The poster boards are up in the Paris streets again as France prepares to elect new members of the National Assembly. Whereas British voters will generally have a choice of three or four candidates in Thursday’s General Election, French voters can be faced with choosing between nineteen options in the premier tour or first round of the legislatives.
The order in which posters are displayed on the official boards outside poling stations is established by a tirage au sort (or drawing lots) for each region, so the same number of boards is installed outside each polling station. Sometimes half the boards are empty but this polling station in the 13th arrondissement is showing a full set, mostly in pristine, unaltered condition.
In addition to the main, established parties and the new En Marche, voters can choose between several varieties of socialist and workers’ parties, two or three different shades of Republicans, a Royalist and a candidate for the Animalist party. Although the Royalists advocate the reestablishment of a French monarchy, in opposition to republican ‘brainwashing’, they don’t support any particular pretender to the throne, preferring to leave dynastic deliberations to ‘other associations’. Despite the whiskery face on their posters, the Animalist party aren’t putting a cat forward as their candidate. Their moderate, well argued programme includes plans for improving the welfare of farm animals and conserving natural fish stocks, but they seem rather short of policies on the economy and international relations.
Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche party is not the only group aiming to bridge the left/right divide and to re-engage communities with local politics. The 86 candidates put forward by MaVoix across the country have been chosen by lot from 490 volunteers. If (by remote chance) any of these candidates are elected they won’t have a party programme to follow but are committed to consulting their electorate on all matters via an interactive digital platform. It sounds an idealistically impractical way of working but the movement’s videos of their public engagement are genuinely inspiring. Allons Enfants aims to rejuvenate French politics in a very literal sense, by putting forward candidates under twenty five years old. Their programme is unashamedly optimistic, utopian, naive and ambitious because if you can’t be all those things when you’re young you might have lost your chance. That said, they’ve got some good practical ideas too.
It seems appropriate that the Vote Blanc party have been drawn at number 19, so their poster is last in the row. If none of the other eighteen candidates appeal you can vote for the right to register a blank, but counted, vote. French electors are spoilt for choice!