Reader question: What is a vote blanc?

With France preparing to cast its vote, what does it mean to have a 'white vote'?

Reader question: What is a vote blanc?
Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP

Question: In the context of French elections I often hear people talking about a ‘vote blanc’ – what is this? Is it the same as spoiled ballots?

Un vote blanc is one of those French phrases that is pretty much exactly what it says – a blank vote – but describes a particular French tradition.

In French the word blanc or blanche can mean white, but also null or void, like une saison blanche (a void or forfeit season) or une nuit blanche (a sleepless night).

Voting is not compulsory in France, so come election time voters have the choice to simply stay away from the polls if they don’t feel enthused about any of the candidates on offer.

But there is also the option of casting a vote blanc. This involves going to the polling station, taking the ballot paper, ticking none of the candidates on offer and then sealing the paper in its envelope and posting it into the ballot box.

Unlike abstention – which can be down to a number of factors including political disengagement and sheer laziness – or spoiled ballot papers (referred to as votes nuls) – which can done by accident or misunderstanding – a vote blanc makes a clear statement that you have examined all of the candidates standing and are impressed by none of them.

At each count, the number of votes blanc is recorded along with the number of votes cast for each candidate.

This topic is one of a number of questions that we tackle in the latest issue of The Local’s podcast Talking France. If you have a question on aspect of French politics or elections, get in touch at [email protected]

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Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.