Speaking of politics ...

2017 is an important year for politics in France - here are some phrases it would be good to know, even if you cannot vote

21 December 2016
By Oliver Rowland

WITH élections présidentielles and législatives, this year is an important one in politics – but only French nationals will head to les urnes.

Présidentielles speaks for itself, while législatives refers to parliamentary elections – to elect MPs. In each case, voters will se rendre aux urnes – go to the ballot box to vote. Voting takes place in a bureau de vote, often a public place, equipped with isoloirs (voting booths) so you can place your cross on your bulletin de vote (ballot) in privacy.

The turnout is called la participation. Then, there is le dépouillement (count).

French elections often include two rounds on successive weekends, le premier/second tour.

As in the US, elections may be preceded by primaires – party elections to choose a candidate, and there are plenty of sondages (polls). Presidential candidates need 500 parrainages (literally ‘godfatherships’, or nominations.

Voting in most French elections (not présidentielles) involves supporting a party list, but in small communes, panachage is permitted, where voters strike out names on a list and replace them with ones from another. 

Beware false friends: député means MP, not ‘deputy’, and you may hear député maire, meaning someone who is both mayor and MP. A ‘deputy mayor’ is an adjoint. 

The gender of words for political jobs may depend on whether you are liberal (in the English sense) or a traditionalist. The latter may insist on phrases such as Mme le maire, Mme le ministre (or Mme le president…) because men have traditionally done these jobs. The former see nothing wrong with using ‘la’. 

The Académie Française says it supports feminine forms for ordinary jobs unless the feminine form looks ‘barbarous’ (it objects to professeure and pompière) but it prefers the ‘generic’ masculine for state roles. 

As in the UK with ‘Number 10’, French politics includes several addresses indicating seats of power, including the Elysée, Matignon (prime minister), Bercy (finance ministry) and Quai d’Orsay (foreign ministry).

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