With the thousands of references to "flan," "tomato" and the weather in Budapest, Hungary, that took place on French social media over the weekend, one might think France was overcome with excitement about a cooking expo in Central Europe.
The truth? French election watchers were using code words to report early voting results in the country's presidential election, bypassing a national law that bans disclosing results before 8 p.m. on election days, according to The New York Times.
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Many Twitter users considered the online reporting an act of protest against the blackout law.
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— Fabien (@Menilmuche) April 22, 2012
Le Flan est périmé , je répète , le flan est périmé #radiolondres
— Le chêne 90 (@Lechene90) April 23, 2012
"Flan" stood for François Hollande, the Socialist challenger to sitting President Nicolas Sarkozy -- who was himself represented by the temperature in Budapest, as his father was born in Hungary. "Tomato" was code for the leftist candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon -- the red fruit representing Communists.
Early election results flew across Twitter and other forms of social media with the hashtag #RadioLondres, a reference to former French President Charles de Gauelle's inspiring messages to the French Resistance broadcast from London during World War II.
The results came from media outlets outside France, who are outside the jurisdiction of French law. They had the information by approximately 6:30 p.m. Paris time. If a French media outlet violated the results embargo, it could have faced fines of up to 75,000 euros -- or nearly $99,000. At least one newspaper hinted it would break the blackout in protest, but it refrained from doing so.
Hollande won the most support in the first round of elections -- and thus, "the flan was in the oven." He didn't however, capture enough votes to escape a primary runoff against Sarkozy ("the temperature in Budapest," one might tweet, was about 25 degrees).
The French reporting law creates an Election Day environment completely unlike that of the U.S., where exit polls and early results are disseminated by the media the very second they're available.
Do you think France should overturn this 1977 blackout of official projections and results before 8 p.m.? Tell us in the comments if you think reporting election results before all polls close can effect the results.
Image courtesy of the Government of France
This story originally published on Mashable here.