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Your guide to French voting

How do elections in France work?

Presidential elections 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% 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% in the first round in 1965.
When is it all taking place?

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 was previously an unlimited number of seven-year terms before Jacques Chirac shortened it.
The Prime Minister and other ministers are appointed immediately by the new President. Although these usually come from the same party as the President, there is no obligation to do this (nor for them to be elected officials). If
members of different parties are appointed, it is called “cohabitation.”
Current President François Hollande 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 can only nominate one candidate.
Who can vote?

To be able to vote, a person must be of French nationality, over 18 years of age, and not legally deprived of any civil and political rights. As with every election, they must register to vote before a specific deadline (in this case December 31, 2016). Only those registered to vote are eligible voters.

Key election phrases and acronyms you might hear
AME Aide médicale de l’Etat (healthcare safety net for low-income foreigners in France)
TAFTA Transatlantic free trade area
TTIP Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership
libéralisme political doctrine favouring individual rights over state powers
Gaullisme political conviction based on the words and     action of Charles de Gaulle
ISF ­L’impôt de solidarité sur la fortune (wealth tax)
quatrième âge the ‘fourth age’ – old age
rayonnement politique political influence
énarque someone who attended the ENA, an administrative grande école
parrainage the system in which a Presidential candidate needs 500 signatures from elected officials
dépouillement the act of counting votes
conseil constitutionnel the highest court in France, it
oversees elections
ultra-marin a resident of France’s overseas territories
laxisme excessive tolerance or limited intervention by society, notably in petty crime
laïcité secularism
le chômage – unemployment
le revenu universel – a fixed, unconditional income
un frondeur – (political) rebel
la politique – politics, policy
un homme/une femme politique – politician

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