Voting? So passé!

In the weeks before elections, rank-and-file members of France’s many political parties plaster public spaces with colorful campaign posters. They ruthlessly tear off and cover over rival’s placards in stealth battles for every inch of visible wall.

But in the run-up to Sunday’s cantonal elections, in which about half of France's local government assemblies are up for grabs (2,023 cantons), building facades, bus stops and overpasses are unusually vacant.

The only spaces that provide some evidence that the election is actually taking place are official election panels set up in front of designated areas, often schools. Even the media seem to have erased the event from all newspaper layouts and broadcasting timeslots.

Citizen participation groups and pollsters have seen the writing (or lack of it) on the wall: The 2011 cantonal poll will likely set a new abstention record in France.

For the EU Parliament elections in June 2009 more than 59% of French voters decided to stay home, and more than 53% passed on the chance to cast a ballot in regional elections last March.

Jean-François Doridot, the director of pollster Ipsos’ Public Affairs, seems sure Sunday’s poll will see another grim turnout and offer further proof of French people’s “disenchantment” with politicians from both sides of the political spectrum.

Hopefully the 2012 presidential race will reverse the no-show trend, and voting in France won’t go the way of the fannypack.

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