Will Coronavirus Interfere In French Elections?
On the next two Sundays, March 15 and 22, the first and second rounds of municipal elections are to be held in France. However, the coronavirus epidemic makes unpredictable not only their results, but also adds some organizational issues.
In a series of French elections, municipal ones are some of the most important. They take place every six years and are held in two stages. During two rounds of voting, most citizens elect mayors of villages and towns, and residents of the largest cities of Paris, Marseille, Lyon and others also elect mayors of urban districts. Elections here are held in two stages, and they are not direct. First, city and district councilors are elected, and then the winners in the city and districts are determined.
The difficulty of municipal elections is that the ruling party must confirm its reputation when the presidential election is already behind.
Three years have passed since the election of President Emmanuel Macron, when his “La République En Marche!” managed to get an absolute majority in the National Assembly. At the same time, the authorities failed to avoid serious conflicts with the population, such as “yellow vests”, transport workers, trade unions, and pensioners. Now, however, “on-site” victories are much more difficult than securing a majority in parliament.
47.7 million people in 35 thousand communes should vote for 500 thousand municipal representaties. This figure is too large to consider future results random. After the second round, it will become clear whom the country supports now – left or right, centrists or radicals. Under President-Socialist Francois Hollande, it was precisely the municipal elections in March 2014 that recorded a drop in confidence in the socialists and progress among the right and the extreme right. It was then that Marine Le Pen said that her party became « the second party of France. »
The current elections are even less predictable than usual, because they take place during the epidemic and in conditions of emergency sanitary measures. Coronavirus will certainly interfere in the vote. Voting has not yet been canceled, but it is obvious that fear will affect voter turnout: the turnout in the municipal elections is already low. Passivity of the population is evidenced by the fact that there will not be a vote in 106 communes simply because there is no one to choose: no one has voted.
An opinion poll conducted by the Ifop Research Institute on March 5 showed that 40% of voters under 24 do not intend to go to the polls.
People under 34 years old are slightly more active (37%). It is believed that these votes will be missed by the socialists, the leftists from the “La France insoumise”, and, paradoxically, the extreme rightists from Marine Le Pen’s “National Assembly”. Older people, the traditional electorate of the right-wing “Les Républicains” and the centrists of the presidential party are more responsible, but observers are debating whether they will risk going to the polls this time. According to the same survey, 23% of voters over the age of 65 will remain at home (although they have the option of voting at home).
The Ministry of the Interior, which is responsible for voting, has been assigned unusual tasks. On the site, it is necessary to avoid queues and ensure a sufficient distance between the voters. They must be forced to remove their masks before voting and wash their hands twice (before and after the ballot is submitted). And provide an action plan in case any of the voters does not want to obey any sanitary requirements.
source: lemonde.fr, reuters.com