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Mandates above all? Macron declares himself ‘guarantor of HEALTH & democracy’ as Paris pushes citizens to vote amid coronavirus

Mandates above all? Macron declares himself ‘guarantor of HEALTH & democracy’ as Paris pushes citizens to vote amid coronavirus
The pandemic has put France on lockdown, with public venues and shops shut down. Polling stations, however, were not only spared, but Paris eagerly pushed the people to vote in local polls, despite health concerns and criticism.

The unstoppable spread of the new coronavirus, known as Covid-19 has prompted the French government to shut down all "non-essential" public venues, be they shops, bars, restaurants, or even schools. Still, the polling stations appear to be just essential enough for Paris to be willing to risk the lives of the French electorate.

Despite the growing threat of the disease outbreak, which the World Health Organization recently officially declared a pandemic, the French authorities have stubbornly pushed for the municipal elections, the first round of which is held Sunday.

President Emmanuel Macron led the citizenry by example, braving the virus and showing up at a polling station to cast his vote. In fact, voting during epidemics is particularly important, he argued.

"I am the guarantor of security and health of our fellow citizens but also of the democratic life of our country," Macron said. "It is important to continue to be worthy, free citizens."

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He urged the people to be "responsible," giving his insights on how to get through the epidemic.

“This crisis, we will overcome it, we will navigate through it by being responsible together and individually. Every one for himself, and for the others,” Macron stated.

Being “responsible,” apparently, does not concern the government itself, as it strongly opposed calls to postpone the vote due to the virus outbreak. Still, it was just thoughtful enough to provide the ordinary folk with some guidelines on how to mitigate the risks to their health as they line up to cast ballots amid a pandemic. The list includes suggestions to avoid queues and choose less popular times to visit the polling stations, as well as using one’s own pen, or preferably voting by mail.

The authorities also vowed to do their best to clean door handles, tables, voting booths and pretty much everything at the polling stations. However, such a strong stand in defense of democracy has found little understanding, even among the French politicians and municipal candidates themselves, who said the whole thing is just not worth it.

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The heads of six French regions, including the most populous one, Ile-de-France, as well as Normandy and Corsica, called for the vote to be postponed. Ile-de-France head, Valerie Pecresse particularly described the actions of the government as “total misunderstanding of the country.”

Renaud Muselier, head of the south-eastern Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, called the government's push to “maintain the democratic spirit” of the nation a “legitimate” cause, but still argued it was “reasonable, consistent and even necessary” to postpone the vote.

The mayor of Reims Arnaud Robinet noted that the politicians’ “mandates are worth less than the health of our fellow citizens” while one of the municipal candidates in Lille, Marc-Philippe Daubresse, urged the authorities “not to add to the health and economic crisis” already gripping the country.

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Despite there being no shortage of politicians and officials expressing their doubts and concerns about the vote, the Elysee Palace remained unrelenting, insisting the elections would pose no “risk to the French.”

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