Young French voters and political party loyalty

PARIS -- Part III of a series exploring French voices in an election year. In Part III, how voters feel about the myriad of political parties bidding for the presidency.
Written by Bryan Pirolli, Correspondent (Paris)

PARIS – French political parties continue to battle it out as the presidential election nears this April 22.  The multi-party system is different from the largely bipartisan American political system, with dozens of parties sparring for the most coveted spot in French politics.  Do young French voters adhere to parties like their American counterparts?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy officially declared his intentions to seek re-election last week, a largely unsurprising announcement for French voters.  He is the runner for the UMP, a conservative centrist party that is one of the most popular in France.  His main opponent for the moment is François Hollande whose Socialist Party is, and has been, a major political party for the past few decades.

Many other parties are creeping up in the polls, displaying how French politics are much more of a spectrum than a simple right and left cleavage.  For example, there are parties much more liberal than the socialists, including a legitimate communist party and several green parties.  Additionally, parties like the Front National are so conservative that they almost make Sarkozy and the UMP look liberal. The FN and their candidate, Marine Le Pen, trail the two major parties, but with an ever-closing margin according to recent polls.

In between the two major parties there is a centrist party headed by François Bayrou has been gaining ground as Sarkozy loses points in the polls.

With continued uncertainty over who will win the first round of voting in April, leading to a final vote between the two winners in May, young people are hesitant to subscribe too willingly to one party.  SmartPlanet’s panel of student voters discusses how they feel about French political parties.

Certain voters like Franck Babeau, 23, and Coralie Hsieh, 25, don’t adhere to any particular party, while other voters shift towards a side of the spectrum.

When they do have leanings, younger voters in Paris seem to tend towards more liberal parties.  Nina Miletti, 25, says she is more inclined towards the socialists, but prefers the parties to the left in general.  Lucile Doussin, 24, also says she favors the parties to the left.  “I don’t know yet, but my political opinions tend towards the Left Front or the National Anti-capitalist Party,” she said.

Most of the young voters, however, said that their vote remains uncertain.  Marine Bucher, 24, says she remains perplexed by the variety of candidates.  “Admittedly, I still don’t know who I’m going to vote for in the upcoming months,” she said.

Melanie Lallet, 23, says that none of the parties fit what she’s looking for in a presidential candidate.  “I’ll vote for the candidate who best convinces me, but frankly I’m not really enthralled by any of the candidates,” she said.

Orianne Sauvagnat, 25, voted for the socialists in 2007 but doesn’t think she’ll be voting for Hollande this year.  She says she is frustrated with all of the options.  “I’m very disappointed, and I don’t like this mentality among the pessimistic French youth who spit on their country,” she said.

“I would really like to see things change in France,” Sauvagnat said, echoing the overall sentiments of many of the young voters eagerly anticipating the presidential vote this spring.

Photo: Le Web Pédagogique

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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