Low Voter Turnout in France Worries Bishop

May Indicate Alienation, Bishop de Berranger Says

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PARIS, MAR. 13, 2001 (Zenit.org).- A bishop who exhorted his countrymen to go to the polls has expressed disappointment over last Sunday´s high absentee rate among voters during municipal elections.

About 38% of the voters stayed away from the polls, the highest ever recorded in elections at this level.

Two months ago, in a document entitled “Municipal Elections: A Possibility for Democracy,” Bishop Olivier de Berranger of Saint-Denis, president of the French bishops´ Social Commission, called on voters to turn out in force.

“Despite the electoral campaign that, on the whole, was interesting …, a considerable number of voters did not see any reason” to vote, the bishop told Vatican Radio. “I think this happened especially in popular neighborhoods.”

“It would be interesting to know if in the more difficult neighborhoods, people felt called, and voted,” he said. “If they didn´t vote, it means that there is a whole sector of the population that feels excluded from the management of the city in which they live. This is serious.”

Asked how citizens could be motivated to vote, he said, “An enormous effort must certainly be made to allow the citizen to participate in political life, which is not limited to putting a ballot in a box every six years. It is necessary to involve him in common life, and this exacts, on the part of municipal authorities, a great inventiveness, so that they will no longer work in watertight compartments but go out to the different neighborhoods of cities, listen to the citizens, and give youth direction.”

In the elections, the Left enjoyed success in the capital, while moderate parties dominated in the rest of the country.

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