For the first time in French electoral history, the incumbent president brought up the rear in the first round of the 2012 presidential elections.
With 27.2% of the vote, Nicolas Sarkozy came in second after socialist candidate François Hollande, who garnered 28.6% of the vote. The two will face-off in the second round of the French presidential elections, to be held two weeks from today - on May 6.
Usually filled with discouraged visa-seekers, the line outside the French embassy was crowded with hopeful voters on Sunday April 22, clutching their blue-green identity cards and burgundy passports.
In the voting line, a mix of Arabic and French could be heard, reflecting the reality that approximately 70% of the French community in Tunisia is bi-national, and holds Tunisian citizenship. In the line, voters heatedly discussed the different candidates' platforms, defending their choices and favorites. Voters came to the ballot box with their families, children in tow. Women with headscarves stood beside unveiled women. As the voters edged passed the guarded gates of the French embassy, the atmosphere grew more solemn, as grave "Peut voter. A voter" (Can vote. Has voted) were heard coming out of the voting booths.
The candidates gazed down at the voters' line from their 20Ã-30 campaign posters. Francois Bayrou cracked an open-mouth smile, while Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Cheminade looked pensively off to a distant horizon. Eva Joly peered up from her signature green specs, her mouth curved into a half-smile. Marine Le Pen stared directly from above the words, "Oui, La France," with a tight-lipped smile.
As in the 2007 presidential elections, the French community living in Tunisia largely lent its vote to the Socialist Party candidate. Of the 15,294 registered voters, 6,664 French citizens in Tunisia went to the ballot box yesterday.
To a certain extent, the 2012 French vote in Tunisia echoed the national results, with François Holland coming in first place with 3,171 votes (47.94%), and Nicolas Sarkozy in second with 1,500 (22.68%). Marine Le Pen was bumped down two spots compared to the national score (17.9%), with only 240 votes (3.63%). For the rest, the results coincided with the overall results, with the different candidates following the same order (Mélenchon, Bayrou, Joly, Dupont-Aignan, Poutou, Arthaud, Cheminade). However, the gaps between the first and second place candidates were much larger than on the national level, and Marine Le Pen's result did not compare to her national score*.
In 2007, there was a clear gap between the French vote in Tunisia - which largely supported the socialist candidate Ségolène Royal in both the first and the second rounds - and the national vote, which favored the UMP candidate.
In the first round of the 2007 elections, 43.34% of French voters in Tunisia voted for Ségolène Royal of the Socialist Party, followed by François Bayrou (at the time campaigning with the UDF Party - or Union for French Democracy) with 30.23% of the vote. Sarkozy held third place, with 19.73% of the vote, and Jean-Marie Le Pen (Front National Party) in seventh place with only 1%.
In the second round, the socialist candidate garnered 4,308 votes, or over 70% of the French vote in Tunisia. Sarkozy received 29.50% of the vote with 1,803 votes.
Interestingly, the majority of the French expatriate population throughout the world voted largely in favor of Sarkozy in 2007. He obtained 54% of the overseas vote, while Royal obtained 46%. Overall, Sarkozy won the elections with 54% (183,613 votes), with Royal coming in second at 46% (156,480).
In 2007, the French vote in Algeria echoed the French vote in Tunisia, with an overwhelming endorsement of the socialist candidate Ségolène Royal. According to an article published in Slate, Sarkozy obtained only 19.5% of the French vote in Algeria, against a whopping 80.5% for Royal. According to the same article, this was Royal's highest regional and circumscription score overall. In Morocco, however, Sarkozy took the lead with 51.9% of the vote, beating Royal by only a slight margin of 3,8 percentage points. The socialist candidate earned 48.1% of the French vote in Morocco.
The French community in Tunisia will return to the ballot box on Sunday, May 6 in the five voting centers set up around the country (1 in Bizerte, 2 in la Marsa, 1 in Sfax, 2 in Sousse, 4 in Tunis). In the 2007 elections, there was a slight increase in voter turnout in the French community living in Tunisia between the first (48.6%) and second rounds (49.97%). When looking at the results of the first round in Tunisia, and at the 2007 precedent, it is likely that the French vote in Tunisia will, again, largely endorse the candidate of the Socialist Party in the second round of the 2012 French presidential election.
* These statistics were derived from the numbers of votes published on the French embassy in Tunisia website. Spoiled ballot papers were not counted.
The results of the French vote in Morocco will be published later on today. Tunisia Live will write an update with the results.