Although it has gained little media coverage in Australia, the French go to an election this week with President Chirac standing down after many years in office. Whether one likes the French or not, it is a country not be discounted or overlooked, certainly in the European Union. Also, not to be forgotten is that France has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
The Independent has an interesting analysis and background to the up-coming election:
"France faces a momentous choice this week - and knows it. In the calamitous presidential election of 2002, the country fell asleep at the wheel. It took little interest in the campaign and woke up after the first round of voting to find itself in a moral ditch.
The far-right leader Jean-Marie Pen sneaked into the second round five years ago partly because so many people failed to vote and partly because so many left-wing votes scattered to minor candidates. This time the country is wide awake. Voter registration is up by more than 4 per cent. Interest in the campaign is high.
France knows that this is a cross-roads election. A "new" generation of 50-something candidates promises to abandon the muddle of the past two decades and - finally - reconcile a divided, skittish, anxious nation with the menacing 21st century."