The French government plans on saving tens of millions of euros by dropping the mass-mailings that are traditionally sent to voters ahead of elections, a measure which is creating unease because it targets only the European elections.
The new plan by the budget and interior ministries has been criticised for showing a lack of respect for European matters, seven months ahead of the EU elections, in May 2014.
Smaller political parties have reacted strongly against the move, as they already enjoy much less media visibility and need the mass-mailing campaign for publicity and even to remind voters of their existence.
“We understand the reasoning, especially as several European countries have already cut the use of paper, but symbolically it’s not the right time,” conceded a governmental source, saying the measure should be applied to all elections, not just the European one.
In France, two weeks before each election, registered voters receive a mail containing a series leaflet presenting the candidates’ manifestos and the ballots that they will find at the polling stations. The objective is to introduce the candidates to the voters and give each party an equal chance at the election, no matter how small they are.
But in practice, the mail often ends up in the trash, argues the Interior Ministry, which wants to save money and replace the mass panflets sending with electronic mail.
However, the measure is creating unease as it would only affect the European elections, which are already widely disregarded by voters, and not the “sacrosanct” local elections that are taking place six weeks before.
In 2009, the participation rate at the European election stood at 40%, a 10% drop compared to the previous election in 2004. As a result, some argue that European elections might be completely forgotten in France. Manuel Valls, the interior minister, did not see a problem as his ambitions appear to be more national than European.
According to sources, the projected savings would not be minimal. When all costs are added up – postage, paper, envelopes – tens of millions of euros could be saved.
But the measure could also pose constitutional problems given that the internet’s penetration rate in France is only 83%, which would violate a founding principle of the Republic – equality.