Décision de justice

Open-air election meetings are allowed without size limits and in compliance with health regulations

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Ms Clémentine Autain and the political association “La France insoumise” asked the urgent applications judge attached to France’s Conseil d’Etat to suspend the provisions of the decree of 1st June 2021, which, according to them, limit open-air election meetings to 50 participants. The urgent applications judge observed that no maximum threshold applies to open-air election meetings but that, beyond 50 participants, details must be provided to the Prefect when declaring the meeting in accordance with France’s Internal Security Code regarding the measures put in place to ensure compliance with health rules (social distancing, wearing of masks, etc.). The urgent applications judge therefore rejected the association’s application.

The judge recalled that, under normal circumstances, all demonstrations on the public highway, including electoral meetings, must be declared to the Prefecture. He also noted that the disputed decree, contrary to what the applicants claim, does not set a limit for the number of participants in electoral meetings but only requires the organiser of meetings involving more than 50 people to inform the Prefecture about the measures put in place to ensure compliance with health rules (social distancing, wearing of masks, etc.), whereas such formalities are not required for meetings involving of fewer than 50 people. 

The applicants also criticised the decree for imposing rules on electoral meetings that are stricter than the rules applicable to other kinds of meeting. The urgent applications judge nevertheless noted that these meetings were of a different nature. For example, business meetings are under the control of employers who have an obligation to protect their employees and participants, whereas a political party has no such authority over people who freely attend an election meeting. The judge also noted that while funerals and sporting events have since 7 June been allowed to involve more people, in contrast with electoral meetings, they are still subject to a maximum.

Finally, the judge considered that, given the current health context, the threshold of 50 participants above which the organiser of an electoral meeting must inform the prefect of the health measures he intends to implement does not appear disproportionate.

For these reasons, the urgent applications judge attached to the Conseil d’État rejected the petition.

Read the decision n°453236 (in French)