Manuel Valls and Benoit Hamon / Photo: Rémi Désert

On Sunday, January 22, the French Socialist Party organised the first round of the primary elections to select their champion for the presidential elections that will take place end of April 2017.

Two candidates emerged – Benoît Hamon and Manuel Valls. However, the main media story was not their success or their programmes, but about the possible falsifications of votes. This results from an incredible series of communication mistakes.

First of all, on Sunday noon, the French Socialist Party announced 400,000 voters, then one million at 17:00. Finally, Thomas Clay, the president of the High Authority for the Primary Election, claimed that “around two million people voted” at 20:00.

But no clear results were presented to the media. The only available data published on the dedicated website at 00:45 on Monday totalled 1,249,126 voters. Then, later on Monday morning, the site presented the same results in terms of percentage, but added 352,013 voters to the total (Hamon and Valls received the same percentage of votes).

Immediately, the media suggested three scenarios: 1) A statistical miracle - the results of each candidate in term of percentage remained exactly the same despite a 25% change of the number of voters; 2) The socialist party artificially added more than 352,013 voters in order communicate a more presentable number; 3) The socialist party still had 352,013 votes to add but as it did not know whom they referred to, the party decided to keep the same percentage (the reason claimed by the Socialists). 

Whatever the reasons, the main consequences is that on Monday and Tuesday, the media kept discussing the doubts that were growing about the results of this primary instead of detailing the candidates’ programmes.

Moreover the worst may be yet to come. Given this extraordinary mess, next week’s figures will be closely scrutinised. Imagine the final result is close to 1,250,000 million; many question may arise regarding the first round. And if the result is effectively close to 1,600,000 voters, it could look very suspicious. Welcome to a terrible lose/lose environment. Let’s see how the Socialist Party will exit this complex communication environment.

In this blog post, the author solely expresses his private opinion. A version of this article originally appeared on Communication Director

Emmanuel Bloch is Director of Strategic Information at electronic systems company Thales, having originally joined the company's Communications and Security division in 2007. Prior to that, Emmanuel worked on the agency side of the communications profession, at Beau Fixe and i&e Consultants. Emmanuel joined the EACD in 2011. Follow Emmanuel on Twitter at @MilStrat

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