Posted by: Opey | May 8, 2007

France gets out the Vote

Many people in the US probably have heard about the recent French presidential elections, where conservative Sarkozy managed to defeat the socialist candidate. That has major implications for American foreign policy, with Sarkozy promising that France will be a friend of America. Yeah, whatever. I’ve heard a million things come out of politician’s mouths before, with only a few of them coming true, so I’ll believe it when I see it. I want to discuss a more interesting facet of this story. The election managed to garnish a near record 84% voter turnout. That is truly remarkable for two reasons.  For one, the percentage is huge.  Secondly, it wasn’t quite the record.  In America, we have never approached a level like that, even for the tightly contested elections of the past few terms.  I believe that turnout is important to having a true democracy, and apparently the French are on the right track.  It appears that a large impetus for the turnout was the French electoral system, where there is a dual ballot, with a group of candidates vying for two spots on the final ballot, where a simple majority takes the office.  This forces the creation of coalitions and ties interests to candidates that they would not usually support.  I haven’t been a big fan of the electoral college, first past the post system, for the opposite reasons.  I divides the nation into small interests/parties, with the smaller groups feeling they have no ability to shape policy or attain representation.  Most believe that the current US electoral system has its flaws.  We should be looking to a country who managed to turn out the great majority of their voting population for our electoral reforms.

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