As I predicted in my post on March 18 (“Eleven candidates in the running “) two more steel hoardings have been added to the ten put up that day in front of the primary school down the road from where I live. One more for the eleventh candidate and one displaying four official documents concerning the election: a ministerial decree announcing the date of the election and setting out the organisational details; a ruling from the Constitutional Council giving first and last names of the eleven officially qualified candidates; a circular from our département’s préfet specifying at what time polling stations will open and close on polling day; a facsimile screen of the electronic voting machine which has replaced the traditional polling booths for the past two years or so. Much to the relief of the station supervisor who no longer has to buttonhole likely looking voters to enquire, “if they wouldn’t mind coming in at 8 to give us a hand with the count”. But also much to the disappointment of camera crews who can longer capture the moment when a political celebrity slips his or her envelope into the ballot box to the accompaniment of the words “a voté” (“has voted”).
As the official campaign started on Monday of this week, eleven official, taxpayer-funded, posters have been put up by municipal employees. Not in any old order of course, such désordre would be inexcusable, but in the order determined by a national draw organised by the Ministry of the Interior, in which M. Dupont-Aignan occupies hoarding N°1 and M. Fillon hoarding N° 11. The order on the screen of the voting machine will be the same, as will the order in which the ballot papers will be arranged in those polling stations that do not yet have such a marvel of modern technology.
Somehow however, désordre has crept in: someone with an anarchistic turn of mind has written below the ministerial decree (not across it of course as this would be an offence!), the words “ne pas voter!” (“don’t vote !”) in neat indelible and capital letters.
Others have made their own politically motivated and idiosyncratic modifications to the posters themselves. In front of our polling station, in a well-to-do part of town, Le Pen has been decorated with the inevitable Hitler moustache, Mélenchon has been given an expertly drawn pair of devils horns and the Macron poster has been torn down. Fillon and the marginal right and left wing candidates have been left unmolested. On the hoardings down by the railway station however, Mélenchon supporters have been out in force, sticking small paper squares with the Mélenchon campaign logo over the noses and eyes of le Pen and Fillon.
I shall follow the first round of voting from the Eastern seaboard of the United States where I shall be spending ten days. But don’t think that I shan’t be voting! Far from it. I have given my proxy vote to a neighbour, who will vote for me on the day. There is no postal vote, no early voting and no proxy can be given to the authorities - just an official proxy form countersigned by a local police officer that my proxy holder will take to my polling station on April 23 to cast my vote. Only he, not the authorities, will know how I vote. And If he doesn’t vote the way I asked him too, I will have no way of knowing.
The republican electoral machine is shifting into top gear. I shall miss the fun of the last few days, but not the news – watch this space!