L’embarras du choix

Is it so surprising that in the land of 400 cheeses there are almost as many candidates for Président de la République?

After 25 years in France, several of them with my voter’s card in my pocket and a certain fluency in its ways, only now am I beginning to understand (sort of) how this whole voting malarkey works.

It seems that anyone who is able to vote can also declare themselves a candidate in the 2017 French presidential election. And quite a few already have – upwards of 150 by my calculations.

Getting the requisite 500 signatures of elected representatives to make their candidacy official is much harder: so far only a handful have achieved this. And today, March 17th, is the final date – after which the list will be greatly reduced. St. Patrick may dance a little jig.

In the meantime, I have discovered that the list of candidates contains some real gems. There is Super Chataigne (eh oui, super chestnut), a masked contender whose platform is founded upon giving democracy back to the people. I think it is a parody but in France it is hard to be sure.

You have to wonder why they would bother. It’s fairly certain that the vote will come to down to one of a short list of Macron, Hamon, Fillon or Le Pen. But it seems to be dear to the French heart that the election keep its balance, ensuring that everyone, including the Trotskyists, has a voice in the debate. Peu importe – small matter – if they are eliminated before we get to the first round. At least a diversity of views will have been represented.

A degree of pluralité, or pluralism, will mean that the next month will be interesting, even entertaining. And I hope the result will be less catastrophic than other recent election results.

Stay tuned as the saga continues!


  1. francetaste · March 17, 2017

    One woman in my Pilates class is adamant that everybody should boycott voting, to give the politicians a lesson. But there was a report saying that the only way Le Pen could actually win the final round would be if there were very low turnout. In other words, what my exercise partner says is exactly wrong.
    France is in a transition period toward greater transparency. Previously, politicians (and other people in high places like corporate titans) could do as they pleased and it was an open secret among the elites but the greater public was clueless. Now the secrets are being revealed, and there’s a lot of outcry about privacy and parsing of rules and laws. I think France will be better off when those in power no longer think they are above the law.
    As for the number of candidates, even in the U.S., there were 31 presidential candidates, though the majority were not on the ballot in every state. Parties included the Workers World Party, the U.S. Pacifist Party, the Prohibitionist Party, the Nutrition Party, the Revolutionary Party and the Legal Marijuana Now Party.

    • MELewis · March 17, 2017

      Agree that this is a period of change and transition, not only towards more open, accountable and transparent practices in public life but also away from the bonds of party politics. This current election has already captured this conflict in many ways – from the uproar around Fillon’s hiring of his own family to Macron’s independent run and the current mess in ranks of the governing Socialists. You’re right that anyone who abstains from voting, or even does the true protest of voting ‘blanc’ will only accentuate the risk of a far-right win. And it’s interesting to learn there were so many alternative candidates in the US elections. Shame it came down to the two so quickly!

  2. memoirsofahusk · March 17, 2017

    Ha ha love that, the land of 400 cheeses. And lots of little cheeses wanting to be the big cheese 🙂 We have the Monster Raving Loony Party among other madnesses – always sure to lose their deposits but they keep on keeping on. Good luck – let’s hope you do learn as a nation from other disastrous votes… Maar, goed gedaan Nederland!

    • MELewis · March 17, 2017

      Ha, ha, the big cheese! 😀 And who will be the presumably very stinky one that, according to the old song, stands alone? And yes, the Dutch made the right choice!

  3. weggieboy · March 17, 2017

    The law should allow a vote for “None of the above” as a way to let the ruling class know when they aren’t making points with the voters. Not voting gives an ambiguous signal: are the non-voters just poor citizens or too busy, ort are they truly upset with the idiots put up for a vote?

    • MELewis · March 17, 2017

      I agree that would be a great idea – an official protest vote and if there are too many, cancel the whole thing and start over. Thanks for weighing in!

      • weggieboy · March 17, 2017

        Yes, hadn’t thought that completely through. Your addition to the idea makes it something I would really like to see done!

        If 50% or fewer people vote, the simple flip of a coin would be as good for determining a winner in a election, which is to say not even bothering with an election would be the same as letting events happen randomly.

    • phildange · March 18, 2017

      There is a law : you pick a voting paper and you write anything on it . The paper automatically becomes null . This way you show that you voted and you voted for none of them . .But a more efficient way is to drive a general strike that turns into an insurrectional one . This is the most genuine French way when politics stops being a hoax-show for dreaming sheep and becomes real .

      • MELewis · March 19, 2017

        The problem with ‘vote blanc’ is that it could be confused with those who are just confused or too stupid to fill out a ballot. As for the French way, it may have worked to drive change in 1968 but I’m not convinced it would help now. 😉

      • phildange · March 19, 2017

        Mel the confusion you describe is impossible in France . Ballots are completely fulfilled by advance, you have nothing to do but pick the one of your choice and put it in the voting box . That’s why the law declares that any inscription, any personal input makes the ballot null . So people who wanted to express that they disliked every candidate always acted this way .

        About the French way, in 68 nothing happened . It looked for a few days that it was possible but it went no further than an aborted sketch . The last time the “French way” was used was in 1945, and that’s when la Sécurité Sociale, les Allocations Familiales, the still alive retirement system, les Conventions Collectives (laws about how workers are treated in each branch of work), a bit more paid holidays and quite many other things ( including the nationalization of the Banque de France ) were settled . By then we can say some things changed in everyday’s life of the majority . But well, the poor had just used guns, the rich had made money with or thanks to the Nazis, it was a question of life or death for the system owners to concede susbstantial advantages to the mass . And now when the actual system masters behave more and more openly like gangsters the life of the majority worsens every year, so is it a wonder if the abstention rates of every country explodes, if fascist/racist/populist parties were born from their ashes ? But no candidate proposes to eradicate the disease from its fundamental roots, even in the most shy way, so our modern elections don’t mean a thing in reality . It’s another “The show must go on”, la Société du Spectacle, etc…
        I’ll vote for the first one who promises the abolition of winter and speed radars .

      • MELewis · March 19, 2017

        So if I understand correctly, you believe not just the political system is broken but the entire social system. I am for the 6ème république as sweeping change is needed, but you are talking about something so rotten that there is no possible fix? To retreat into cynicism in that case is only natural. Call me naive, idealistically optimistic – others certainly have – but I don’t believe in the evil masters running the show behind the curtain. Although the abolition of daylight savings time would definitely get my vote. 😉

  4. Lisa @ cheergerm · March 17, 2017

    I vote for cheese, the way many votes in many countries are going lately, it’s our only hope.

    • MELewis · March 17, 2017

      Ha, ha, I’m with you Lisa! 😀 At least you know what you’re getting, even if it is sometimes full of mold and holes!

  5. Suzanne et Pierre · March 17, 2017

    We also have this type of candidates in Canada and in the US there were a slew of weird candidates – you rarely hear about them but they exist. We saw a piece on Super Chataigne and a few other candidates on the Quebec news last night. It was fun to see all of those off-the-wall candidates. I think it is good as most people needs to have a few reasons to laugh even if serious time like an important election.

    • MELewis · March 18, 2017

      That’s the thing – we hardly heard a peep about the other candidates until now, which was why I was so surprised to learn how many of them there are. Make that were – as of today the list is down to 11. But we do need some comic relief in these times, Suzanne, that’s for sure!

  6. acflory · March 18, 2017

    -grin- Choice makes the world go round, at least in cheeses. Is voting voluntary in France as well? I find I have to ask this of everyone because I assumed it was compulsory [as it is for us] and was shocked to discover that it’s not.

    • MELewis · March 18, 2017

      I’m all for choice when it comes to cheese, but compulsory voting sounds like a good idea. My husband has been saying that for years, probably because he’s the worst offender and knows he’ll be more likely to vote if it’s a law! I actually did not realize it was mandatory anywhere, never mind Australia. Has it always been like that?

      • acflory · March 18, 2017

        Yes, always mandatory here. That’s why I just assumed the rest of the world was the same.
        It’s quite disorienting when something you think is so basic proves not be universal at all. 😦
        Our system has more holes than a good Jarlsberg, but if democracy is about the voice of the majority, then surely it’s necessary for the majority to speak?
        Everyone I spoke to before the Trump election was against him. Good, solid, intelligent people. You have to wonder how many of them actually voted instead of assuming that others would carry the vote for them?
        Sorry, I dislike representational democracy at the best of times, because the ‘representatives’ rarely represent anyone but themselves, or some pet faction. But if even that mockery of democracy is watered down, what hope do we have?

      • MELewis · March 19, 2017

        Interesting. Thanks for that insight. So if you don’t like representational democracy what would be a better alternative? Feeling curious today!

      • acflory · March 20, 2017

        Ah, there’s the rub. I believe that some parts of government policy should be voted on directly – for example, going to war – but I’m not that trusting of majority rule that I’d want everything to be at the whim of the public.
        Maybe when online voting becomes a real, /secure/ possibility, we will be able to exercise our democratic rights more often.
        In the meantime, you know what I’d like to see, right now? I’d like to see the end of professional politicians. Instead, I’d like to see people who don’t want to have anything to do with government being selected by ballot for a 3 year ‘tour of duty’.
        A lot of the rituals of government would have to be simplified, but I can’t honestly see those non-volunteers as being worse than the politicians we have now.
        -sigh- Okay, I’ll slink off into my cave now….

      • MELewis · March 20, 2017

        The Swiss vote on everything, and it seems to work well for them, but like you I would not put a lot of important issues (Brexit?) to popular vote. Thanks for sharing some interesting ideas!

      • acflory · March 20, 2017

        They do? I had no idea. Thank you. 🙂

  7. George Lewis · March 18, 2017

    The main problem is single issue candidates and parties. Makes me think that Canada’s first past the post Parliamentary system and 2and1/2 parties is not too bad.

    • MELewis · March 18, 2017

      Yes, although I’ve never known you to be very happy about any elected official for very long! ;-P

  8. phildange · March 19, 2017

    Mel, they are not evil masters, just the billionaires and would-be billionaires, a tiny percentage of humanity that racket the whole planet and make legions of their “brothers” die or live in unbearable conditions . The question is : how can “humanity” still accept to live in an animal organization ? And the western part of them sure obstensibly proclaim they are Christians . Where are their human brothers, brothers before the Christ theorically ? I wrote Christ but any state religion can do .
    At least the Cathars lived among the poor and healed them . But, hey, they were slaughtered as well as the Communards in 1871 . Religion and power, religion and money, this should be THE oxymoron . By the way, wasn’t the guy Jesus rather among the poor, and a little frowned upon by the power ? Oh I forgot : we learnt a lot from him and totally changed our frame of mind and heart to become human, you know the one made in the image of God . Yes, the POTUS swears on the book that says this sort of stuff .
    No cynism, no ..Until the last moment i beleive either through politics or spirituality Earthlings may evolve before it’s too late and, why not ?, start fulfilling their mission of gardeners of their mother . Ha ha ! We were supposed to increase the Beauty around . Zut, we have to maintain it inside first .

  9. Mél@nie · March 19, 2017

    Mel dear, I do admire your patience for such “spécimens”… 🙂
    * * *
    je te recommande le film de Jean Yanne – in case you haven’t watched it yet:”LIBERTE, EGALITE! Choucroute”!!! 😀

    • MELewis · March 20, 2017

      I am continually fascinated by them – truth is surely stranger than fiction! Will check out the film, merci Mélanie! xx

  10. Osyth · March 21, 2017

    A friend of mine made a series, which I worked as Production Assistant on, in the run-up to the 1983 British General Election called ‘A Partly Satirical Broadcast’ in which each week a different non-mainstream candidate was featured. These were all entirely kosher and in fact most had stood for election many times … one, as another of your readers mentions was ‘The Monster Raving Loony Party’ and it’s founder was Screaming Lord Sutch who you might like to Google … sadly he is dead as is Stanley Unwin who presented the series from Speakers Corner in Hyde Park where anyone could get on a soapbox on a Sunday morning and spout about whatever they wanted to. Unwin presented in his own language (for which he was well known) ‘Unwinese’ …. I rather think that either candidate might bring something to the party now …. they would fit right in this sorry mess of a world I am viewing over the rim of my coffee cup with a perpetually bewildered look in my eye!

    • MELewis · March 21, 2017

      Thanks for sharing that little slice of your 80s life, Osyth. What a box of memories you must have! All these silly electoral shenanigans in France must seem rather old-hat to you. Did you watch last night’s debate? I am surprising myself by finding it all quite fascinating — must be (yet another) sign of encroaching age. Of the 11 official candidates, only the ‘big 5’ were present, which seems unfair to the other 6 and yet how impossible it would have been with all of them! MLP was true to her horrid self, yet managed to stay polite for most of it. All had interesting ideas across the political spectrum – even found myself agreeing with Melenchon a couple of times. It will be an interesting ride until May 8th. We’ll need plenty of coffee – and possibly stronger stuff!

      • Osyth · March 21, 2017

        Actually the friend became my first husband 😉 Not old hat at all … I find the process of electing a leader fascinating in a slightly masochistic way. Last year, I watched all the primary debates and then the Presidential’s. I felt I should since I was installed in the country throughout the process. I feel the same here. It’s a little like being in a ‘hide’ watching wildlife performing rare behaviours! But sadly with a very very serious edge to the interest. We were on the road yesterday and got back far later than intended so missed the debate but I shall try to catch up with what I can today. May 8th, apart from being the anniversary of VE Day is my youngest daughter’s 22nd birthday and 22 is my lucky number — these are the sorts of straws I am clutching at. X

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