A 2-Minute Guide To The Upcoming French Elections

French Elections

The French presidential elections are upon us again — here’s what you need to know.

The Basics
Held every five years, the President of France is elected by “direct universal suffrage”, which means he or she is elected directly by the people, according to the government’s website. A person can only serve two terms as president (meaning at worst there’s only 4 more years of Sarkozy).

In order to be eligible to stand for the election, candidates must not only be at least 23 years old and a citizen of France, but must also have the support (in the form of signatures) of a minimum of 500 elected officials from at least 30 departments, with no more than 10 per cent from the same department — a fact that almost killed Marine Le Pen’s candidacy before it even started.

A number of potential candidates had to drop out of the race because they couldn’t get the required number of signatures in time. What began as a competition between more than 16 candidates has now been officially whittled down to 10, according to France 24.

Remember: There are two rounds
The presidential elections generally take place over two rounds. If a candidate gets an absolute majority of the votes in the first round (April 22), the second round becomes redundant and the winner is declared elected.

But if no candidate achieves this in the first round, as is often the case, a second round (May 6) takes place two weeks later: a run-off between the two candidates who won the most votes in the first round.

This is important — if voting goes to the second round, many Le Pen voters might feel compelled to vote for Sarkozy rather than Hollande, for example.

Nicolas Sarkozy (incumbent)

Party: Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) (centre-right)

Poll numbers: 23 - 28.5 per cent

Manifesto: 'Buy European' (give impetus to local produce), reduce the deficit to zero by 2016, increase dependence on nuclear and renewable energy to 23 per cent by 2020, reduction of immigrants by 50 per cent to 100,000, a 0.1 per cent 'Tobin' tax on all financial transactions, increase taxes on large companies.

Weakness: Right now everyone in France seems sick of him. His abrasive style has not endeared him.


Francois Hollande

Party: Socialist Party (PS) (centre-left)

Poll numbers: 27 - 30.5 per cent

Manifesto: Impose a 75 per cent tax rate on the rich, help small businesses (especially those employing the youth), create a 'climate-energy contribution' in place of the current carbon tax, free France from the forced imposition of EU economic policies by renegotiating the EU treaty.

Weakness: Seen as a weak figure by many voters. Some of his ideas, such as the 75 per cent tax rate, are likely to scare the Parisian business elite.


Marine Le Pen

Party: National Front (FN) (far-right)

Poll numbers: 14 - 18 per cent

Manifesto: Limit immigration, regain national sovereignty from the EU (by renegotiating the EU treaty) and quit the euro, promote traditional secular values, form a Paris-Berlin-Moscow economic alliance, renegotiation of economic treaties with north African countries after ending migration from them.

Weakness: Despite her best efforts, the National Front may be indelibly linked in the mind of the voting public to far right movements. The shocking recent murders are only likely to make this worse.


Francois Bayrou

Party: Democratic Movement (MoDem) (centrist)

Poll numbers: 11.5 - 15 per cent

Manifesto: Cut defence spending, allow gay couples to adopt, make the EU more democratic, reduce carbon emissions, protect subsidized housing.

Weakness: Bayrou is a veteran, but has struggled to break into the mainstream of French politics. He seems to be the perpetual third horse in a two horse race.


Jean-Luc Melenchon

Party: Left Front Coalition (far-left and communist)

Poll numbers: 8.5 - 11 per cent

Manifesto: Increase minimum wage, institute higher taxes for the rich, give the parliament more powers, international nuclear disarmament, immediate withdrawal of French troops from Afghanistan, replace austerity measures with environmental planning, put the EU treaty to popular vote.

Weakness: He's backed by Communists, which may scare away a fair amount of mainstream voters. His biggest problem, however, probably comes from splitting the vote with Francois Hollande.


Eva Joly

Party: Europe Ecology/The Greens (EELV) (environmentalist)

Poll numbers: 1 - 4.5 per cent

Manifesto: Tackle the fiscal crisis with renewable energy and organic farming instead of austerity measures, improve banking transparency, replace nuclear energy dependence with green energy, a minimum increase in social benefits for all.

Weakness: Overshadowed by other candidates on the left.


Nicolas Dupont-Aignan

Party: Arise the Republic (DLR) (conservative euroskeptic)

Poll numbers: 0.5 - 1 per cent

Manifesto: Institute a referendum system on major policy decisions (similar to the one in Switzerland), make voting mandatory, reduce defence spending to two per cent of the GDP, quit the euro, abolish highway tolls, institute equal pay for women in the workplace.

Weakness: Not likely to gain much more than a protest vote.


Nathalie Arthaud

Party: Workers' Struggle (LO) (Trotskyist)

Poll numbers: 0.5 - 1 per cent

Manifesto: Replace capitalism and private production with communism, get rid of economic classes and give more power to workers.

Weakness: Only likely to appeal to die-hard Trotskyist.


Philippe Poutou

Party: New Anti-Capitalist Movement (NPA) (Trotskyist)

Poll numbers: 0 - 1 per cent

Manifesto: Increase wages, improve public services, put an end to redundancies, replace capitalism with a 'democratic, egalitarian, feminist and ecologist' society.

Weakness: Ditto


Jacques Cheminade

Party: Independent

Poll numbers: 0 - 1 per cent

Manifesto: Create a 'euro-franc' as the national currency, end all military co-operation with Britain, withdraw from NATO, create a Eurasian alliance strong enough to break the dominance of 'the City' (London) and Wall Street, nationalize all major financial institutions.

Weakness: He's a little mad.


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