Departmental elections in the face of public opinion and the media

Little publicized, the departmental elections are watched by the abstention and the disinterest of the French for the policy. A paradox when the latter require more proximity. How to campaign in the sluggishness caused by Covid-19? Political communication will have to adapt to a fragmented opinion. The field and the social networks will they make it possible to reconquer the democracy weakened by the crisis of the representation. Analysis of a campaign hymn.

Like the Europeans, formerly called “presidential of the poor”, the regional elections constitute the last barometer before the race for the Elysee. Redistributed, the Regions benefit from exposed political figures. Indeed, here the territorial communication has given its full measure in the absence of having been able to give a soul to these new administrative spaces. With the exception of those who sported or claimed for a long time a natural identity. On June 20 and 27, voters will therefore have to renew their regional assemblies. The same day, will also play the departmental ballot, so far little mentioned and little publicized, while it is a level of daily proximity for the citizens. The regional press seizes it for the moment very timidly.

Created in 1790 following the abolition of privileges, the Departments (101 to date) are multiple divisions of the country, whose names have often been chosen according to geography and hydrography. With rare exceptions, they have hardly changed since. Except in the exercise of the executive power held by the Prefects and transferred to the Presidents of the general councils (recently renamed departmental councils) in favor of the Decentralization Laws of March 1982. In the history of political communication, the general councilor dressed well often the clothes of the notable or the proletarian according to the political families of the different cantons and the choice of the voters. Under the Vth Republic, we can observe that this function naturally led to the conquest of a town hall. Or the opposite. Or even start a career as a parliamentarian.

Recall the daily realities

However, like the other ballots, the departmental are threatened by abstention and do not escape the increasingly obvious disinterest of the French for the ballot box. That said, pedagogy is not to be proscribed on the action of the Departments and it is the role of the press as a whole. Inform and be at the service of readers, listeners, viewers whatever the medium. Indeed, in a globalized environment, recalling the skills of the Department is not in vain! Leader in social assistance, personal autonomy and solidarity; it manages, among other things, the active solidarity income (RSA), the personalized autonomy allowance (APA), maternal and child protection (PMI) and assistance for disabled people. Likewise, its role in terms of education is not negligible since it decides on the construction and equipment of colleges, culture, and the enhancement of heritage. But still roads, regional planning and municipalities. More recently, many departmental authorities have invested in the prevention and the fight against COVID-19, showing if necessary, that the departmental advisers were able to demonstrate organization, responsiveness and efficiency sometimes faster than state services.

Geolocate the electorate

Of course, it is obvious to wonder how to campaign in such a context? What methods should you use to mobilize your camp and beyond, in short to reach the target of voters, the undecided? In this very special environment, the daily and weekly press will relay the applications, the interest of the institution and publish the results. However, this vector is no longer the expression of opinions. Most newspapers are now information media serving their readership; which does not exclude biases. First of all, social networks will play a bigger role. The confinement had the effect of digitizing a large part of the population. Facebook where the posts will allow candidates to announce, process and review balance sheet or programmatic items. Twitter, where the debate between opponents arouses the curiosity of journalists. Instagram, because photos are worth the weight of words. Unfailingly, social media will be able to oscillate between rational and emotional. What about the once full rooms? We prefer meetings outside, in the form of a stand at the corner of a market or a neighborhood. Because the time is no longer for a candidate’s flowing speeches but rather for interaction with the population, for direct contact where one collects more the word than one does not speak oneself. The voter no longer comes spontaneously to the candidate who must, as we say in the applications, “geolocate” him to better meet his aspirations. Likewise, if poster battles are becoming increasingly rare, being absent from public expression spaces and official signs can have a negative effect. Recognition involves the repetition of the image. But also the message, as long as it is short and powerful. Likewise, the poster must be sincere and consistent with the person and his project. There remains of course the profession of faith. Among the leaflets and brochures that voters will drink, it is perhaps still the document to which the most attention should be paid. It accompanies the official propaganda distributed to all households registered on the electoral rolls with the ballot. But we must be fair and clear by promoting efficient and rapid reading where the essential is said. Everyone’s “available” time has become much more precious, although so decisive.

Faced with a fragmented opinion, it is on the ground that the candidates for the departmental will decide between themselves and it is there that it will be necessary to regain democracy, to lessen the crisis of representation. The 2,054 cantons, although redistributed in 2014, are the best suited to relay socio-economic and demographic realities to the central power, but also to balance the provincial popular representation vis-à-vis the latter. Urban, rural or from both backgrounds, the 4,108 departmental councilors will benefit from a six-year mandate. A time that seems long and with which politics should resume, in a world that is more and more instantaneous, fleeting. A happy paradox in our society, this ancient institution that is the Department has resisted numerous attempts to suppress it. Because basically, even if they shun the ballot box, the French nonetheless remain attached to their identity. What if, in the end, the key to this election lay in the candidates’ ability to make them more proud of the “small country” where they live? The contemptors of rurality or the metropolis would undoubtedly give a completely different hymn to this campaign, history obliges.