The French know they do not have the luxury of voting their hearts the first time around. In the first-round ballot in April 2002, the protest vote went to Le Pen, and in a shock, he knocked out the Socialist candidate for second place in the first round and faced the incumbent Jacques Chirac in the runoff.We all know that didn't happen. As a result, though French people in general might collectively be happiest with centrist Bayrou, they now are set to pick between socialist and conservative candidates.
"I'd like to vote for Besancenot - a simple mailman who speaks to the little person - and there are a lot of people like me," said Azzedine Hamet, a 25-year-old unemployed metal worker, referring to Olivier Besancenot, the 32-year-old Trotskyite candidate. "But I feel the burden of 2002. To vote like that is to throw away your vote."
In a number of polls, [Francois] Bayrou has a better chance than Royal of defeating Sarkozy in the second round. That means some voters on the left who are determined to defeat Sarkozy are contemplating whether to sacrifice Royal and support Bayrou.
This despite the fact that the day before the election, a poll by TNS-Sofres showed Bayrou beating both Sarkozy and Royal in head-to-head races, and in effect beating every single candidate running for president of France in a head to head race. This is the candidate who should be elected. This from an article that, like other misguided media coverage, starts "Nicolas Sarkozy continues to lead all presidential contenders in France..." The colossal lede that the most popular candidate is likely to lose is buried in the fourth paragraph, as usual.
Of course, the United States' system is even worse. John McCain was a more popular candidate than George Bush in 2000, but the primary system kept him from millions of swing voters who never had a chance to vote for him. (For the record, McCain is on the wrong side of nearly every important political issue and isn't the bipartisan savior we're looking for, but he sure is better than Bush.) The way Congressional seats are now allotted in the Republicans' favor, Democrats can--and have--get more votes for House and Senate candidates than the Republicans do, but win fewer of the seats. And the ills of our electoral college have been enumerated plenty.
It's crazy that in this age of self-satisfied democracies, citizens are content with electoral systems that don't choose the most popular candidates or parties. Voters in Kiribati and Sri Lanka rank candidates, and a form of instant runoff voting is used in each case; I like the Borda count method (with a set number of candidates to rank) and other Condorcet methods, which guarantee that if there is a candidate like Bayrou who would win head-to-head against any other candidate, he or she will be chosen.
Voters should be able to focus on who they want to elect, and free to ignore questions of voting strategy and other such machinations. No voter in a democracy should have to vote against their first choice for reasons of game theory.