Friday, May 11, 2007

Everything I Love: French Politics

On our first night in Paris we dined on French sausages at Montmantre and then climbed to le Tire Bouchon Piano Bar for beer and wine. On our descent, the blue light of the Royal-Sarkozy presidential debate flickered from the windows of every restaurant, bar, and corner store, with as many as twenty customers crammed around thirteen-inch sets.

I caught the last half-hour of the marathon debate and it reminded me of how much more I enjoy Quebec leaders debates in Canada to either the federal or Ontario versions. French politicians, animated and charismatic, seem to directly engage one another and speak from the heart rather than their notes. Over 20 million people tuned into the debate and, from what I could make out, they were treated to a meaningful discourse.

Election fever exceeded any I've seen in North America. Everywhere we went, people were arguing over the Sarko-Sego question. Election coverage pre-empted prime time television programming as the candidates swung across the country for the last three days of rallies. On Saturday, when campaigning was to have stopped, flag-waving young socialists paraded past a cafe where we were eating and got into it with a young couple drinking espressos.

In a grocery store on election day, we were accosted by a man asking whether we'd voted. When he learned that we were Canadian, he pumped his fists and declared triumphantly that it was "a great day for France. For twenty-five years we've had some sort of socialism, and now we will have twenty-five years of business!".

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