Parties call voting machines a 'catastrophe'

22nd April 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 22, 2007 (AFP) - Several French political parties demanded the withdrawal of electronic voting machines for the second round of the presidential election after widespread problems during Sunday's ballot.

PARIS, April 22, 2007 (AFP) - Several French political parties demanded the withdrawal of electronic voting machines for the second round of the presidential election after widespread problems during Sunday's ballot.

The Socialists, the Communist Party and the Greens put on a rare show of unity to call the machines a "catastrophe".

It is the first time the machines have been used for a presidential election in France. Amid big queues in general to vote, people using the electronic machines were forced to wait up to two hours to cast ballots.

About 1.5 million voters out of the 44.5 million nationally were able to use the machines. The left wing parties complained following problems at Noisy-le-Sec, a suburb east of Paris.

"In line with our forecasts, the electronic vote has been a catastrophe," the parties said in a statement. They said that many voters had walked away in disgust because of the wait.

Protests came from other cities as well.

Philippe de Villiers, a nationalist Catholic candidate in the election, called it a "cheating machine" as he voted in his home town of Herbiers in western France.

Daniel Guerin, a member of the Paris regional council, made an official complaint to the Constitutionl Council because of "disfunctioning" machines in his constituency in Villeneuve-le-Roi, in the Paris suburbs.

The elderly had particular problems with the machines. Many said they did not believe the computerised system would keep their vote secret.

"I have come here twice and twice I have had to walk away without voting. It takes too long," said Pierre Bascoulergue, a pensioner in Issy-les-Moulineaux, near Paris. "I just don't trust these machines."

The Issy town hall said the long queues were because of the huge turnout in the election.

In the champagne capital of Reims in eastern France a breakdown delayed the start of computer voting. The complicated machines further held up voting in the city during the day.

"It is total chaos, we don't understand anything," said 70-year-old Suzanne Antoine.

"You put your card in and it says 'continue'. Then nothing lights up. I managed to finish but I prefer the way it was before."

The voting machine has several buttons that allow electors to choose the candidate they want to back. There is also an "abstention" button for protest votes.

The interior ministry says the machines are not French but they have not had any problems since they were first used in 2003.


Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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