Thursday, May 11, 2017

May 7 - French Elections

As you probably know, the French just elected a new president, Emmanuel Macron. I thought you might want to hear how we experienced this final push toward the elections. It is VERY different from the US process.

The French have a multi-party system and candidates from all parties are presented to the citizenry for a popular vote with the two candidates with the highest popular vote facing off two weeks later.

The primary election was April 23. As we traveled around the region in April, we were surprised to see no posters, billboard, no lawn signs or other advertising for candidates. Well, we did see occasional  poster sized placards taped to bridges in support of  François Asselineau, leader of the Popular Republic Union and promoter of Frexit - that is, for France to leave the European Union. In towns, villages, and cities, we saw small metal billboards, usually by the Mairie (town hall), each with an equally-sized poster of the party's candidate. There were 11 parties represented for this election. Most of these had one or more of the candidates defaced in some way.
These poster frames were standard at every Mairie in every town. However, the defacings changed depending on the town.

The candidates appeared in the same order in every town.

We, of course, are not reading French newspapers or watching French television where I expect  more information was available. I believe there was at least one debate between the two remaining presidential candidates. But I believe there are requirements that candidates receive equal time and the amount of time given to each may also be controlled. We also saw that candidates would visit towns to meet with all comers. So the primary election was on Sunday (all voting is done on Sundays in France), April 23. The two candidates who emerged were Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. The other posters were removed and posters for just the two candidates were newly posted. There were lots of people who didn't like one or the other, or both.
Posters as of March 8 - some unhappy people. Notice that Marine Le Pen was having an open meeting on May 1 in this town

A bit about these two:
Emmanuel Macron, a former civil servant and investment banker, has degrees in public administration and public affairs. He has served in several national level government positions before resigning in August 2016 to consider running in this election. He declared himself in November under the banner of a new, centrist party called "En Marche!" (On the Move). He campaigned on remaining in the EU and welcoming refugee immigrants. At 39, he is the youngest president in the history of France.

Marine Le Pen has been president of the French National Front, the French right-wing populist movement begun by her father. Trained as a lawyer, she entered politics in the 80's. She opposes accepting refugees in France and supports extracting France from many of the constraints of the EU, including going back to using the Franc as currency. As a nationalist, she advocates a "France for the French" platform.

French presidents are elected by popular vote and the winner must garner at least 50% of the vote. Macron won with 66%. Because of the multi-party system, parties must form alliances with other parties in order to move legislative programs forward. These alliances are, by nature, somewhat fluid.

Voting is always on a Sunday and the second vote was two weeks after the primary. Campaigning must cease by midnight of the Friday before the Sunday election. Polls are open (usually the Mairie - town hall) from 8 am to 8 pm and no vote counting or publication of results is allowed before the polls close at 8 pm.
The Mairie at Vauchrétien
Voters are automatically registered at age 18 and no further registration is ever required. Voting is primarily by paper ballot with a few areas using electronic voting. Presidential elections are only single elections - that is you are only voting for the president. You complete your ballot at a voting booth, put it into an envelope and present your identification (only required in districts with more than 5000 voters), then put your ballot into the box.

Macron was deemed elected on Sunday, May 7. Official results were published on May 10 and Macron will take office on May 14.

There were, of course, some shenanigans. Just before the close of the election campaigning on May 5, emails from the Macron camp were leaked to the press. Macron's camp warned that some legitimate emails were leaked but that also fake documents were among the leaked documents. Russians? Post-election, Le Pen is claiming she was cheated in that many ballots cast for her had been purposely ripped and therefore (according to French law) could not be counted.
ballots claimed by Le Pen that were ripped on purpose and so couldn't be counted. Sound familiar?
Others suggest that these were protest votes - people who didn't like either candidate spoiling their ballot on purpose. Of course no one knows if this is even a real of fake photo.

All in all, the election cycle in France seems so much more civilized. The campaign period is, by law, short - 3 months - and fair - regulations regarding media giving equal time to all. Politics were much less intrusive on daily life - no yard signs, no blazing headlines in newspaper stands, no protests or rallies. They were taken seriously by the French with 75% of those registered voting. (This was considered a low turnout - generally more than 80% vote). Results were quick and the change of power immediate.

How sensible.

1 comment:

  1. Three months...that would be so nice. Trump has already registered for 2020 and is campaigning and collecting money...disgusting.