French Tradition: The French Election

The French election and political system explained …

With this years French election coming up in May, we thought it only fitting to explain just quite how it works. We have all been there, half listening to the dull murmur of ‘les infos’ hitting us with the latest political scandal that we do not quite understand. Did someone just say something about a macaron? Oh no they are talking about Emmanuel Macron, one of the candidates for this election!

Well, for this month’s French tradition we explain all things ‘French politics’.

The French political system that exists today first came about following the French Revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy in the late eighteenth century. France is a Republic. France today is in its 5th Republic, established originally by Charles De Gaulle in 1958. French institutions within the Republic are defined by the constitution.

The Republic is made up of different branches, there is the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch. The President, that the French will be voting for this May, is the head of state and the head of the executive, he or she is also the supreme commander of the military. The President serves a five year term, le quinquennat, and can only do so twice. It is the President who appoints the Prime Minister.

Fun fact: Did you know?  The President of France lives in Le Palais de l’Elysée (see the picture below) and the Prime Minister lives in l’Hotel Matignon in Paris.

The French presidential election consists of two rounds. In the first round, any candidate with a backing of 500 mayors, MP’s, MEP’s or senators can qualify. Assuming that nobody wins a majority in this round, a second round follows in the form of a face-off between the top two candidates from the first round. This two round system or ‘le premier tour et le deuxieme tour’ as they are called in French, was established by Charles De Gaulle to prevent the establishment of a dictatorship rule. The French stick by the expression that first you vote with your heart and then with your head.

The first round of the Presidential Elections took place on the 23rd April. Of the eleven candidates, those who gained the most votes in the first round were: 

  • Jean-Luc Mélenchon, La France Insoumise (FI)
  • Benoît Hamon, Le Parti socialiste (PS)
  • François Fillon, Les Républicains (LR)
  • Emmanuel Macron, En marche ! (EM !)
  • Marine Le Pen, Le Front National (FN)

French political parties are a lot more fluid than before but generally speaking Mélenchon and Hamon are considered to be on the left, Mélenchon more so than Hamon. Macron has created his own programme that aligns to neither party and Fillon is considered to be on the right and Marine Le Pen, the extreme right.

The results of the first round have already been released and it was in fact Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen who will go to the second round.

The second round and thus the election of the next French President will take place on the 7th May. This is particularly exciting time to be in France. With the next day, May 8th as a public holiday, many people will be out celebrating or drowning their sorrows at the result of this year’s election and the inauguration of a new President of France.

election élysée palace

Le Palais de l’Elysée (Where the President of France resides)