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French election suspense


France

French election suspense

Strict rules apply to when results for France’s presidential vote this Sunday may be announced, yet the speed information gets around these days makes it a challenge to comply with the rules.

The last polling stations close at 8pm Central European Time, before which the diffusion of no estimate, exit poll or result of any kind is legally permitted.

There is a national control body responsible for seeing that the law is respected.

Jacques-Henri Stahl, with the French National Control Commission, said: “The penalty is a 75,000 euro fine, and the Commission will not hesitate to call in the judge.”

In theory, French law can be invoked against any offender who dares publish figures before 8pm.

Media lawyer Christophe Bigot said it is really not so simple.

“In reality, it’s usually impossible to go after foreign press or blogs or social networks, for two reasons: first, there are so many platforms, and also because it’s easy to give information anonymously.”

In Belgium, the media have been giving out predictions of French election results well before the bell for a long time.

Johanne Montay, Chief Political Editor for RTBF radio and television, said: “Today’s social networks mean we can no longer padlock information and keep it in a country’s strongbox.”

French media are also tempted to flout the ban, such as the daily newspaper Libération. It is up for debate.

Sylvain Bourmeaux, Deputy Editor, said: “We said we were looking at it, because there’s a valid point, a serious discussion. The law seems to us to be totally irrelevant in view of the way information distribution and publication have evolved.”

Only one quarter of France’s roughly 85,000 polling stations close at eight o’clock. The others, like here in this rural community, have wrapped up by six in the evening.

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