Yes, foreigners can join political parties in France

I am American and I live in France. Can I join a French political party, even though I cannot vote? As a matter of interest, what are the numbers of members of the main ones? TW

30 October 2019
By Oliver Rowland

Yes, there is nothing stopping you joining a political party whether or not you are able to vote.

Membership figures are often indicated on parties’ websites but may not be obvious to locate. Furthermore, caution is required in interpreting them as it can be hard to compare like with like.

As for asking parties directly, in Connexion’s experience it can be hard to extract definitive figures. Claims are cited from time to time by party leaders in French press articles, though they can sound inflated and it is unclear if they are really all paid-up members.

To start with, if you want to join La République en Marche! (LREM), the party of President Macron, you can do so by clicking adhérer on its website’s homepage which takes you to en-marche.fr/adhesion. Here it is stated that there are 418,422 adhérents.

This impressive number should be tempered by the fact that LREM does not charge a fee to join. You merely provide some basic personal details and click to confirm you agree with a charter of values.

The number has been growing only gradually, as a Le Monde report in November 2017 referred to “more than 380,000” at the end of that year.

It is harder to find figures on the site of hard-right Rassemblement National (former FN), though some are given if you click organisation (how it is organised), then les instances (bodies or groupings that make up the party), then les adhérents.

The rassemblementnational.fr/les-adherents page claims 83,000 adhérents et sympathisants (members and supporters). To be an adhérent (member) involves a fee of €15 to €250, depending on category (from youth member to “prestige”). The standard fee is €30 for those on “modest” incomes, or otherwise €50, or €80 for a couple. 

In May, FranceInfo quoted an RN official saying there were 25,000 paid-up members. In 2017, Libération quoted a source at the then-Front National citing 63,000 members before the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections, suggesting a significant fall-off recently.

The RN website is unclear about what it counts as sympathisants but it suggests a number of ways to offer help (by clicking Militez), from giving money to signing petitions or handing out leaflets.

Connexion found no membership information on the website of hard-left party La France Insoumise, but leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon recently tweeted about a database of half a million names. However, it appears even easier to ‘join’ than LREM, as its site suggests you only need give an email and postcode.

The Parti Socialiste has no figures on its site but an official was cited by BFMTV last year referring to around 20,000 active members (militants). It charges a €20 cotisation. 

Les Républicains claimed just over 130,000 militants in the recent leadership vote, a steep drop in recent years. It charges €30 for membership.

No figures could be found on the site of Europe Ecologie Les Verts, but it has a different model again – it asks for a membership fee but leaves it to people to choose how much. It says people choose on average to pay more than €100 to join.

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