The surprise in the first round of the French presidential election was that there was no surprise, except for the huge level of voter turnout. The two leaders of the Right and of the Left, the favorites in all the polls for a long time, came first and second.
Four winners and one clear loser emerged from the first round. The first winner is democracy. For the first time in my lifetime, as I went to vote on Sunday with my children - in a peaceful celebration of that secular religion that is democracy when it works well - I had to wait in line patiently for a relatively long time. For 85% of the electorate went to vote in what has been the highest level of participation in presidential elections in France since Charles de Gaulle last ran for president in1965.
The lesson of the first ballot of 2002, which saw a high level of abstention and the surprise elimination of the Socialist Lionel Jospin, partly explains that mobilization. Also, with the emergence of a new generation of political leaders, the French -- who were thought cynical towards politics -- seem to have regained their unique passion for it.
The second winner is undeniably and by far Nicolas Sarkozy. With 31% of the vote he will come to the second ballot in a very favorable position. His strategy to attract the electorates of Jean Marie Le Pen’s extreme right, proved to be a winning one. A majority of French who voted for him, did it, according to reliable exit poll studies, above all because of his personality. They wanted a strong charismatic man to reawaken France economically and to reassure them in security terms.