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Has anybody checked the chads?

Well, Jacques Chirac smashed his opponent, Jean Le Pen, in today's runoff presidential election in France. There was no hidden base of support for Le Pen, as he got only a slightly higher percentage of the vote (18%) than he did in the initial round of the election. Voters really did prefer the corrupt to the extremist.

But not quite as strongly as the media would like us to believe:

Turnout was estimated at about 80 percent, higher than in the first round April 21, when about 28 percent of voters stayed home. That high abstention rate, and the large number of votes going to minor candidates of the far left and far right, led to Le Pen's strong finish.
If there was higher turnout and Le Pen got essentially the same percentage of the vote this time as he did last time, then obviously the high abstention rate did not play a significant role. And moreover, higher turnout and the same percentage means that Le Pen got a million more votes in this election than the last.

So, there's a half-full/half-empty glass here: on the one hand, Le Pen was overwhelmingly rejected, with 82% of the population voting against him. On the other hand, Le Pen got 18% of the vote. One-fifth of the population of France supported a candidate widely considered to be extremist, if not fascist. What does that say about the French electorate?

And of course, the French wouldn't be the French without controversy:

The idea that Chirac, having won with many votes from the left, is now set to roll back much of the left's legislation implemented during its five years in power, has Socialists and their labor union allies fuming. No sooner were the results announced than leftists began taking to the streets, protesting not against Le Pen, as they had for the last two weeks, but against Chirac.
Don't these people have anything better to do with their time?


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