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Departmental elections

French departments call for delay of March 2021 poll due to Covid-19

First round of municipal elections at a polling booth in Mulhouse, east of France, 15 March 2020
First round of municipal elections at a polling booth in Mulhouse, east of France, 15 March 2020 SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP
3 min

The leaders of seven administrative departments across France are calling for the government to postpone departmental elections set for next March due to the Covid-19 epidemic. They feel it is inappropriate to begin campaigning while managing a national health crisis.

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In France there are two levels of governance between municipal and national: departmental and regional.

The presidents of seven departments, four of them in France’s east, signed an open letter on Tuesday, published in conservative daily Le Figaro, calling for the departmental elections to be pushed back by three months.

"The idea is to get through this crisis and perhaps in June the conditions for an electoral campaign will be better," explains Nicolas Lacroix, president of the in Haute-Marne for Les Republicans (LR), and the instigator behind the request.

"Everyone remembers how chaotic the municipal elections were, and it appears that the same scenario is likely to occur again," the text says.

"Let our elected officials deal with the health crisis first – they have no desire to talk about the campaign at this stage," Lacroix told AFP.

The initiative was backed by Noël Bourgeois (Ardennes), Frédéric Bierry (Haut-Rhin), Claude Léonard (Meuse), Jean-François Gaillard (Aveyron), Marc Gaudet (Loiret) and Bertrand Bellanger (Seine-Maritime).

Anticipating the worst

The Grand Est (Greater East) region of France was particularly hard hit during the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in April.

This is the second time France has been confronted with the question of holding elections in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first round of local elections in 2020 went ahead on 15 March, just days before a national lockdown was announced. Officials were later criticized for holding the poll and the second round was postponed from 22 March to 28 June.

The president of the collective of French departments (ADF) Dominique Bussereau, told AFP that his group was in principal against the idea of postponing elections, but that "if it’s not possible due to the epidemic, we will understand," adding that any final decision would be up to the central government.

The French overseas department of Guiana will hold its twice-delayed municipal elections on the 18 and 25 October.

Seven communities will be finally able to vote for their local officials after an unprecedented delay to the process due to the restrictions in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.

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