Friday, May 11, 2012

To vote or not to vote

If you live in France you couldn't have helped but noticing we had an election recently. My dad was visiting the weekend of the primary, I guess we'd call it. That's when all of the candidates from all of the parties (and France has a lot of them: the right, the middle, the socialiststs, the communists, the green party, the far right, the workers' rights party, I could go on) are on the table and the French choose two of them for the run-off. Dad was amazed to learn that just two weeks after that the two chosen candidates faced off again in the voting booths. So quick compared to the American process which tends to drag out, he said.

And so the fateful day arrived when the French went out to vote for their next president. Election days are always Sundays here to give a maximum number of people a chance to vote. It's not an obligation here, as it is in Belgium. I asked Remi and his mom if they were going to vote that morning when we were at the greenhouse. Remi said something about having a headache and his mom gave a non-committal answer. I told them they couldn't complain about the results if they didn't even vote.

When Remi's dad came home I asked him if he intended to vote. Again, no enthusiastic response, so I said, hey, you live in a democracry, exert your right. Besides, I added, I can't vote, so vote for me. After a bit more hemming and hawing and some grumphing from Remi's mom, all three of them drove off to the town hall to cast their votes. Later Remi's dad said it was a good idea to vote and that I helped them sort of decide to get on with it.

It got me thinking though that maybe I should vote. I said above that I can't vote. Technically that's not true. I've been married four years to a French citizen and I could ask for the nationality (while keeping my American nationality, you better believe it!). I never felt motivated to do it except for the off-chance of applying for a government job where you must have citizenship. But maybe I've changed now. If I'm gonna keep living here for a long period of time, I might as well have the right to express my opinions on how I'm governed and what's going on in the education system my daughter participates in, for example. We'll see...

Anyway, for those who don't know, the Socialist candidate François Hollande won. I'm not gonna get all political on you. I hope he can create jobs and ensure a good education for the French kids, including my own little one. I hope he can also reduce our debt, but he doesn't seem very concerned about that. Again, we'll see. What I did notice about the French in this election is a bit of intolerance. I'd heard reports that some factions wanted to call for strikes if the incumbent president Sarkozy had won. The cities or villages must legally put up a campaign poster of each candidate in certain areas of town. And I can't tell you how many Sarkozy signs I saw that had been defaced or torn down before the election. I don't think that's very fair play. In a country that's about liberté, égalité and fratérnité, that's just childish. Democracy is also about respecting other people's opinions.

Hollande is on the left with the slogan: "The change is now." Sarkozy is on the right with "A strong France", and in grafitti, "finally" as in "finally gone", I suppose.

So, until I make up mind about getting the nationality here, vive la démocratie! And, by the way, I will be voting by mail for the US elections.


Jenenz said...

I wrote this great comment about voting and the Blogger said there was an error in my post! Reminder to self to copy any text that I write so that I can paste it in a new message! Thank you for reminding me that voting is a right, a privilege, and not to be taken for granted. I can't believe the U.S. presidential elections are here again. My absentee ballot has arrived and I will vote.

Mil said...

Aww, I feel your pain, Jennet. That often happens to me on Blogger so I've been copying the text as a precaution, too. Don't know what's up with that.

Lindle said...

It seems like any politician will say things the people want to hear just to get into power. I did not realize there was so much dislike of Sarkozy in France. Now everyone has to see if Hollande can bring it like he's promised, because the economies in Europe (and America) are far from recovered.
Amazing that you prodded your in-laws to vote. Even if your candidate loses, you can say you tried. Those who sit on their rumps rather than vote, and then complain don't have the right, as you say.