My Euro Vote

photo: cafe terrace, place leon blum

The sun shines just as well in east Paris as west.

Plus Some Upcoming Babble

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 14. June 1999:- Yesterday I voted for the first time in 31 years, and this in the election for the European Parliament. If I had stayed in Germany, I would have been able to vote in local elections long ago by simply being a resident.

The abstention rate was high, with more than 50 percent neglecting to vote in France. In countries where voting is mandatory the turnout was habitually high. In all, voters in 15 countries went to the polls, with Britain and Denmark voting last Thursday, Ireland on Friday and the other 12 countries on Sunday - Europe's usual polling day.

My polling station in the village Hôtel de Ville is about 250 metres away from where I live and I went there to vote inphoto: rue de buci the early afternoon. There were two lists of those eligible to vote; French citizens and a separate 'complimentary European list.' This had only seven names on it; mine first, as number 00001.

Even when the sun does not shine in the Rue de Buci, it is still colorful.

Fifteen different ballots were set in piles along a long table. After signing in, I collected a selection of these and retired to a polling booth with a green curtain. I put one ballot in a tiny dark blue envelope and the rest of the ballots in a pocket rather than in the handy trash can.

The ballot box was a transparent plastic cube and I dropped the envelope into the slot on top. Election president, Dr. Delfaud, invited me to return at 21:50, to see the ballots counted.

This I did. Other residents had been invited too, to help with counting the ballots. At exactly 22:00 the ballot box was sealed and one minute later opened and the envelopes were poured out onto the table, where they were counted and divided into three piles of about 140 ballots each.

There were three tables for volunteer ballot-counters and a battery-powered lamp was placed on each, as emergency light in case of a power failure. Each table had duplicate count-lists, with a recorder for each, and two people to open the envelopes and announce the names on the ballots.

One envelope contained two identical ballots; which Dr. Delfaud decided were null and void. The table I was watching had two empty envelopes, which were recorded as empty - also null and void.

It took about an hour for 12 people at three tables to open all the envelopes, announce the names and record them. The results were recorded on duplicate master lists and all of the ballots, envelopes and count-lists were saved.

This is when I left. I think the results were to be posted in another room of the Hôtel de Ville, where a small group of residents were gathered. At home, the TV election specials were announcing the national scores and giving relative winners and losers their fifteen seconds to declare victory.

In France, the three mainstream conservative parties outpolled the Socialists, but the Socialists got more votes than any one of them. The 'green' vote, led by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, managed to triple its score over its last showing in the European elections.

The French Communist Party lost ground, but the ultra-leftists gained enough to secure a couplephoto: metro bd voltaire of seats in the European parliament. The far-right got as many votes as in the last elections, but since it has split into two parties, only Le Pen's group will be allotted seats; effectively achieving a net loss.

Friday brightness on the Boulevard Voltaire.

Ninety minutes after the national results were known, the TV election specials were still running the talking heads. This is a favorite pastime of TV commentators and politicians, and for the latter represents the majority of airtime most wll get until after the next balloting.


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