By Varoujan Sirapian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator
PARIS — Never has an election in France been so uncertain. According to surveys conducted six months ago, Nicolas Sarkozy started about 16 percentage points down. His place on the final ballot was not even assured, as he was running in third place, behind Francois Hollande (Socialist) and Marine Le Pen (Front National).
After the first round on April 22, only two candidates were left: Sarkozy and Hollande. The past 15 days were very tense and until the evening of May 4 (officially the last day of the campaign), the gap narrowed between the two candidates.
French law does not permit publication of surveys 48 hours before voting. In the age of online media and social networks, that measure seems absurd, as the Belgians and the Swiss, for example, can publish the results after 6 p.m., closing time for the majority of polling stations. A survey conducted at the exit offices can provide a reasonably reliable estimation. And Sunday, May 6, at 6:01 p.m., two hours before the announcements were made by the French media, a Belgian news website, www.lesoir.be, ran the head- line: “Francois Hollande will be the next President of the Republic” with 52 per- cent of the vote. Fewer than 600,000 votes, out of 34 million voters, made the difference.
As expected, at precisely 8 p.m., the picture of Hollande appeared on all TV screens, announcing his victory. At 8:20 p.m., Sarkozy made a touching and Republican speech before thousands of militants gathered at Mutualite auditorium, asking his supporters to not con- sider the victorious camp as the enemy but instead to think about the greatness of France, wishing luck to his opponent in this politically- and economically- problematic world.