple or three days." In the meantime, he said, "People can vote by the means of our computers."

Even though the paper voting devices are not quite ready, electors can vote at home, by Internet, or by electronic voting machine.

So let's forget about the paper voting machines. The question is whether people want to come and vote because the election results are already acknowledged. Sarkozy is undoubtedly the winner.

It doesn't matter whether one competes against others or not, said Beoutis, as the game itself is not a meaningful form of victory. The members of the UMP are so well disciplined that nobody forgets to vote. The challenge now is to record the highest number of "yes" votes possible for Sarkozy.

This sort of election is a plebiscite that recalls, outrageously, the "bulldozer policy" in the election of Napoleon III in the middle of 19th century, who received a 70 percent "yes" count.

With this plebiscite, perhaps Sarkozy and the UMP hope to gain the same legitimacy as Segolene Royal, who was selected as the Socialist Party's presidential candidate in real elections on Nov. 16, easily beating out many male candidates.

France's next president will be elected in two rounds of ballots on April 22 and May 6.

Demian West

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