The President, Emmanuel Macron, could run for a third consecutive term – by using a constitutional loophole, a former justice minister claims.
Jean-Jacques Urvoas, now a law professor at Brest University, raised the possibility, reported by L’Opinion newspaper.
He referenced a recent court decision to allow the president of French Polynesia, Edouard Fritch, to run for a third term in 2023 despite a ban on more than two successive five-year terms.
It is because Mr Fritch did not complete two full five-year terms, as he was elected in 2014 after his predecessor resigned and was re-elected in 2018.
Mr Urvoas questions whether Mr Macron could benefit from the same loophole as Article 6 of the constitution, which restricts presidents to two consecutive terms, does not specify the duration of the terms.
Bertrand Mathieu, a constitutional law professor at Panthéon-Sorbonne law school in Paris, said: “Such a textual interpretation is debatable, but it would not be in the spirit of the law.”
Article 6 specifically aims to limit terms – no matter their duration – and was not designed to be exploited for its ambiguities, he said.
“This would be a distortion of the law.”
In one scenario, Mr Macron could resign in early 2027 and then run again.
However, Dr Mathieu does not think the president would consider it.
In a different scenario from Mr Urvoas’s, Mr Macron could dissolve the Assemblée nationale in 2023, lose the ensuing election, and then decide to run for president and win.
His term would thus be extended until 2028, rather than 2027. In both scenarios, France’s highest constitutional authority, the Conseil Constitutionnel, could deem the moves unlawful.
That means that in the second scenario he would have actually shortened his second term by four years. “Both legal and political reasons coincide to mean it will most likely not happen,” said Dr Mathieu.
The constitution allows Mr Macron to run for president again only in 2032. If elected, he could run again in 2037.