Mayor asks villagers which candidate he should support

Julien Didry is keen to extend the democratic process to the parrainage system

Facebook poll used to help mayor make his selection

The mayor of a small village near Verdun has found a novel and very modern way of deciding who he should give his support to in the upcoming presidential election – he created a poll on Facebook.

In France, anyone wishing to stand as a candidate must first gather 500 signatures from a total of 42,000 major elected representatives including mayors, departmental councillors, regional deputies and senators.

While for the big name politicians it is easy to find the requisite number of sponsor signatures, for independent candidates it is a question of seduction, a process of convincing the elected officials of their merits.

This year’s process began on February 23, with candidates receiving a maximum number of 50 signatures from any single department. Sponsors must send their choice to the Conseil constitutionnel, France’s election monitoring organisation, by March 17.

This sponsorship of a certain candidate, called parrainage, has hitherto been anonymous. But this year there is added pressure on officials as their choice of candidate will made public. Support the wrong man and you are open to criticism of being politically biased or risk losing economic support from certain quarters.

Julien Didry, mayor of Bras-sur-Meuse (pop. 734) in Meuse, Grand-Est since 2001, says he has not given his support to any presidential candidate during his tenure thus far, because “I did not want to be labelled. In our rural communes, we don’t do politics.

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“Since I, a rural mayor, like many rural mayors, have not been elected on a political programme, I do not necessarily have a mandate to choose something that has not been entrusted to me.”

However, as a fan of participative democracy, this time around he has adopted a different approach - and set up a poll on his Facebook page to ask constituents who he should vote for.

In a video explaining his thinking, firstly he explained the parrainage system to his constituents in case they were not aware of it, and went on to explain his predicament.

“Should I support a candidate from a large party for its ideas, his programme? A small candidate to promote democracy? Honestly, when you see the quality of the debates, I wonder if a lottery would not be the best."

“It’s up to you to decide what I do,” he added.

The first poll asks whether he should vote for a ‘large’ or ‘small’ candidate, while a subsequent one will ask for which specific candidate would get his signature. The polls will, he said, be anonymous.

Alexis Corbière, spokesman for left-wing presidential candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon has suggested that mayors could chose two candidates during parrainage.

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