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French local elections: One town, zero candidates

The village of Châtenois in the Haute-Saône department has no candidates for the upcoming French local elections.
The village of Châtenois in the Haute-Saône department has no candidates for the upcoming French local elections. © France 24

France votes in the first round of local elections on Sunday, March 15, but in the village of Châtenois, in the Haute-Saône department, the voting booths will remain closed. Like 105 other towns across France, this village of 130 people has been unable to find anyone willing to run for mayor and now risks losing its political independence.

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“It’s true that after 12 years, it wears you out a bit,” says Victor Coulin, the mayor of Châtenois since 2008.

For more than a year, the 73-year-old has made it clear that he will not be seeking another term. The problem is no one has put themselves forward to take his place.

As such, the first round of voting in the town has been cancelled. The second round, on March 22, is still set to go ahead for now, in the hope that a candidate will emerge in the interval.

If that fails to happen, the village will have three months, during which time its affairs will be managed by a delegation from the regional prefecture, in which to find candidates and reorganise an election.

If there is still no one to take Coulin’s place, the village will cease to exist as an administrative entity and be merged with another.

"To see Châtenois disappear would be heartbreaking," says Coulin.

It is a problem that is becoming increasingly common in France. This year, 106 towns and villages have so far failed to find electoral candidates, up from 62 in 2014.

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