In Hérault, elected officials found an original idea to encourage citizens to vote

In Hérault, elected officials found an original idea to encourage citizens to vote

Abstention is traditionally high during European elections. Elected officials from Hérault have found an original idea to encourage residents to vote on June 9. Reporting.

The bells of the Saint-Étienne church in Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone (Hérault) ring nine times as the market begins on the town hall square. The sun's rays gild the balconies decorated with ivy and a light mistral from the north stirred the leaves of the palm trees shading the stalls. Under one of them, in her bare feet and her “bell-bottom” jeans, Corinne Poujol is on the lookout. Behind her sunglasses, the deputy mayor in charge of the town's finances examines the wrists of customers who tour the stands filled with apricots, peaches and fresh asparagus.

“The lady in green over there!” She doesn't have a bracelet! » The chosen one goes to meet the granny she has just seen. “Some people take us for street vendors and quickly turn on their heels,” says the fifty-year-old, amused, as she approaches the skeptical old lady in front of her. “Hello, are you registered on the electoral roll? » Liliane, 86, responds with a shy “yes” before putting her fruit in her wicker basket. “Do you want to participate in the city’s challenge by voting on June 9? » Corinne Poujol takes out a blue and yellow fabric bracelet in the colors of Europe from a pouch. “Go vote? Of course I'm going to go, bracelet or not, Liliane quips, holding out her wrist in approval. To be honest, I don't remember missing an election since I was 21. » The deputy has just gleaned a vote promise. This will be added to the thousands of others already listed on the wooden counter made by the teenagers of Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone and hung on the pediment of the town hall.

No voting instructions

For a month, the elected officials of this small town of 11,000 inhabitants – with the exception of those who took a public position for a list – have been traveling to markets, school outings and parties. Their goal: to encourage local citizens to vote on June 9. European elections are known for their high abstention: 50% on average in European Union countries. In 2019, the city managed to achieve a participation rate of 54%, compared to 50.5% for the whole of France. “We are already good, so we aim for excellence,” laughs Véronique Négret, the mayor (DVG).

This professor of economics and social sciences' method for mobilizing her constituents? Hammer the date of the election and call on Villeneuvois to go to the polls. “Our bet is to convince them to vote to obtain a record participation and make it a source of pride for the city,” explains the mayor with a distinct southern accent. “We do not enter the realm of ideas. Once residents have committed to voting, it is up to them to consider the programs. » In the streets of Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, there are many who have political convictions, and as many who do not know the candidates in the running. Sandra, for example, an exhibitor sheltered under her parasol. “The vote is the only power I have, so I intend to use it, but I admit that with these 38 lists, I am lost. » And the young woman continues: “It's difficult to make the right choice when you don't know who is who, but the worst thing would be not to vote” adds Sandra, grabbing the bracelet offered by the assistant.

Soon on the podium

For her, as for other Villeneuvois residents, misunderstanding the European machine does not prevent them from wanting to put their ballot in the ballot box next weekend. “The events of recent years (pandemic, war in Ukraine, migratory influx) and even more recently the anger of farmers are crises of European dimension, and voters have understood this well,” underlines Olivier Costa, political scientist specializing in European Parliament.

For others, the opacity of Brussels is discouraging. Under her canvas hat, Christelle says she is “disillusioned with politics in general” and admits that she no longer votes since her moves and her deregistration from the electoral rolls. This 40-year-old mother nevertheless has a pro-European streak. She remembers that in 2005, she voted “yes” in the referendum on the European constitutional treaty – abandoned in its initial form following the “no” of the French and Dutch. “It's all too far from me now… Television, radio, I've cut everything off. The world is going badly and faced with this, I turn to my family,” she explains, rocking the stroller in which her little boy sleeps. Understanding, Corinne Poujol puts things into perspective: “Well… not everyone can take the bracelet. » The chosen one remains serene. She is sure, the municipality's participation record will be broken. In the street, the observation is obvious: if some residents are disappointed with Europe, the majority are convinced in their vote.

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