In contrast to the on-going, never-ending , media-soaked money- driven American presidential election, where years of campaigning and hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on a diverse set of "candidates" with a wide-ranging set of "ideas", permeated with religion, regions and race, the French election is strictly controlled from the standpoint of money spending and media coverage.
In the 1st round there are a large number of candidates, with a wide range of issues, ( foreign policy, immigration quotas and limits, threats to culture and identity, Euro and Euro Zone, Muslims, refugees, hijab/niqab, hallal meat etc), from the extreme left to the extreme right parties, as well as independents, anyone who meets the qualification rules. There are two ballots to select president; if no one wins on the 1st ballot, then the two leading candidates face off two weeks later on the second ballot, and a winner emerges. There is a srtict limit on election spending, in order to ensure that money does not give an unfair advantage to wealthy candidates and their sponsors, as in the USA, where Mitt Romney was able to oulast and outspend his opponents for the Republican nomination. In France candidates can spend only $22 million and have equal media time guaranteed by law to ensure that no one gets an advantage by outspending the other ( Romney was able to swamp his opponents with media ads blitz). On the second ballot, they can spend up to $30 million, no polls are published and there is no media time that candidates can buy and the media have to ensure that their coverage is even-handed. Official monitoring takes place to ensure this. In this way the two candidates and their teams have to spend a lot of time "harvesting" votes directly. They have to take their message directly to the voters. They have to be front and center and not hide behind "attack ads".
This is participatory democracy/ Popular Sovereignty, where "Vox Populi, Vox Dei", really do mean something. Vive la France.
Sole head-to head debate is on May 2. This will be Sarkozy's last chance to save himself. Expect sleaze against Hollande