Plebiscites Masquerading as Elections

The American Interest

On May 10, 1802, French voters decided in a completely free vote that Napoleon Bonaparte should be First Consul for life, and could also choose his successor.  The vote is said to have been 3,568,885 (or 99.76%) in favor of the new constitution containing these stipulations, while a mere 8,374 voted against. The sovereign will of the French nation was clear. Two-and-a-half years later, Napoleon’s wise stewardship of France was rewarded when the people—well, the 48% of eligible voters who came out to vote, at least—voted to make Napoleon Emperor by an even more impressive margin: 3,521,675 (99.93%) to…

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