On Tuesday, the French government put forward an amendment to the Senate to allow early voting in the 2020 presidential election – a first for French democracy. Christophe Castaner, president of Emmanuel Macron’s La République En Marche! party in the National Assembly, said the plan would reduce the number of abstentions. Under the proposals, the French public would be able to cast their vote away from their hometown and this could be done at least one week before the election.
Their choices would be made using a so-called “voting machine” and will only be counted on polling day.
The plans have sparked fury from a number of leading French politicians who warned democracy is under threat.
President of Debout la France and member of the National Assembly, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, wrote on Twitter: “Allowing advance polls on electronic voting machines would cloud the ballot.
“Democracy is too precious to give in to these awkward manoeuvres at best, dishonest at worst: get involved! Write to all your senators and deputies!”
Sebastien Chenu, a member of Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, accused Mr Macron of trying to “tweak” the result of the next election.
He wrote on Twitter: “Once again, En Marche is trying to tweak the elections. This advance poll does not guarantee the transparency of the ballot.
“We don’t need this so-called ‘technical progress’ which would endanger our democracy.”
National Rally spokesman in the European Parliament, Jordan Bardella MEP, warned the proposal risked undermining trust in the voting system.
He added: “No to this electoral tampering, which will further increase mistrust of a democracy that they have already largely damaged!
“If the Macronists want to modernise democracy, let them keep their promise and introduce proportionality!”
Left-wing populist party, La France insoumise, also condemned the plans in a furious post on Twitter on Wednesday.
The group added: “The electronic early voting system proposed yesterday in the Senate? A great danger for our democracy.”
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Mr Castaner insisted the proposal would help to ensure more people voted and said it has already been used in Portugal – with a quarter of a million people using the method.
The President of LREM in the National Assembly said: “The government presented an amendment in the Senate to provide for advance voting.
“Why? The objective is to reduce abstention. If this makes it possible to give the opportunity to vote to people who could not or who would not vote, it is important.
“Portugal has just elected its president, 250,000 people voted like this, it works, let’s study it.”
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)