French Presidential Election: Experiences of a ‘Primo Votant’

For David, one of our final year students, the end of teaching and assessment was particularly significant this year because it meant a return to his home in France in time to join the ranks of the primo votants (first-time voters) in the first round of the French presidential elections. We’ve asked him to share his thoughts on this experience and we’re delighted to be able to share this post:

2017 David Primo Votant April“I voted in a French presidential election last Sunday for the first time and it felt exhilarating. Voting in France has always been an essential element when it comes to being a citizen. It is not only regarded as a right but, first and foremost, as a civic duty. Elections are always held on a Sunday so, in my family, as in many others, we all go to the polling station, which is usually in a local school hall. As I cast my vote by placing my sealed envelope in the ballot box, the officer solemnly announced “a voté” (has voted) and I signed the register. I felt apprehensive, yet excited, at the prospect of voting as I was aware of the importance of my choice, especially nowadays with the current climate of political uncertainty.

On leaving the polling station, we bought croissants and pains au chocolat (ouh la la!) and discussed the possible outcome of the elections with the results due to be announced at 8 o’clock that night. People discuss politics quite openly in France and the French can be very vocal about their political views which can be a source of tension and heated debate during family meals. The situation was especially tense this year as several non-mainstream candidates were in the running for the Elysée. The atmosphere as we waited for the results on Sunday evening was one of excitement and impatience. And it was nerve-racking when the results were actually announced. I was in front of the telly with my family, glass of wine in hand (bien sûr !), watching David Pujadas, one of France’s most famous TV presenters, who already knew the results, commenting on the atmosphere in the headquarters of the various candidates, with the countdown to the results behind him.

After what seemed like an interminable wait, voici the results: Macron and Le Pen are through to the second round. A shockwave of disappointment, fear, joy, excitement is felt throughout France. For the first time in the history of the 5th Republic, politicians representing neither the traditional left nor right wing parties are through to the second round of the presidential elections. The next morning, the streets were empty; people were either at work or stayed at recovering from the shock of the results perhaps, or from the hangover from the wine the night before. Overall, this presidential race has created an increase in political awareness among French people, especially the younger generation, not unlike in the U.S. elections. It is however worth noting that more than 20% chose not to vote. The two remaining candidates now have a little more than a week to convince voters who did not vote for them in the first round that they should be the next French President. Whatever the result on Sunday 7th May, we can safely it will be a first for France! Vive la République et vive la France!”

Many thanks to David for this blog piece and we look forward to an update after the 2nd round!

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