Speak French to Me: French presidential race very different from U.S.’s

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François Hollande was elected president of France on Sunday. He will take office next week, replacing Nicolas Sarkozy.

Yes, that’s right. Next week. After being elected to run head-to-head against Sarkozy last week, he won the elections this week and will be taking office next week.

I hope you noticed a common word there and caught my gist: week. The campaign process took weeks. It didn’t start more than a year before the actual elections, and there weren’t months of campaigning in between the first round and second round of elections.

The presidential election process in France is a lot different than the election process in the United States, and some may even argue that it’s better than the election process in the U.S.

First off, every party chooses their candidate, and all candidates have a campaign. Each candidate is allowed a certain allowance to spend on his or her campaign, and if they don’t earn a certain percentage of votes in the first tour, their party has to pay back that money.

It isn’t a contest of who can afford the most advertisements or who runs the most expensive campaigns. There are limits and rules to how much money they can accept from donations and regulations to prevent large businesses from donating obscene amounts of money. (Do you hear that, America?)

The first tour for French presidency could be compared to the primaries in the U.S. The citizens of France vote for two candidates who will then run against each other in order to win the entire election.

Here’s the part that’s very interesting. For presidential elections, France does not have an electoral college or another equivalent to an electoral college. The president is elected to a five-year term by the popular vote, directly by the citizens of France. The popular vote actually means something here.

And voting for president is just that: voting for president. It does not also mean voting for a myriad of other people you’ve never heard of.

My host mom took me with her to watch her vote in the first tour. There were envelopes and squares of paper with the candidates’ names on them. She chose the candidate, put her vote in the envelope, and put the envelope in a ballot box after showing she was registered to vote and signing a piece of paper.

Now, I’m not saying that the U.S. should start running its government the way the French government is run. The French government is by no means perfect and is no stranger to having its own problems, just like the U.S. government does.

But why can’t our popular vote count? Why can’t presidential elections be simpler, instead of utilizing a ballot two miles long that only counts if the holes are punched just so?

Many Americans complain that not enough people vote. Many believe there’s no point to voting because it doesn’t actually count. Maybe if the voting process was simpler and the actual popular vote counted, that would change. But until that happens, presidential elections will just continue to be a long, drawn-out headache.

Danielle Limon is a freshman studying journalism and a columnist for The Post. Wondering why a guy named Hollande is now president of France? Sarcozy on up to her at dl119510@ohiou.edu.

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