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Absence of a qualified left-wing candidate in the second ballot, poster identical to that of 2017, election campaign without splendor: there is no lack of reasons to explain the considerable abstention in the second ballot of the presidential election. On Sunday, more than 28 percent of registered voters did not turn out, the second-highest rate in the history of the Fifth Republic.
This is one of the highlights of the results of these presidential elections: 28.01% of the French registered on the electoral rolls, ie around 14 million voters, did not turn out to vote on Sunday April 24, according to the final results communicated by the Ministry des interior.
To find a higher abstention rate in a presidential election, you have to go back to 1969. This vote defied two right-wing candidates: Georges Pompidou and Alain Poher, who were rejected back to back by communist Jacques Duclos with the famous expression “bonnet blanc and white crest”. At the time, 31.15% of voters avoided the ballot box. A number , which is difficult to compare to the 2022 election as the French electorate has continued to grow and change since then.
However, as in 1969, the lack of a left-wing candidate largely explains this massive abstention. “There was always a very strong abstention when there was no left-wing candidate in the second round. This was already the case in 2017, with more than 25% abstentions,” notes Arnaud Leclerc, professor of political science at the University of Nantes, interviewed by France 24.
According to a poll by our partner Ipsos Steria, France Insoumise voters abstained almost twice as much as anyone else (43%). In departments such as Val-d’Oise or Seine Saint-Denis, which largely put Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the lead, abstention was logically higher than in the first round.
In general, the abstention rate increased between the two rounds of these presidential elections. After 1969 and 2017, this is only the third time in the history of the Vand Republic.
An empty voice less strong than expected
The French were therefore more numerous than in 2017, to use the “neither Le Pen nor Macron” slogan popular in this period between the two rounds, a sign of the belittling of the far right within a large part of the readership.
“The trend observed in the last presidential election, which was an exception under the Vand Republic, it is confirmed: many French people did not want to take part in this second debate,” analyzes pollster Frédéric Dabi from Ifop.
“The logic of the republican front and the anti-extreme right-wing reflex are still there,” says Arnaud Leclerc angrily. “This Republican front just doesn’t have the same power it had 20 or 30 years ago,” adds the political scientist, underscoring the lack of enthusiasm sparked by this campaign, which was fueled by the war in Ukraine and the late entry of Emmanuel Macron was featured in the battle.
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On the other hand, if abstention has increased in five years, the record for blank and invalid ballots set in 2017 – more than 3 million blank ballots and 1 million invalid ballots in the second ballot – has not been reached. “It’s a bit of a surprise that we didn’t have more abstentions and blank and invalid ballots than we had in 2017, Given the anti-Macron climate, with a section of the left that genuinely hates him, and five years in office now,” asserts AFP political scientist Anne Jadot.
“The electorate that votes empty has a strong bourgeois norm. Voting is a duty for them,” explains Arnaud Leclerc. We can see that there was indeed a mobilization of voters concerned about the leap into the unknown that the election of Marine Le Pen would have meant.
A new legal record?
This widely documented massive abstention represents a fundamental trend and reflects a growing disinterest among voters in political parties and election events. “It’s a recurring phenomenon and this presidential election confirms a process of detachment by the French,” analyzes political scientist Arnaud Benedetti on France 24, i.e. voters who do not see any affinity with a party or political tendency.
“There is a breathlessness in the relationship with representative democracy, confirmed by a great many polls,” says Réjane Senec Slawinsky, researcher at CEVIPOF, according to whom this abstention will last as long as the political parties “continue an electoral logic which has little or no regard for the voice of the citizens’ mobilizations”.
Particularly blatant disinterest among the youngest: 41% of the under 25 year olds abstained in this second round, as well as more than a third of the 25 to 34 and 35 to 49 year olds. According to this Ipsos Sopra Steria poll, 24% of those who abstained say they are abstaining because they “refuse to choose between two candidates” they “dislike completely”, as do 49% of those who voted blank or zero.
After the presidential election, the general election in June will be a new test to assess the weight of the abstention camp. “It is certain that the abstention will be very high, since it is an election that is infinitely less mobilizing than the presidential election. Traditionally, abstentions are twice as high as in presidential elections,” Arnaud Leclerc recalls.
In 2017, nearly 57% of registered voters did not turn up to choose their constituency MP, a record for a second round of general elections since 1958.