France News of the Week by our news partner, Le Figaro in English
The first round of the French election will be held this Sunday. The top two candidates of the first round will advance to the second to be held Sunday, May 6.
The last polls were released Thursday and Socialist candidate François Hollande is the wide favorite, with Sarkozy coming in second and far-right Marine Le Pen coming in third. Far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the surprise hit candidate of the elections, is hot on her heels and may well depass her in the final count.
There is still a bit of uncertainty surrounding François Bayrou, the centrist candidate. He could take votes from either of the frontrunner candidates. Alternatively, his supporters could also decide on election day to join the ranks of either Hollande or Sarkozy.
A week of meetings
During this countdown week, all of the candidates have held their largest meetings yet. Current president Nicolas Sarkozy and Hollande held rival rallies at Paris on Sunday, each drawing out over 100,000 supporters. Word on the street was that Hollande’s meeting was just a tad bit more successful, mirroring his gains in the polls.
The other candidates also held their meetings. Far-right Marine Le Pen (Front National) and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (also far-right, but not as extreme) held their rallies on Tuesday. Green party candidate Eva Joly (far-left) held her rally Wednesday.
Far-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Front de gauche), who has inspired a fad following from the left, held his rally on Thursday in Paris at the Porte de Versailles.
Centrist candidate Bayrou held his final rally outside of Paris, in Bordeaux.
The results release remains a debate
A big debate has been buzzing in France and abroad with election results. French law states that election results cannot be released before 8 p.m., on a penalty of a fine of €75,000.
But only a few polls stay open until eight. Most close at six, meaning that election results will be available much earlier. In the age of social media, this law will be hard to enforce. Numerous bloggers as well as the foreign press say they will reveal results ahead of time. French newspaper Libération has threated to release results at 6:30 pm on Sunday.
“Friends of Syria” come together in Paris
Fourteen different diplomats, including American secretary of state Hillary Clinton and French foreign minister Alain Juppé, came to Paris to show support for the plan for Syria launched by Kofi Annan. The most important points of the plan are to demand more UN observers in the country as well as to maintain pressure on the Syrian regime.
Even after the cease-fire on April 12, violence continues in Syria. At least one hundred thirty people have died since that date. The first observers arrived in Damascus last Sunday.
Stanley Biwott sweeps the Paris marathon
Last Sunday, runners in the 36th annual Paris marathon filled Paris’ narrow streets. Kenyan Stanley Biwott, the same speed demon who won the Paris half-marathon in March, came in first place. Biwott broke a speed record for the race, finishing in two hours, five minutes and 10 seconds.
The first woman to cross the finish line was Ethiopian Tirfi Beyene, who also set a record for the women.
The week of Cannes news
The constant stream of election news this week parted for a few announcements from Cannes, the infamous French film festival to be held this May.
This week, we learned that French actress Bérénice Béjo will host the event. On Thursday, the names of the fifty-four films up for prizes were released. Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom will be the opening film.
Orangina arrives in the land of the rising sun
And finally, a little fait divers. Orangina has launched in Japan, with American actor Richard Gere as their spokesman. Oragina reported that they sold 1 million cases of 24 bottles in the first four days alone. The company head said that this was one-half of their annual sales goal. We’d call that a success.