Tuesday, 11 March 2014

A Card from the Town Hall

Since I wrote back in December about how surprisingly pleasant the process of applying to be on the electoral register was, I've been metaphorically touching wood every time the subject of this month's local elections comes up and hoping desperately that I didn't speak too soon.

Well, to my relief, at the end of last week, this is what arrived in the post:

Now I have the card in my sticky paws, I can let myself get excited about voting in my first ever French election!

The first vote, on the 23rd March, is for the conseil municipal, or local council and the local mayor. In Paris, each arrondissement has its own council and mayor, and the outcome of those elections will also determine who gets to be mayor of Paris as a whole. As the municipal councillors also play a role in selecting senators for France's upper house, the consequences are quite far-reaching.

One of the slightly crazy things about French politics is the number of communes which exist, each with its own mayor. While the outer arrondissements of Paris have populations of one or two hundred thousand, the smallest commune in the country, Rochefourchat, has only one permanent inhabitant, and none of its politicians lives there. This is one of the many things that people periodically talk about reforming, but there are too many conflicting interests, so the only way the number of communes is ever reduced is when the last inhabitant of one of the tiny ones leaves or dies and it becomes a village mort.

The battle for the position of the next mayor is also turning out to be quite interesting. Despite all the recent furore of the manif pour tous (the recent loud protest against the passing of gay marriage and adoption law), and some very unpleasant demonstrations of extreme right-wing sentiment, Paris has been fairly happily presided over by Bertrand Delanoe, a gay socialist whose innovations include the Vélibs, Paris Plages, and the Nuits Blanches, since 2001.

This time round, however, the contest is between two women, the socialist Anne Hidalgo and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet ("NKM") of the UMP. Hidalgo has the advantage of representing the party which is already in power and has remained reasonably popular throughout Delanoe's two terms, while Kosciusko-Morizet has been criticized for being too left-wing for the right and too right-wing for the left, but I have the impression she's been more interviewed and more talked-about than Hidalgo (although perhaps not always in the most positive way!).

The Guardian printed an article recently about why Parisians are not terribly inspired about voting for their next mayor (basically, most people want good public transport, affordable housing and quality childcare, and both candidates are promising all of these things), but I personally am enjoying the build up. And, if I'm honest, I'm also excited about going into that little cubicle and choosing which paper to put in the envelope. It feels a bit like being 18 again!


  1. I haven't got mine yet! Actually, I just sent my passport away for renewal, so I think maybe I won't be able to vote anyway.

  2. I think they have right up until the elections to get it to you. Fingers crossed!

  3. Oh, congrats! I was so excited when I voted in France for the first time when I turned 18. And then when I became Canadian and was finally allowed to vote there as well!

  4. I remember the first time I could vote too! Would love to be able to vote here too!