France elected a new president on Sunday. Twitter users worked around a results embargo to break the news as it happened.
President-elect François Hollande of the French Socialist Party took 51.7 percent of the vote to beat incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy. Tweeters used code names and a World War II term to work around the election rules, which state that results cannot be announced before 8 pm on election night, with offenders facing fines of up to $99,000 under the French Electoral Code.
As in the first round of voting, Sarkozy was referred to using Hungarian terms or “Rolex,” in reference to his apparent penchant for luxury. Twitter users bestowed a number of nicknames upon Hollande as well, including references to Gouda cheese and “Flanby,” a type of French dessert.
Election tweets were tagged with #RadioLondres. This referred to the Radio London station created by the French resistance in London to send coded messages to German-occupied France during WWII. According to Topsy, the hashtag was tweeted more than 29,000 times over the last 24 hours.
Those who defend the law preventing the dissemination of such information suggest that partial election results being made public before the polls closed throughout France might influence the vote among those who’ve yet to make up their minds.
However, keeping a lid on projections and exit poll results in France is not an easy task when that information is broadcast in other countries and is freely shared online. Media in Switzerland and Belgium shared exit poll results before the 8 pm cutoff time. Thanks to the Web and the immediacy of Twitter, those projections spread rapidly and would have undoubtedly been spotted by a number of French Twitter users.
Some French media outlets found a way around the election rules too, with at least one news website listing people for French residents to follow on Twitter to keep up with voting trends before polls closed.
France isn’t the only country to have laws in place that ban transmission of election results before all polls are closed. During last year’s Canadian federal elections, a number of Twitter users shared results from provinces in the Atlantic region before polls closed in the West Canada.
On Sunday night, Hollande tweeted, “Devant vous, je m'engage à servir mon pays,” or “Before you, I pledge to serve my country.” Thankfully for his sake, he did so more than an hour after the polls closed.
Photo by A. Bouirabdane