French presidential election, 2002

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Jacques Chirac

Jacques Chirac

The 2002 French presidential election consisted of a first round election on 21 April 2002, and a runoff election between the top two candidates (Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen) on 5 May 2002. This presidential contest attracted a greater than usual amount of international attention because of Le Pen's unexpected appearance in the runoff election. Journalists and politicians then claimed that polls had failed to predict his second place finish in the general election, though Le Pen's strong stance could be seen in the week prior to the election. This led to serious discussions of polling techniques and to the climate of French politics. Although Le Pen's political party National Front describes itself as mainstream conservative, non-partisan observers conclude that it is a far right party. Chirac had one of the biggest landslides in the history of French politics, winning over 82% of the vote.



opinion polls

General summary

The 2002 election was the first for which the President would be elected to a five year, instead of a seven year, term.

In the months before the election, the campaign had increasingly focused on questions of law and order, with a particular attention towards crime committed by the youth, especially the youth of foreign origin. Lionel Jospin was, at the time, Prime Minister of France; the Jospin government was criticised for its "softness" on crime by its political opponents. Some[who?] contend that alarmist reporting on the TF1 channel and other media had overemphasised the alleged crime wave.

The first round of election came as a shock to many commentators, almost all of whom had expected the second ballot to be between Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin. Jospin's poor showing and the widespread splintering of the left-wing vote in the first round of the election meant that instead Jean-Marie Le Pen faced Chirac in the second ballot. The election brought the two-round voting system into question as well as raising many concerns about apathy and the way in which the left had become so divided.

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