Saturday, April 21, 2007
"Shhhhhh ... "
'Tis the night before the election and it almost feels like France isn't going to the polls in less than 24 hours. Some streets around the Champs-Elysees are quieter than you'd expect on a Saturday; and because of a campaign blackout before the vote, very little is said about Sunday’s crucial election on the air.
French law forbids candidates from campaigning or the media from disclosing poll numbers for almost 48 hours before the big day. It also threatens fines of some $100,000 to anyone disclosing exit poll results before 8 p.m. local time Sunday.
In my hotel room, I try catching up on the morning's developments. One network is airing a game show, another a decorating program and a third an American series.
No luck on the web either. French Web sites must abide by the same rules. Though French law seems almost archaic, with foreign Web sites, newspapers and television networks saying they will publish results as they please.
Anyone with an Internet connection in France can get around the rules. Twenty-first century technology is making the legislators' job harder.
Still, today, the country’s 45 million voters sound almost like a murmur even though, in a few hours, they will all cast votes that will radically change their country's future.
This is the end of an era in France and for the French. It is the first time since 1974 that none of the candidates running have held the office of prime minister or president.
Goodbye Jacques Chirac and the World War II generation, France is getting a political facelift: Conservative Nicolas Sarkozy on the right, Socialist Segolene Royal on the left and the so-called "third man" Francois Bayrou in the middle. All in their fifties, all promising to bring down unemployment and bring back France’s glory abroad.
But hang on, don't forget the extreme right-wing candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen. One of the last polls published put him in third place, ahead of Bayrou. And because when polled a portion of Le Pen voters do not admit to voting for the National Front leader, some analysts warn he might make it to the second round and shock France in the same way he did in 2002.
No matter who makes it, France is bound to change and French voters are craving a new chapter. Unemployment is high, crime is on the rise and issues like immigration and "national identity" are high on the agenda.
The CNN operation is in full swing to bring you the latest results. We will be anchoring live from the Champs-Elysees in the lead-up to the vote and from 1800GMT with the official results. In a little more than 24 hours, the top two candidates will emerge and break their silence.
From Hala Gorani, CNN International Anchor/Correspondent
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