We feel as though we have finally arrived in France by officially voting in our first municipal election. Members of the EU are allowed to vote in municipal elections in France as long as they have lived here for more than six months and are residence. You must register the December 31st before the elections to be able to vote and must renew that right every election to ensure you still live in the community you are voting.
With our voter cards and passports in hand, we made our way to the Nelson Mandela Centre in Capestang by 8:00am, with our children, to be the first along with the ‘Un Avenir Pour Capestang’ list to enter our vote. We were not alone and a handful of ‘Capestang Pour Tous’ list members were there as well.
It is no secret my participation in the municipal election and running in the campaign on Pierre Polard’s list. With my passion to sustain and grow tourism, and to find ways to be more environmentally aware in our village; I joined forces with Pierre Polard last year to start on the initial project of getting him into office.
Along side of the other 22 members of our team, we worked endlessly on our platform topics for the election. Pierre brought in speakers from around the region to educate us on the different points of interest. One person came in to tell us how traffic patterns work and how to slow down the roads and make them safe for pedestrians. Another came in with his survey on the quality of Capestang’s water supply. Another told us how to accurately go door to door during a campaign to spread the word about our mayor candidate.
There were public meetings with members of the socialist party who support Pierre Polard. There were public meetings trying to hear what the residents of Capestang want us to work on over the next six years. And there was the hot topic of elementary school schedules.
Starting on Wednesdays in September the government of France has legislated children to attend half days of school on Wednesdays. The parents in our community wanted to balance the academic work loads during the week with extracurricular activities like sports, arts and crafts.
Politics have always been of interest, I just never thought that I would be running for a counselor position in Capestang just two years into our new life in France.
Alfonz and I got up early to share our experience with Daniel and Angelina. It is important to show children how to volunteer, support their community and become part of their country. Our views count, even as an outsider or a new comer, we all ned a voice.
Voting is one way to have a say. Voting is a right many of our predecessors fought for. In some countries like Hungary up until recently, it was the law that everyone must vote. I love this idea, that to actually have an accurate vote, everyone must be heard; not just the few concerned, not just the people interested in their party, but everyone must get informed and participate. It is the only way to be accountable for who we place in government. If you don’t vote you cannot complain. If you don’t know the issues or are passive about them, then you are not part of the solutions.
Daniel’s teacher, who is also the principal of the school and on the ‘Capestang Pour Tous’ list, was happy to see the children and greeted us at the door.
At the end of the day every candidate is trying to make our village better. We are all in this together no matter who wins, and must work together to build a future for Capestang.
Going from Canada to France is a learning experience to say the least. My parents and husband went from Communist Hungary and went to Capitalist Canada and now my family ricochet to Socialist France. Learning the law is one thing, but learning the local traditions and customs that affect local law is entirely another situation.
Out with the old and in with the new; Claude Guzovitch Mayor (2001–2014) hands over the baton somewhat reluctantly today.
We arrive back at the voting polls to witness the counting of the votes. I found this particularly interesting. At four tables are three people with books with a place to tally the votes using a system of hand drawn lines. One line is one vote. One person opens the envelope and takes out the paper. They inspect it for flaws. Up until last year the community could hand erase members off the registry list and add at will. After determining an accurate vote, they hand it to the official reader. They call out the vote and place it in a pile. Once they reach ten they group it together and stack them on top of each other as the votes accumulate. This system manages to crosscheck four times. The remarkable part is that the community stands at the tables and watches every move. We are all witness to the count and allowed to circulate the room, count the votes up and forecast the win.
Sometimes the audience gets very loud and the police officer calls out, ‘ORDER!’ during the counting. The anxiety was high, the stress on the mayor electors is unimaginable and the room got very warm with 400 people running around trying to figure out who won.
It was funny to watch our people mingle with their people trying to see the votes. It was equally funny to watch the children get involved and worry about the win. The children are always very well behaved at these kinds of events. They went out side in the middle of counting to run off some steam and us moms took turns checking on them.
‘Un Avenir Pour Capestang’ knew we had won, once the votes were 200 ahead. It was obvious that ‘Capestang Pour Tous’ could not catch up in the last few hundred envelopes. Angelina said to Mr. Michel Gary, Too bad you lost. He graciously said, Well I tried.
After the official word from the current mayor on POLARD’s victory, the people from the other list quietly left the building. Their supporters left before the final tally. I was grateful it wasn’t us leaving and felt bad for them. I am sure they worked hard to win as well.
A local folk band showed up, started to play and the champagne was opened for all to enjoy! Snacks were placed on the tables. Children ran around. It was a celebration for our team but also for Capestang. They don’t know how lucky we are to have Pierre Polard as mayor, but they soon will.
What was the reason we won? Other than Pierre Polard being the better man for the job with his education and background in finance he has the better CV for the job. Also the united diversity of the group, the combines energy and preparation played in to the win. But I believe that Mr. Michel Gary made two fatal flaws that lost the election.
After our very positive public meeting Thursday, our opponents decided on a attack strategy by handing out a flyer with a point by point attack on our campaign. Whenever you come from a place of emotion you never win.
We spent countless hours preparing our topics, our ideas, and researching how to improve Capestang. We did our homework. It would have gone either way up until that point. Once he stated ‘no questions’ during their Friday night public meeting I knew he had lost.
A democracy is based on votes, based on the public opinion and to take that basic right away from your future citizens, no matter how loyal, they will question your motives.
Congratulation Pierre for the win! You deserve it! And now we start the real work!