News Municipal elections: the inevitable imbroglio

Municipal elections: the inevitable imbroglio


“World” editorial. The proper organization of elections, guaranteed by the strict application of the texts, is one of the pillars of democracy. In this regard, the succession of hazards encountered by the holding of the municipal ballot, initially scheduled for March 15 and 22, is not to be taken lightly. We know when this election began, but we don’t know when it will end, and we discover that the rules that govern it usually depart. The state of health emergency in force since March 23 not only upsets the balance between the executive and the Parliament, it not only restricts the exercise of public freedoms, it also influences the course of municipal life.

The first round of elections did take place on March 15, but against a record abstention, reflecting the citizens’ deep reluctance to fulfill their electoral duty under conditions of health security that no longer seemed guaranteed. A few days earlier, the President of the Republic had announced the closure of schools and universities and, the day before, his Prime Minister had decreed that of restaurants, cafes, cinemas and non-essential shops, in order to limit the spread of the virus. On the night of the count, the evidence was obvious: the second round could not take place as planned. He had to postpone it.

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Since then, this second round has played the Arlesian. The date of June 21 has been brought forward, but it no longer seems current. During a videoconference Thursday with the elected officials, the Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, did not hide that a new postponement was probable, “Maybe in October, or even after”, due to the uncertainties hanging over the date of deconfinement and its procedures. Again, much will depend on the advice of scientific experts, who will provide a report on the epidemic on May 23.

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Postponing an entire ballot due to exceptional circumstances is not easy. Cutting it in half is a challenge, as there is no text specifying how to use it. Can we keep the results of the first round to organize only the second, or should we replay the entire election?

Collective error

Consulted, the constitutional experts appeared divided, so that the government had to decide, under the control of the Council of State and then of the Parliament: before the summer, there would be no reason to repeat the first round; after the summer, however, it would be necessary, in order to guarantee the fairness of the ballot, but in the only municipalities where the municipal councils are incomplete.

In other words, the mayors elected in the first round will remain so, whatever happens. This concerns the vast majority of municipalities (30,000 out of 35,000) and this gives rise to ubiquitous situations on the ground: the new elected officials were indeed not authorized to take office. It is the old battered teams who remain in control.

One may be surprised by the relative consensus in which this electoral imbroglio takes place, at the risk of leading to numerous appeals when the poll is finally closed. It is that everyone is working to repair the collective error which consisted in wanting to maintain, whatever the cost, the first ballot, even as the health situation deteriorates visibly. The opposition wanted revenge and the executive feared being accused of a coup. The health crisis was there, but no one was ready to admit that it would change everything.

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