Less than 100 days before the first round of the 2022 presidential election, on April 10, the health situation in France is not satisfactory. Faced with the contaminations curve rising again, the various candidates must reinvent their strategy to adapt it to Covid-19, this common adversary which hinders the campaign in many ways.
A jostled and uncertain schedule
The month of January was to mark the real launch of the campaign, punctuated by the presentation of everyone’s programs and the first major meetings. It was counting without Omicron who, by surging Covid-19 contaminations, dictated its own agenda.
Result: the candidates procrastinate. Not only does the announcement of Emmanuel Macron’s candidacy seem regularly postponed, but few large gatherings are scheduled between now and April. Because even if the French Constitution does not allow the imposition of restrictions on political meetings (gauges or verification of the health pass for example), the government has called on everyone to a “spirit of responsibility”.
Also, Valérie Pécresse (LR) canceled her first meeting of December 11, while Marine Le Pen (RN) postponed her large gathering in Reims to February 5, “because of the health situation and the epidemic peak expected around the 15th. January ”, the date initially chosen. For the candidates it becomes difficult to project, knowing that the uncertain evolution of the epidemic can call everything into question from one week to another.
A campaign under gauge or remotely
Usually, the very exercise of the campaign involves going out to meet the French, but for the 2022 presidential election that seems impossible. Without being banned, meetings are forced because none of the contenders for the title of President of the Republic wants to see one of its gatherings turn into a cluster.
The political teams are themselves confronted with cases of Covid-19 in their ranks and the work of the activists is made difficult since the negotiation and door to door are no longer a given. In this context, social networks represent a privileged tool because they make it possible to reach a large number of French people without risking the circulation of the virus.
Thus, the ecologists of Yannick Jadot announced their intention to organize events “in digital formats”, as well as Jean-Luc Mélenchon (LFI), present for a long time on various platforms, including Twitch and TikTok. But not all candidates are familiar with the uses and codes of social networks and most of them do not want to be satisfied with a remote campaign.
So, on the left, Anne Hidalgo (PS) decided to follow the government’s instructions by setting up gauges during her meetings, as did Valérie Pécresse, on the right, who also voted for the control of the health pass.
Yannick Jadot (EELV) prefers to organize smaller gatherings, if possible outside, when Fabien Roussel (PCF) pleads for gauges “proportional to space”. Finally, others, like Marine Le Pen, Eric Zemmour (Reconquest!) And Jean-Luc Mélenchon openly oppose the principle of gauges.
For the time being, everyone is therefore composing their own recipe and, to bring a little consistency, a specific commission concerning the organization of the presidential election must be organized today, Tuesday January 11, in the presence of all the political parties. According to the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, it should allow us to “agree on rules” which are both “protective in relation to the health situation” and which do not hinder “the exercise of democracy”.
The debate in the shadow of the crisis
In this context of epidemic rebound, candidates are faced with the challenge of making themselves heard on themes other than that of the pandemic.
Many have developed their program and their strategy around a specific theme, ecology, security, immigration, purchasing power or others, which will have to be made visible in a period when everything seems to revolve around Covid-19.
All of this without being able to fully use the resources that usually allow them to defend their program (meetings, distribution of leaflets, debates, visits of all kinds, etc.).
An unthinkable postponement
In 2020, the second round of municipal elections had been postponed by several months because of the already deteriorated health situation at the time. The scenario repeated itself in the regional elections, which were held in June rather than March. But, on December 22, government spokesman Gabriel Attal indicated that Emmanuel Macron ruled out any postponement of the 2022 presidential election, despite the progression of the virus.
It turns out that the Constitution only provides for three cases of total or partial postponement of this ballot, linked to fraud or the death or unavailability of a candidate. To postpone the vote for several months because of the Covid-19, it would therefore be necessary to urgently revise the Constitution, with the agreement of all the political parties.
Asked by Public Senate, Benjamin Morel, doctor in political science, further explains that “according to article 7 of the Constitution, the presidential election can only take place between 20 days and 35 days before the expiration of the mandate of the president in office” . Knowing that the transfer of power between François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron took place on May 14, 2017, the ballot could only be postponed by a few days and again, only if “the Constitutional Council, Parliament and the opposition agree “.
the security of the vote in question
The problem had already arisen during previous polls disrupted by the coronavirus: how to allow the French to go to the polls without risking contracting Covid-19?
France could follow the example of the United States, which adopted postal voting during the last American presidential election, or prefer electronic voting. An information mission entitled “Remote voting, under what conditions?” has already been conducted by the Senate, under the chairmanship of the head of the Law Commission, François-Noël Buffet.
If the modalities of the ballot will undoubtedly be more precisely discussed during the specific commission scheduled for Tuesday, January 11, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, has already presented a text which modifies the organization of the presidential election and the electoral code. The objective is to facilitate the proxy process, in particular in favor of a voter who is not registered on the same electoral list as himself.