French Presidential Elections Explained

Hey there folks. You all might have noticed in the news for these past few months that a lot of foreign news coverages are about french politics and the looming presidential elections in the neighbor nation/historic sworn enemy. As part of the United Kingdom, you will be leaving the EU soon and may not care much about european politics anymore.

However, although Brexit is happening, neighboring countries’ politics do remain a matter of interest for you folks as UK’s government will have to negotiate with european countries for future trade deals and international treaties. And the future french political landscape will play a major role in the change of international relations.

As it is never too late to understand current events and how they work, here is a little survival guide for the 2017 French political elections. Be reassured, the french system is not as complicated as the American is.

First things first folks, the general system. In France, the system follows a hybrid model. It means that it is divided in two parts: the President and the ministers, and the Parliament that includes both the Senate and the National Assembly. They both have equal amount of powers on the paper, like a check and balance system. For instance, the President can dismantle the National Assembly if needed and the Parliament may impeach him according to a precise procedure.

Every five year, both the President and the National Assembly are subjects to public elections to be replaced, or not. A President can go down two mandates of five years, no more, consecutively or not. This is what is happening this year by the way, in case you hadn’t yet put it together.

‘But how do they get elected?’ you folks might ask. Very good question.

To answer this, you all folks need to have a glimpse of the french political landscape. For years, the landscape has been more or less the same. Traditional parties as could be called, are the Socialist Party led by Benoît Hammond (left-wing) and the Républicains led by François Fillon (right-wing). Those two parties have battled for the government for years with no real room for smaller parties such as the Greens or the national communist party.

This is how the 2017 presidential elections differ and get interesting. Yes folks, it is interesting!

This year, the political landscape is moving and seeing two outsiders coming to the front scene, Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! (which political heading has still not been clearly defined, but somewhere between right and left wings) and populist far right Front National led by Marine Le Pen.

So there it is folks, this is the general landscape of French politics. Now your question can properly be answered. How are candidates chosen and how is the President elected?

The first thing you folks need to know about presidential elections is how it is organized. Quite simple, really. It takes two rounds to elect the future President, both using a public vote and according to a simple majority.

At the very beginning, each political party must chose the one amongst them who will represent them and their values, their leader. As long as they fill in the requirements (such as a precise number of signatures in favor of their candidacy), they will then take part to  the first round of the presidential elections.

Campaigns and televised debates are organized for all candidates, and let the games begin. For the first round, voters will go to the polls to chose their favorite leading man. If none of the candidates gets 50% of the voices, then the two top candidates will access the second round. This is more or less like an elimination process.

Time for a little recap, just for you folks, of the main candidates between which French citizens will have to chose during the first round on April 23rd:

– François Fillon for Les Républicains (right wing),

– Benoît Hammond for the Socialist Party (left wing),

– Marine Le Pen for the Front National (far right wing),

– Jean-Luc Mélenchon (far left wing),

– Emmanuel Macron for the new party En Marche! (outsider).

Now down to business with the second and final round, folks. The two candidates who will have stood out from the first round with the most votes in their pockets will face each other on television and radio, in relentless campaigns, to try and convince the people of which one is a better hope for the future of France.

In order to reunite the country’s diverse political opinions, impeach an extremist party to rise to power and also to gain more votes, the two remaining candidates will arrange alliances with some of the first round candidates. Such alliances are usually done between ideologically close parties.

On May 7th, French citizens will go back to the polls and finally vote for the one candidate that they hope to be the President. A simple majority will allow the top candidate to win the elections and become the next President of France.

As for the National Assembly vote, if you folks wonder, it will occur on June 11th and 18th, following the same voting system. If the political heading (right wing or left wing) chosen by the people is often the same for the President as well as for the National Assembly, there is a possibility of it not being the base.

In that case, it would be what is being called a “cohabitation”. Similar to what has happened in the UK with the previous coalition government, it’s when the President isn’t from the same wing as the National Assembly, and thus the Prime Minister’s side will opposite to the President’s.

Alright folks! Up there is all (or almost) you need to know about how the french political system works. Stay tuned on the elections news, 2017 herald quite a major change in european politics as we know them.


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