France’s second round of voting on May 6 could be seriously compromised, the authorities warn, if results are announced too early from polling stations that close before others.
French law is strict about keeping the result under embargo until eight in the evening.
The government has ruled out changing the rules to keep all stations open till then. Some close at six.
The source of risk would be if the two candidates were illegally announced to have almost the same ballot count, and individuals or groups somewhere learned that before the final call.
They could mobilise stragglers to tip the balance, say proponents of the wait-for-it principle.
“If there are ten, fifty, one hundred thousand, even a million people who get leaked results before 8pm out of 45 million voters, then it’s absolutely irrelevant. Cracking down would be like taking a hammer to a fly, it’s usless. Better off keeping things the way they are,” says Professor of Law at Nanterre University Guy Carcassonne.
Media in Belgium, Switzerland and even French agency AFP flouted the ban in round one, though French law threatens hefty fines – even in an age when electronic platforms can make information available in the blink of an eye.
The rules against releasing sensitive data go back more than 30 years, to a time when the Internet and social networks did not exist. Many people wonder: isn’t it time to change them? The debate is on.
Paris prosecutors are investigating each instance concerning the early release of round one voting results.
An offence carries a 375,000 euro fine, in spite of protests from some quarters that you cannot keep the cat in the bag in the modern age.