Let them vote – the race to the Palace

The Foothills of the Pyrenees this week in the Spring sunshine

The French do not believe in simplifying anything more than necessary, particularly when it comes to any official process; bureaucracy – and one’s ability to deal with it – being the basis of the French class system (not that the French like to admit to a class system.)

Hence, the French presidential election process is complex and full of rules and regulations; even to get on the ballot, candidates need signatures of 500 elected officials. Once this has been achieved, there is not just one round of voting but two. For 2012 the official candidates are Eva Joly, Marine Le Pen, Nicolas Sarkozy, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Philippe Poutou, Nathalie Arthaud, Jacques Cheminade, François Bayrou, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and François Hollande. The most notable name missing is Dominique de Villepin, who didn’t achieve the necessary 500 signatures. The first round of the election is April 22nd, with the second on May 6th. At the moment, Hollande is leading the race with Sarkozy a close second.

During the first part of the official campaign period – March 20th to April 9th – candidates have to be given the same amount of coverage on television and radio. This sounds fair but in reality what actually happens is that for some of the lesser known candidates, media channels run repeats of interviews or rallies late at night or early in the morning to ensure that the rules are met. However, from April 9th to 20th all candidates also have to be given the same type of air time; in other words if one candidate is interviewed on the evening news, then all the other candidates have to be interviewed for the same duration and at the same time.

The recovery of the French economy seems to be the main concern of this 2012 campaign although security and immigration are also a big focus. The property market in general remains an important topic mainly focusing on public housing and low energy-consumption buildings, whose number should be – according to all candidates – dramatically increased.

Although the loss of France’s triple A rating in January didn’t seem to have an effect at all on the property market, usually a forthcoming presidential causes a slight decrease in property sales and in the number of new properties coming onto the market. So far this time however, the market seems to have generally ignored the elections and property sales are strong, perhaps because France seems to be a much safer bet than most of its neighbours during the current economic crisis. Plus of course the interest rates here have remained low and stable and no candidate has proposed any drastic change in estate laws.

Whatever the outcome of the election– which I certainly would not dare to predict – it seems safe to say that French property remains as good an investment as ever and the country still offers the best available mortgage rates in Europe. Most importantly, here in this lovely part of South West France, much as everyone loves discussing politics, what really matters is family, friends, good food and good wine and enjoying life each day as it comes. Whoever wins the election and even if Europe goes into complete financial meltdown, I don’t really think much will change here.


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