May 9th, 2007 | Published in Google Public Policy
The French presidential elections have just finished and Nicolas Sarkozy was elected with approximately 53% of the votes. In the French version of Google Earth, you can now view a three-dimensional representation of the election results, showing how each candidate fared in each city (pictured, right). Prior to this weekend's election, we offered Google Earth users in France a special elections layer which included information about the candidates and election news.
This campaign also offered some new evidence about the impact of the Internet on politics. Since the previous elections in 2002, the Internet has been taken seriously into account by the French political parties as a platform to interact with citizens. Over the last two years, the parties have expanded their online initiatives, including video podcasts, online petitions and voter registration, web TV, and online voting for internal elections. Although the use of Internet is obviously not the only reason, it's worth noting that the main French political parties have enjoyed over the same period a significant flow of new members (approximately 300,000 new registered members).
Among citizens, the Internet has opened a new space of free expression, in particular when it comes to politics. French people love debating and have embraced blogging as a form of political expression. France has more than 3 million blogs, 7 million blog readers (approximately 60% of French Internet users), and is one of the highest-ranking countries in the world for user time spent reading blogs.
In the end, the key victory for democracy of these French elections was a voting participation rate of 84 percent. This renewed interest of citizens in politics is certainly not to be credited entirely to the Internet, but this new space of free expression has definitely played a key role.