France votes: Polls report solid turnout

Millions of French have cast their votes at the polling stations to determine the future of France for the next five years. But do any of the 10 candidates offer a real solution to France’s actual problems?

­Around 70 per cent of voters had cast their ballots by 15:00 GMT on Sunday, less than by the same time in 2007, the Interior Ministry said. France’s overseas territories, including Guadeloupe, French Guiana, French Polynesia, and citizens residing in North and South America, voted the day before, on Saturday.

The big question remains, however, how many people will ignore the vote? Recent polls showed that up to 30 per cent of almost 45 million of French voters had no intention of supporting any of the candidates.

Many French voters feel there is not much of a choice, because none of the candidates is offering a real solution to the problems the country is facing. The final turnout is yet to be disclosed, but the situation whereby a large part of electorate does not vote is not unique to France, author and journalist Barry Lando told RT.

“It is fascinating is that in the United States about 50 per cent of the electorate does not vote,” he said. “Even in the year when Obama won, 50 per cent did not vote. It’s not just in France, it is in a lot of countries.”

The candidates themselves cast their votes during the first hours of the election, with François Bayrou of the centrist party MoDem being the first to turn up. He was soon followed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Front de Gauche party. Incumbernt President Nicolas Sarkozy was the last of the 10 to show up, apologizing for the “big fuss” his appearance caused at a school he and his wife were voting in.

The supposed frontrunner, Francois Hollande, said this election will “weigh on the future of Europe,” as he cast his vote. So many people are closely watching French election, not because they are wondering “what the winner’s name will be,” but because they want to know “what policies will follow,” Hollande added.

More austerity and reduction of the structural deficit, along with massive reduction in social spending could be the only solution to the problems France is facing, Frederic Bonnevay, an economist from Montaigne think tank, told RT.

“The reason why the people turn to leftist or extreme rightist candidates is that mainstream ones actually have to offer the exact same solution,” Bonnevay said.

After the first round of the presidential election, the list of candidates is expected to be trimmed from 10 down to only two candidates – President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Socialist nominee Francois Hollande. The surveys suggest that none of the runners will receive more than 50 per cent of the votes cast which is needed to secure a victory in the first round.

An IPSOS poll published on Friday indicated that Hollande could win the first round with some 29 per cent of the vote, as compared to 25.5 projected for Sarkozy.

If Nicolas Sarkozy loses, he will be the first French president in 30 years not to be re-elected. At the moment it looks very likely that, due to his arrogance, lack of consistency and incompetence, he is going to lose, Pierre Guerlain, professor of political science at Paris West University, told RT.

“His personal characteristics, I think, antagonized a lot of people,” Guerlain said. “He was perceived as ‘the president of the rich’ precisely at a time when there’s a crisis.”

“He also doesn’t have a very clear political line,” Guerlain added.

The runoff, which seems inevitable, is set for May 6. According to the polls, Hollande is projected to win in the second round. But depending on how many votes will be secured by the candidates dragging behind in the first round, the runoff may bring some surprises.

The vote will continue until 16:00 GMT in rural areas of France and 18:00 in cities. There is a strict embargo on publishing the exit poll data until this time.