Since the only elections Chris and I have been able to vote in here in France since leaving Ireland in 2006 are the European and municipal ones, we’re always sure to make our voices heard. (Trust me, it’s not pleasant being disenfranchised for no sensible reason. I can’t see, and never will, why we can’t vote in all elections in this country. France is happy enough to take taxes from us and recognises us as permanent residents… But I shan’t go on about that now.)
The election run-up was more like a dawdle-up and started very late. The official kick-off date was 4 May, when the 33 electoral lists were published after being validated by the Ministry of Interior. A 34th one was added a little later – The Union of French Moslem Democrats.
I started looking into all the various parties/coaltions, making notes on about what they aspired to - socialism, nationalism, democratism, sovereignism and so forth. However, I only made it through the first ten before giving up. It was taking too long and there were altogether far too many isms! Here are just three of my notes so you can see what I mean: La France Insoumise (Unsubmissive France) : launched in 2016 by Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Described as a democratic socialist, left-wing populist party. Its ideology also comprises eco-socialism, soft Euroscepticism, sovereignism, environmentalism and alter-globalism. Alliance Royale (Royal Alliance) : established in 2001, this Eurosceptic party wants to re-establish the monarchy in France. Nuff said. Rassemblement Blue Marine (the Navy Blue Gathering) : this is a coalition of right-wing and far right parties. Their ideology includes protectionism, hard Euroscepticism, conservatism and French nationalism.
I looked up various websites too. The one for Renaissance, one of the main coalition of parties, was still under construction at the time. That was leaving things rather late!
I decided to wait for information to arrive through the post. That came around ten days before the election and was rather sketchy, to say the least. Not all parties sent info, and I quite understand that some of the smaller parties couldn’t afford to produce millions of flyers and bulletins. Bulletins, by the way, are the printed lists of all the candidates for a particular party.
I then waited for the posters to go up outside the Mairie. If any in particular caught my eye, I’d do some more sussing out. The Mairies provide equally-sized noticeboards for all the hopefuls. With an unprecedented, large quantity of thirty-four to produce, that meant a lot of work in erecting them all, and extra expense in buying in wood panelling to add to the usual metal sheets that come out of the store cupboard each election time. Just four spaces were filled by posters in Nouzerines, which is really very poor and, frankly, insulting. Aren’t country folk in small communes worth bothering about? Other villages had a few more posters, but I imagine it was only in the cities where no blank spaces were to be found.
On election day itself Chris and I cycled down to the village about ten o’clock to vote. Polling stations here open from 9am until 6pm. We’d looked up how to vote and what to bring with us. Inside the Mairie sat four officials behind the see-through ballot box. These were representatives of different parties and they were there to oversee the voting and perform various functions. I headed to the wrong end of this array of officialdom, but was quickly put right! So, starting from the right end, I handed in my voting card and Carte de Séjour as ID to Official One. She checked it and passed it to her colleague on her right, who then gave me a very small blue envelope. I double-checked with Official One that the procedure was to put the bulletin of our choice inside this envelope, since it was evidently going to be a bit of a squeeze. She assured me that was the case.
All the bulletins were arranged on a table in front of where the officials were sitting so they were able to watch as we selected the bulletins we wanted, plus a couple of decoys for good measure, before disappearing into the voting booth. It might have been better to have put this table to one side so that voters weren’t under the direct scrutiny of the overseeing four! I’m not fussed about people knowing what my politics are, but it did come over as a bit nosey and I imagine some more sensitive souls might find it intimidating.
Chris and I took it in turns to disappear into the booth – a curtained-off corner of the mairie entrance hall – to stuff our bulletin as best we could into the diminutive envelope. Then we took our bulging envelopes to the ballot box. Official Number Three opened the aperture for us so we could drop them in. Then Official Number Four got us to sign our names to register that we’d voted. We also had to sign our names on our voting cards, since we hadn’t already done so, to make them legal. Oops.
Now all we had to do was wait for the results.
Overall in France there was a turnout of just over 50%, which was seen as very satisfactory. In Nouzerines we bettered that by miles with 63.77%. In the nation as a whole Rassameblement Nationale (right wing) pipped Renaissaince (centrist, sort of lib-dems) to the post by 23.33% of the vote to 22.42%. The Greens (EELV) came in third with 13.48%. This equates to two extra seats in Europe for RN, but if/when the UK leaves Europe, France will be able to supply another five MEPs. (These virtual members were included on the lists, and are waiting in the wings to see if they’ll be needed in October or not.) One of these is RN and two are Renaissance, so these two big parties could each end up with 23 seats.
Nouzerines reflected the national vote with RN coming first, closely followed by Renaissance and then the Greens. The number of votes respectively were 21, 18 and 13. This is out of a grand total of 132 registered voters, 13 of whom spoiled their votes. Nationally around 1,000,000 people who turned out either handed in an empty envelope or one with two or more bulletins in, thus annulling their vote. I imagine there may have been some rude messages too!
It’s disappointing that our dwindling commune, which has been help kept alive by immigrants (English, Irish, Dutch, Belgian, Spanish, Taiwanese, and they’re just the ones I know about), should be quite so right-wing-nationalist in outlook. But Macron hasn’t exactly made himself popular with some of his policies so it’s probably more of a protest vote than genuine support for Marine Penn et al. Let’s hope so.
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