The municipal elections have been the talk of the village for weeks and look set to remain so in the weeks to come. The voting system; particularly in villages as small as ours is full of peculiarities and complications, but basically people vote for lists. A list will usually have the same number of people on it as there are places on the council to fill, for a place the size of our village that is 11.
People featuring on these lists must be registered as eligible with the town hall and through them the prefecture, but the big thing for the smaller “communes” is the ability to “panaché”. Panché means that you can take one list and cross out names and then, if you want, add others, as long as everyone you add is registered. This means that people can vote from for anything from 1 to 11 people.
On polling day as soon as the polls close, people cram into the town hall to watch and listen to the dépouillement. one person opens the envelopes, one person reads out the names and two people record each individual vote on an official spreadsheet, calling out every 10 votes accrued. Meanwhile the bystanders: furiously scribble notes, whisper comments, tut, or smile knowingly. It is certainly true a lot can be read into the pattern of votes.
A person is elected once they achieve 50% of the actual votes cast, which in the case of our village with a standard turnout in the 90%’s means a little under half the adult population, about 115. As a candidate, the two hours wait is certainly long. Although you soon know when the all important level has been met by the nudges and pokes in the back!
It was certainly with a sense of pride that I joined the other new councillors for a drink and dinner afterwards, in the last elections only 18 British people gained seats. Whilst integration may still be a way off, we’re on our way!