Five things you need to know about the French Presidential election

With the presidential election fast approaching, here are five things you need to know about it

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1. When does the presidential election take place?

This year, the first round takes place on Sunday 23 April and the second round will occur two weeks later, on Sunday 7 May.

The general election takes place in the same year. This year it will be held on 11 and 18 June (one work earlier for voters living abroad). This has been standard practice since President Chirac dissolved the National Assembly in 1997. Since the constitutional reform of 2002, French parliamentarians’ mandates have ended in the same year as the presidential election.

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2. Who chooses the French President?

In 1962, Charles de Gaulle decided to revise the French Constitution to include the principle of electing the president by direct universal suffrage. Since then, any French national aged at least 18, enjoying civil and political rights and registered on an electoral list can elect the French president.

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3. How does the French presidential election system work?

The election is a two-round system where voters cast a single vote for their chosen candidate in each round. In accordance with Article 7 of the French Constitution, an absolute majority of all votes cast in the first round – i.e. more than 50% – is required for a candidate to win the election outright. If no candidate achieves this, all but the two candidates with the most votes are eliminated, and a second round of voting occurs.

The candidate who then receives the most votes wins and is declared President of the Republic.

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4. Who can be a candidate?

To run for the presidential election, the candidate must be a French national and a registered voter – which means being at least 18 years old.

The candidate must also provide a statement of his or her financial status to the Constitutional Council, thus ensuring greater transparency in political life. The candidate must gather the signatures of 500 elected representatives from at least 30 departments.

This year, there are 11 candidates running:

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout la France)

Marine Le Pen (Front National)
Emmanuel Macron (for the movement En Marche!)
Benoît Hamon (Parti Socialiste)
Nathalie Arthaud (Lutte Ouvrière)
Philippe Poutou (Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste) )
Jacques Cheminade (Solidarité et Progrès)
Jean Lassalle (Résistons !)
Jean-Luc Mélenchon (for the movement La France Insoumise)
François Asselineau (Union Populaire Républicaine)
François Fillon (Les Républicains)

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5. What does the president do once he or she has been elected?

The president is elected for a five-year term of office, and may be re-elected once by direct universal suffrage. Under Article 5 of the Constitution, the President of the Republic embodies the authority of the state, ensuring due respect for the Constitution, the proper functioning of the public authorities and the continuity of the state.

Article 8 of the Constitution grants the president the right to appoint the prime minister, as well as members of the government, who are proposed by the PM. The president also wields the power to terminate the duties of members of the government.

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The president is also Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The president holds the nuclear launch codes and the power to take all decisions relating to the deployment of nuclear weapons.

Diplomacy is traditionally the concern of the president, and his or her role is pre-eminent. Ambassadors are appointed by the president at the Council of Ministers’ meeting, on the recommendation of the foreign minister, and accredited to the president.

Published on 18/04/2017

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