France: Election by Default, 2002

On May 5, 2002, the French people re-elected Jacques Chirac president, and on June 16 gave him a center-right parliamentary majority. The tumultuous two-round presidential elections saw the elimination of Socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin in the first round, and left the racist, extreme right candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen as Chirac's opponent in the second round. Chirac won by a wide margin, but many voters, perhaps a majority, were voting against Le Pen. Chirac and Le Pen both ran on a campaign to quell "insecurity," a euphemism for a rising crime rate. Many observers believe that the main candidates did not address France's principal problems during the campaign.