Strict rules on exit polls could be undermined by users of social networks like Twitter and might even cause the presidential election to be cancelled.

"/> Strict rules on exit polls could be undermined by users of social networks like Twitter and might even cause the presidential election to be cancelled.

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NICOLAS SARKOZY

Twitter could lead to election cancellation

Strict rules on exit polls could be undermined by users of social networks like Twitter and might even cause the presidential election to be cancelled.

Twitter could lead to election cancellation
Manuel Iglesias

French election rules state that no opinion polls or predictions can be published between midnight on Friday before the election day (always a Sunday) and the close of polling.

Media organisations are banned from publishing the results of any polls and risk fines of between €3,500 and €75,000 ($4,500 and $100,000).

Twitter has around 5.2 million users in France and Facebook has many more.

If enough users start to spread news of exit polls on voting day, authorities are worried that they could start to influence voting.

“Sending a tweet or a message on Facebook fall under the law,” said Mattias Guyomar, general secretary of the French Polling Commission, reported Sunday’s Le Journal du Dimanche.

The newspaper reported that legal experts are worried that the spreading of information could even lead to “the cancellation of the election.”

Polling organisations use exit poll data to create predictions of the outcome. These tend to be circulating in news rooms by early evening, while polls close at 8pm.

This year, there is a real risk that the “happy few” of those in the know “will be much longer” said Mickaël Darmon, a political commentator with TV channel i>Télé.

Problems could occur in marginal areas where knowledge of candidate support might affect how those voting later cast their ballots.

“In the case of an extremely close result between two candidates, it would be within the loser’s rights to appeal the results before the Constitutional Council and demand that the election be cancelled,” reported the newspaper.

The first round of voting will take place on Sunday April 22nd, with a second round for the two best-placed candidates to follow two weeks later on Sunday May 6th.

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NICOLAS SARKOZY

Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée

Right-wing candidates for the French presidential election face off in the first round of a US-style primary on Sunday with former president Nicolas Sarkozy and ex-prime minister Alain Juppe fighting to avoid being knocked out by an outsider.

Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée
Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

In a contest overshadowed by the election of Donald Trump in the United States, support for the early favourite Juppe has slipped and Francois Fillon, who served as prime minister under Sarkozy, has risen fast.

The right-wing nominating contest is crucial because with the French left divided, the winner is expected to go on to take the presidency in May, beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the runoff.

Juppe, 71, entered the two-month-long contest with polls showing him to be France's most popular politician, but his approach of playing the moderate against the fiery Sarkozy and the conservative Fillon appears to be backfiring.

Most polls now show Juppe and Sarkozy are neck-and-neck at around 30 percent, with Fillon close behind after making striking progress in recent weeks.

The two winners on Sunday will go through to the second round run-off a week later.

Two becomes three

“We were expecting a duel but in the end a three-way contest has emerged,” political scientist Jerome Jaffre said in Le Figaro newspaper on Thursday.

Many have noted that 62-year-old Fillon's rise had coincided with the publication of his latest book entitled “Beating Islamic totalitarianism”.

An often confused final TV debate of the seven candidates on Thursday offered few clues about the possible outcome, although viewers polled afterwards said Fillon had performed the strongest.

Sparks flew when Sarkozy was asked about fresh claims that he received millions in funding from the late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi towards his 2007 campaign.

Sarkozy called the question “disgraceful” and refused to answer.

Turning to the Trump effect, the former president said a more isolationist America created “a fantastic opportunity for France and Europe to re-establish a leadership role” on issues including border security and the reform of the UN Security Council.

“The next five years will mark the return of France and Europe to the international scene. America won't be there to put us in the shade,” he said.

Juppe meanwhile said the Trump-era heralded a triple “shock” — in the areas of trade, defence and the environment.

A return to protectionism would be “a tremendous regression”, Juppe said, while warning Europe against being “naive” in its dealings with the United States.

The three leading candidates have similar programmes, underpinned by pledges to reinforce domestic security in a country still under a state of emergency following a series of jihadist attacks.

They also share a desire to reinforce European borders and reduce immigration, while tax cuts also loom large.

The choice will come down to style.

Sarkozy has emphasised his tough-guy credentials, saying it makes him a better choice to handle Trump than the mild-mannered Juppe.

Fillon, who is popular in the business world, has promised “radical” economic measures but is the most conservative of the three on social issues.

Another unknown factor in Sunday's first round is the number of left-wing voters prepared to pay two euros and sign a declaration that they subscribe to “the values of the centre and the right” to vote in the right-wing primary.

Those who do are expected to vote against 61-year-old Sarkozy, who remains a highly divisive figure in France four years after he left office.

When the right-wing candidate is chosen on November 27, it is expected to trigger an announcement from deeply unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande on whether he intends to bid for re-election.

On Wednesday, Hollande's former economy minister Emmanuel Macron announced he would stand as an independent.

by AFP's Guy Jackson

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