French politics: François Hollande returns as candidate in snap election

Former president announces his support for the Nouveau Front Populaire and plans to stand in the legislative elections called by Macron for June 30 and July 7

Former French president François Hollande pictured during a visit to Greece, 2022
The former president will run unopposed by any other left-wing party

Former French president François Hollande has been announced as a candidate for the left-wing ‘Nouveau Front Populaire’ (New Popular Front) bloc in the upcoming legislative elections, to the surprise of many.

Socialist Hollande, 69, who was president from 2012 to 2017, will stand for a seat in Corrèze in central France, where he was first elected to the National Assembly in 1988. 

He announced his decision on Saturday (June 15) in Tulle, capital of the department. 

“I took this decision… because I felt that the situation was serious,” he said, and that the far-right had “never been this close to power” in France. 

"An exceptional situation calls for an exceptional decision,” he added, saying his three main priorities were “France, progress, and Corrèze.”

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Prime minister attacks decision

Current prime minister Gabriel Attal announced that president Emmanuel Macron’s coalition would not field a candidate in the 1st circonscription of Corrèze, where Mr Hollande is running. 

However, this was not in order to support the former president, but another candidate altogether.

“Our candidates are the best ones against the extremes to prevent them coming to power… There are a few constituencies where we know that our candidates will not be the best placed and in that case, we support another candidate,” he said on RTL this morning.

‘Extremes’ for Macron, Attal, and the Renaissance party refers both to the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) and Reconquête ! parties, but also to the Nouveau Front Populaire.

Since the announcement of the alliance, Mr Macron and his allies have denounced the coalition as extremist, due to the presence of parties including La France Insoumise (LFI) and other extreme far-left parties in the confederation alongside more centre-left groups.

“François Hollande remains an LFI-allied candidate whom we do not support,” the prime minister added.

Mr Attal urged supporters in the area to instead back Francis Dubois, candidate for Les Républicains, in the upcoming election. 

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Announcement surprise to many on left

The decision initially took some by surprise, not least the leader of the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party) Olivier Faure, who said he was “unaware” the decision had been made by the left-wing alliance to grant Hollande the opportunity to run under its banner. 

“All those who support [the New Popular Front] and who are ready to defend its colours are welcome, so I take note and I hope that he will campaign actively,” he said upon finding out. 

The announcement of Hollande’s running shows how potentially fractious the left-wing alliance is.

Many within the Parti Socialiste, and the majority of those in parties further to the left, strongly dislike Hollande due to the failures of his presidency and what they deem as a swing rightwards in the policies of the party during his tenure.

The party has been in freefall since his leadership, with the party’s presidential candidate – mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo – receiving less than 2% of the vote in the 2022 campaign. 

For now, however, the confederation of leftist parties seems to be letting bygones be bygones, and have let Hollande run unopposed by any other leftist candidate for the seat. 

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How do the elections work? 

The first round of the elections will be held on Sunday, June 30. 

Any candidate who receives more than 12.5% of the vote in this election will make it to a second round on July 7, where the person who gets the most votes on this day will win the seat and be elected to the National Assembly, France’s lower political chamber. 

The party who has the most seats in the chamber – or the largest alliance formed between parties – will elect a new prime minister.

This format traditionally means many candidates run in the first round, including fringe parties, before votes coalesce around candidates from larger parties in the second, as long as they reach above the 12.5% threshold. 

Due to the perceived importance of these snap elections, however, alliances and electoral pacts are likely to see the number of candidates running in the first round drop, as left, right, and centrist parties form groups to ensure votes are not split and an ideologically-inclined candidate can make it through to the second round. 

This is most notable with the New Popular Front, where only one candidate from either the Socialist Party, Greens, Ecologists, La France Insoumise, or other left-wing parties will run for each seat. 

However, Eric Ciotti, leader of the right-wing Les Républicains, attempted to forge an alliance between LR and the RN, leading to a civil war between factions of the party, and an attempt to expel him as party president. 

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