The first voters began, Saturday, April 9, to go to the polls, overseas and abroad for the first round of the presidential election, while the metropolis will have to wait until Sunday to decide between the twelve candidates of a poll which looks tight.
Great unknown of this eleventh presidential election by universal suffrage of the Vand Republic: the abstention rate. Many political scientists fear that the record of April 21, 2002 (28.4%), the highest level ever recorded for a first round of a presidential election, could be beaten. In 2017, which was already not a good vintage, this rate rose to 22.2% in 2017. The new element is the high rate of undecided voters, which creates uncertainty “not insignificant” on the ballot, according to political scientist Pascal Perrineau.
Pending the first results on Sunday at 8 p.m., public meetings, distribution of leaflets and digital propaganda are prohibited. The polling stations will open at 8 a.m. on Sunday in mainland France and no interview, poll or estimate may be published before the results.
Two candidates, that of Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, Yannick Jadot, and that of La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, however went to the march organized on Saturday in Paris for the climate and social justice.
Disenfranchised in Shanghai
To take into account the time difference, some overseas voters vote on Saturday. Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon got the ball rolling at 8 a.m. (noon in Paris), followed by Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy.
The Pacific then takes over, with Polynesia which started voting when it was 8 p.m. in Paris, Wallis and Futuna and New Caledonia. In Polynesia, the turnout was 12.34% at noon compared to 22.24% at the same time in 2017, according to estimates by the High Commission.
In the Indian Ocean, where the time difference is less, Reunion will vote Sunday at 6 a.m. from Paris and Mayotte at 7 a.m. Some French people living abroad are also ahead, but those residing in Shanghai will not be able to vote, the largest city in China being confined in the name of the Chinese zero Covid strategy.
“Archipelization of debates”
“We experienced a strange campaign that took place in rupture with all the imagination of the presidential elections”, explains Frédéric Dabi, director of the IFOP. A campaign “unpublished” for several reasons: the war in Ukraine which “anaesthetized”a “low interest” which contrasts with the previous elections, and the absence of “the usual confrontation of projects” between the contending candidates.
“We have a sort of archipelago of debates with small duels”, in particular between the far-right polemicist Eric Zemmour (Reconquête!) and, on the right, the candidate Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains), or between the “rebellious” Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the other candidates of a fragmented left, the ecologist Yannick Jadot, the communist Fabien Roussel, the socialist Anne Hidalgo or the Trotskyists Philippe Poutou and Nathalie Arthaud. The sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and the Béarnais deputy Jean Lassalle regretted a campaign without debate.
An “eroded” republican front
To ward off indecision and abstention, the candidates multiplied in the last week of the campaign: last major meetings, media exposure, final field trips.
The outgoing president, who has always remained at the top of the polls, entered the campaign late, prevented first by the health crisis, then by the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. He concentrated on a single major national meeting, Saturday April 2 at La Défense, but gave a boost at the end of the week, with several interviews, even making an impromptu visit to a market in Neuilly on Friday April 8. on the Seine.
The candidate of the National Rally, Marine Le Pen, who made her last trip to Aude on Friday, set in motion an upward momentum after being worried by her far-right rival Eric Zemmour, consolidating in second place then gradually tightening the gap with Emmanuel Macron. Jean-Luc Mélenchon gradually rose to third place. But political scientists do not exclude that a surprise could shake up this trifecta given by the polls.
Even before the outcome of the first round, several candidates projected themselves into the perspective of a Macron-Le Pen duel in the second round, revealing cracks in the “republican front” against the far right. “The Republican front hasn’t been what it used to be for a while. It has been eroded from above and below”explained to Agence France-Presse the director of the Jean Jaurès Foundation, Gilles Finchelstein. “It remains a spring”but to think that this spring “will suffice is an illusion”.