The Connexion guide to the French election

Who will be installed in the Elysée as the next President of France?

How does the election work, who are the main candidates and what are their policies?

As France prepares for its ninth presidential election since the Fifth Republic was introduced in 1958, we explain what to expect in the coming weeks. Here is The Connexion guide to the election, the leading candidates and their policy plans. Plus we present some of the key words and phrases you may read or hear.

How do elections in France work?

Presidential elections in France follow a two-round system (also known as run-off voting) to ensure the elected President always wins the majority. This means that if no candidate receives the absolute majority of votes (50 per cent of votes plus at least one extra vote), the top two candidates with the most votes continue into a second round two weeks later. All other candidates are eliminated. Elections are always held on a Sunday and campaigning ends at midnight on the Friday before the vote.

It is extremely rare for a candidate to win the absolute majority in the first round and to thus be immediately elected – officially, it has never happened. So far, Charles de Gaulle came the closest, winning 44 per cent in the first round in 1965.

The first round of the 2017 French presidential election will take place on Sunday April 23. The second round is scheduled for Sunday May 7.

Once elected, the new President of France takes part in the “passation des pouvoirs" ("handing over of powers") ceremony. He or she can serve for a maximum of two five-year terms. It used to be an unlimited number of seven-year terms before Jacques Chirac shortened it.

The Prime Minister and other ministers are appointed immediately after the President. Although these usually come from the same party as the President, there is no obligation to choose members from the dominant party. If members of different parties are appointed, it is called "cohabitation."

Current President François Hollande from the Socialist Party is eligible to run for a second term, but declined to do so on December 1, 2016.

 Who can become a candidate?

Candidates running for election must have French nationality, be at least 18 years old, and be registered on the electoral roll. They should also not be deprived of eligibility rights, not be placed under guardianship or trusteeship, and have completed obligations of national service.

Each candidate must obtain a minimum of 500 signatures from elected officials of at least 30 departments. These nominations are sometimes called “sponsors” (or parrainages d'élus), although this does not necessarily mean that the officials all support the candidate’s proposals. No more than 10% of them should be from the same department. Officials are only allowed to nominate one candidate.

Who can vote?

To be able to ...

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