Low French voter turnout could cause election victory to fade

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France is due to have a new president on Sunday, but a poll on Friday showed that more than one in four voters will probably not show up at all in the voting booth.

Kirsten Biering is a former ambassador to France.

She is now a senior advisor at the Think Tank Europe and the Danish Institute for International Studies (Diis).

“It looks like voter turnout will be low, confirming a trend seen over the past decade or two. There is an increasing lack of commitment among French voters when it comes to the major election campaigns.«

“There are some who don’t think it makes sense to vote, because what good is it? And then there are those who say that in the election between Macron and Le Pen, they can’t see themselves in any of them, and therefore you would rather just stay at home,” she says.

Sunday’s election is between the incumbent president, Emmanuel Macron, and the EU-critical Marine Le Pen from the far right.

Voter turnout is expected to be around 72.5 percent.

It will be the lowest turnout in a second round of a French presidential election since 1969.

“It is clear that if you are elected president of France with a relatively low turnout, you do not necessarily represent a broad section of the French electorate.«

“There will be some who ask how legitimate an election victory it really is if the turnout is relatively small.«

Kirsten Biering also points out that the gap between Macron, who accounts for about 57 percent of the vote, and Le Pen, who accounts for about 43 percent, is narrow.

“These are two completely opposite political programs and visions, and I think the big problem is there.«

“If you combine that with a relatively large renunciation, then the France that the president-elect is going to try to manage for the next five years will be a relatively divided and difficult size.«

She points out that even if Macron wins, there will be a large proportion of voters who prefer Le Pen, while at the same time there will be many who have not voted for any of them at all.

Kirsten Biering emphasises that, unlike in Denmark, there are fewer candidates and fewer nuanced political programmes.

“There are voters, especially on the left, who see Le Pen as such a great danger that they decide to shut up and vote for Macron. The French usually say that you choose what you want in the first round, and then you exclude in the second round.«

“So it’s not necessarily a choice with the heart, but a choice based on exclusion.«

/ ritzau/

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