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French Women Wield Little Influence in Upcoming Elections
"Questions pertaining to women's issues are secondary to the French population," said Yves-Marie Cann, director of research at the Paris-based polling group CSA. Top voter concerns, he said, are unemployment, purchasing power, the socio-economic model and education.
On April 22, French voters will choose among 10 presidential candidates, three of whom are women: Marine Le Pen, Eva Joly and the extreme-left wing Nathalie Artaud. Unless one candidate claims more than 50 percent of vote, the top two will face a second ballot.
In a February survey by CSA and the women's magazine Terra Femina, Hollande earned 15 percent of respondents' vote as the strongest proponent of women's rights. Another left-wing candidate, Eva Joly of Europe-Ecologie, won 10 percent, the same score as Francois Bayrou of the centrist Modem party. Sarkozy, of the right-wing UMP, earned 9 percent; Marine Le Pen, 8 percent.
In contrast to the United States, wives and female partners of the French male candidates this political season are keeping a low profile. "Today, we are more into a campaign of image rather than in a genuine political activism," said Raphaelle Bacque, political reporter at the newspaper Le Monde.
Marine Le Pen, who has two children by a husband from whom she is now divorced, says little about her male partner Louis Aliot, vice-president of the Front National.
Danielle Mitterrand and Bernardette Chirac, the wives of former presidents Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, both directly addressed voters on behalf of their husbands. These women, said Bacque, were already politically active before their husbands' elections.
Bernadette Chirac served as First Lady for her husband's tenure from 1995 through 2007. The politically entwined couple has often been compared with Bill and Hillary Clinton.
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