French elections – it’s all change


It’s election time again in France. And if you didn’t know that, it’s not surprising. Apparently one in three French people didn’t know either. Admittedly, it’s not the presidential election. It would be difficult to miss that. Hardly a day goes past without it being mentioned, although it will only take place in 2017. No, the elections on March 22 and March 29 are ‘les élections départementales’.

Just to clarify the situation. ‘Les départementales’, as those in the know about elections call them, were formerly called ‘les élections cantonales’ when ‘les conseillers généraux’ were elected. But now it is ‘les conseillers départementaux’ who are touting for our votes. We’ll still be voting by canton, of course, although not in the same groupings of cantons as before. There’s been some shuffling.

There are also some exceptions. Parisians won’t be voting as the department is included in the city and therefore covered by ‘les élections municipales’. They took place in 2014. Oh, and  Lyon is also different. The new ‘conseil métropolitain’ created in January this year is also responsible for ‘le conseil départemental’, so no voting there either. Still following?

The next elections after ‘les départementales’ will be ‘les élections régionales’ in December 2015. These were originally going to be at the same time as ‘les départementales’ but were pushed back. In order to avoid confusion? No, simply because other changes were in the offing

Les régionales’ are, obviously, to elect ‘les conseillers régionaux’. No problems there. Except that these are not the same regions as last time round as several of the existing regions are being merged. Henceforth, there will only be 13 regions instead of 22. The names of the new regions have not yet been decided, which only adds to the fun.

So, as the French make their way to the voting booths on March 22, it is not surprising that some of them may well feel a little confused. However, it must be admitted that administering 101 departments, 36,700 communes, 22 regions and 2,600 groupings of communes was getting a little complicated for everyone.

The government decided therefore to cut into all these layers of local government that had become known, in a reference to vanilla slices, that multi-layered patisserie, as ‘le mille-feuille territorial’. How typically French to make it sound like an exercise in gourmandise.

You can find out more about elections in France, in Meeting the French, a Kolibri Languages Practical Guide.

Pam Bourgeois


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