Elections in France: Wikis


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Scene inside a polling station during the French presidential election of 2007: election officials and a standard transparent ballot box.

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France is a representative democracy. Public officials in the legislative and executive branches are either elected by the citizens (directly or indirectly) or appointed by elected officials. Referendums may also be called to consult the French citizenry directly on a particular question, especially one which concern amendment to the Constitution.



France elects on its national level a head of state - the president - and a legislature:

  • The president is elected for a five-year term (previously, seven years), directly by the citizens (see Election of the President of the French Republic).
  • The Parliament (Parlement) has two chambers.
    • The National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) has 577 members, elected for a five-year term in single seat-constituencies directly by the citizens.
    • The Senate (Sénat) has 321 members, 304 of which are elected for six-year terms by an electoral college consisting of elected representatives from each département, five of which are elected from other dependencies, and 12 of which are elected by the French Assembly of French Citizens Living Abroad (Assemblée des Français de l'étranger) which has replaced the High Council of French Citizens Living Abroad (Conseil Supérieur des Français de l'Étranger) a 150-member assembly elected by citizens living abroad.

See Government of France for more details about these political structures.

In addition, French citizens elect a variety of local governments. There also are public elections for some non-political positions, such as those for the judges of courts administering labor law (conseils de prud'hommes), elected by workers and employers, or those for judges administering cases of rural land leases.

France does not have a full-fledged two-party system; that is, a system where, though many political parties exist, only two parties have a chance of getting elected to major positions. However French politics displays some tendencies characterizing a two-party system in which power alternates between relatively stable coalitions, each being led by a major party: on the left, the French Socialist Party, on the right, the UMP and its predecessors. See politics of France for more details.

Elections are conducted according to rules set in the Constitution of France, organisational laws (lois organiques), and the electoral code.

Elections are always held on Sundays in France.[1] The campaigns end at midnight the Friday before the election;[2] then, on election Sunday, by law, no polls can be published,[3] no electoral publication and broadcasts can be made[4]. The voting stations open at 8am and close at 6pm in small towns or at 8pm in cities, depending on prefectoral decisions. By law, publication of results or estimates is prohibited prior to that time; such results are however often available from the media of e.g. Belgium and Switzerland, or from foreign Internet sites, prior to that time. The first estimate of the results are thus known at Sunday, 8pm, Paris time; one consequence is that voters in e.g. French Guiana, Martinique and Guadeloupe knew the probable results of elections whereas they had not finished voting, which allegedly discouraged them from voting. For this reason, since the 2000s, elections in French possessions in the Americas, as well as embassies and consulates there, are held on Saturdays as a special exemption.


With the exception of senatorial election, for which there is an electoral college, the voters are French citizens over the age of 18 registered on the electoral rolls. For municipal and European elections, citizens aged 18 or older of other European Union countries may decide to vote in France. Registration is not compulsory, but the absence of registration precludes the possibility of voting. Currently, all youths reaching the age of 18 are automatically registered.

Standard transparent ballot box used in France. The voter puts the envelope containing the name or the list of people for whom he or she votes and then signs the electoral roll to avoid double votes.
Some French cities used voting machines.

Citizens may register either in their place of residence or in a place where they have been on the roll of taxpayers for local taxes for at least 5 years. A citizen may not be legally registered in more than one place. Citizens living abroad may register at the consulate responsible for the region in which they live.

Only citizens legally registered as voters can run for public office.[5]

There are exceptions to the above rules. Convicted criminals may be deprived of their civic rights, which include the right to vote, for a certain period of time depending on the crime. In particular, elected officials who have abused public funds may be deprived of the right to run for national public office for as long as 10 years. The application of such rules in the case of certain politicians has been controversial; see for instance the case of Alain Juppé.

Voting by proxy is possible when the citizen cannot easily come to vote (reasons include: health problems, the citizen does not live in the voting consistuency, he or she is away for work or vacations, he or she is jailed yet has not been sentenced and deprived of civic rights etc.). The citizen designates a proxy, who must be a voter from the same commune. The designation of the proxy must be made before a legally capable witness: a judge, a judicial clerk, or an officier of judicial police, or, outside of France, before an ambassador or consul. In the case of handicapped or severely ill people, an officer of judicial police or delegate thereof can be sent to the home of the citizen to witness the designation. The procedure is meant to avoid pressures on voters.

Electoral system

In all elections where there is a single official to be elected for a given area, including the two major national elections (the election of the President of the Republic and the election of the members of the National Assembly), two-round runoff voting is used.

For elections to the European Parliament and some local elections, proportional voting is used.

Voting procedures

Isolation booth

In general, voting is done using paper and manual counting. The voter gets pre-printed bulletins from a table at the entrance of the voting office (they are also provided through the mail), as well as an envelope. He or she enters the isoloir, or isolation booth, where (s)he is hidden from sight, and inserts the appropriate bulletin into the envelope. He or she walks to the ballot box and shows his voter registration card (not compulsory) and is required to prove his identity [6] (in towns of more than 5000 inhabitants, an identification document must be shown[7]). After the officials have acknowledged his or her right to vote, the ballot box is opened and the voter inserts the envelope. One of the officials traditionally loudly says "a voté", which can be translated as "your ballot has been cast". It is purely ceremonial and has a double meaning: the voter's voice will be taken into account and (s)he has accomplished his/her civic duty. (S)he then signs the voters' list, and his/her registration card is stamped.

Procedures differ when electronic voting, not widespread in France, is used in some cities, despite some controversy about its safety and effectiveness.

Latest election



e • d Summary of the 21-22 April and 5-6 May 2007 French presidential election results
Candidates – Parties 1st round 2nd round
Votes % Votes %
Nicolas Sarkozy Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire) 11,448,663 31.18% 18,983,138 53.06%
Ségolène Royal Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) 9,500,112 25.87% 16,790,440 46.94%
François Bayrou Union for French Democracy (Union pour la démocratie française) 6,820,119 18.57%  
Jean-Marie Le Pen National Front (Front national) 3,834,530 10.44%
Olivier Besancenot Revolutionary Communist League (Ligue communiste révolutionnaire) 1,498,581 4.08%
Philippe de Villiers Movement for France (Mouvement pour la France) 818,407 2.23%
Marie-George Buffet French Communist Party (Parti communiste français) 707,268 1.93%
Dominique Voynet The Greens (Les Verts) 576,666 1.57%
Arlette Laguiller Workers' Struggle (Lutte ouvrière) 487,857 1.33%
José Bové Alter-globalization activist 483,008 1.32%
Frédéric Nihous Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Tradition (Chasse, pêche, nature, traditions) 420,645 1.15%
Gérard Schivardi Workers' Party (Parti des travailleurs) 123,540 0.34%
Total 36,719,396 100% 35,773,578 100%
Valid votes 36,719,396 98.56% 35,773,578 95.80%
Spoilt and null votes 534,846 1.44% 1,568,426 4.20%
Votes cast / turnout 37,254,242 83.77% 37,342,004 83.97%
Abstentions 7,218,592 16.23% 7,130,729 16.03%
Registered voters 44,472,834 44,472,733
Table of results - ordered by number of votes received in first round, official results by Constitutional Council. List of candidates source: Decision of March 19, 2007 by the Constitutional Council.

First round results source: Official first round results announced on April 25, 2007.
Second round results source: Official second round results announced on May 10, 2007.


e • d Summary of the 10 and 17 June 2007 French National Assembly elections results
Parties and coalitions 1st round 2nd round Total seats
Votes % Seats Votes %
Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire) UMP 10,289,737 39.54 98 9,460,710 46.36 313
New Centre (Nouveau centre) (under Majorité présidentielle banner) NC 616,440 2.37 8 433,057 2.12 22
Miscellaneous Right (Divers droite) DVD 641,842 2.47 2 238,588 1.17 9
Movement for France (Mouvement pour la France) MPF 312,581 1.20 1 - - 1
Total "Presidential Majority" (Right) 11,860,600 45.58 109 10,132,355 49.65 345
Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 6,436,520 24.73 1 8,624,861 42.27 186
French Communist Party (Parti communiste français) PCF 1,115,663 4.29 0 464,739 2.28 15
Miscellaneous Left (Divers gauche) DVG 513,407 1.97 0 503,556 2.47 15
Left Radical Party (Parti radical de gauche) PRG 343,565 1.32 0 333,194 1.63 7
The Greens (Les Verts) VEC 845,977 3.25 0 90,975 0.45 4
Total "United Left" 9,255,132 35.56 1 10,017,325 49.10 227
Democratic Movement (Mouvement démocrate) MoDem 1,981,107 7.61 0 100,115 0.49 3
Regionalists and separatists 133,473 0.51 0 106,484 0.52 1
Miscellaneous (Divers) DIV 267,760 1.03 0 33,068 0.16 1
National Front (Front national) FN 1,116,136 4.29 0 17,107 0.08 0
Other far-left including Revolutionary Communist League (Ligue communiste révolutionnaire) and Workers' Struggle (Lutte ouvrière) ExG 888,250 3.41 0 - - 0
Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Traditions (Chasse, pêche, nature, traditions) CPNT 213,427 0.82 0 - - 0
Other ecologists 208,456 0.80 0 - - 0
Other far-right including National Republican Movement (Mouvement national républicain) ExD 102,124 0.39 0 - - 0
Total 26,026,465 100.00 110 20,406,454 100.00 577
Abstention: 39.58% (1st round), - 40.02% (2nd round)

Source: Official Voting Results: Ministry of the Interior

Past elections and referendums

Indirect Presidential elections

Other elections

As well as Presidential and legislative elections, France also has municipal, cantonal, regional, European, and (indirect) Senatorial elections.


Regional elections have been held since 1986 to elect regional councillors and regional presidents: all elected to serve 6-year terms.

European Parliament

Elections for the French delegation to the European parliament are held every five years.


French senators are renewed by halves every six years through an indirect electoral college composed of elected officials and general, regional, and some local councillors.


Municipal elections to elect city mayors and councillors are held every six years.


See also


  1. ^ Electoral code, article L55
  2. ^ Electoral code, article R26
  3. ^ Law 77-808 of 19 July 1977 relative to publication and broadcasting of certain opinion polls, article 11
  4. ^ Electoral code, article L49
  5. ^ Electoral code, L44, LO127, L194
  6. ^ Electoral code, R58
  7. ^ Electoral code, R60

External links


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