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The French are electing their next President in 10 days: everything you need to know

Every five years, the French vote for their President

The President is elected by direct universal suffrage, which means that all citizens can vote for one of the candidates running. To be elected in the first round, the candidate must obtain 50% of the votes, which is called the "absolute majority." The two leading candidates in the first round qualify for the second round, and the one with the most votes wins.

To vote, you must be a French citizen, 18 years old and registered to vote.

The political system is very different from the American landscape: there are not two camps, but many different parties. This year, 12 candidates are running for the election, four women and eight men.

The outcome is obvious to most

The upcoming election doesn’t leave much room for suspense: Emmanuel Macron is announced as a highly likely winner by most polls. Marine Le Pen looks set to come second, which would give the same second-round confrontation as in 2017.

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is making her third run for the French presidency. © Jeremias Gonzalez, AP

To become candidates, the twelve personalities had to obtain 500 signatures each from mayors of the country that validate their candidacy. This rule avoids having too many candidates.

Most candidates are politicians, currently working as congressmen or mayors (including Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris representing the Socialist Party). But there are several exceptions: Nathalie Arthaud (Lutte Ouvrière, a Trotskyist's party defending workers' rights) is a high school teacher, and Philippe Poutou (New Anticapitalist Party) is a worker at a Ford factory. Eric Zemmour, a prominent figure of the French far-right, was working as a journalist until the launch of his campaign in the fall.

An election like no other

This year’s elections are obviously impacted by the health context. The government spokesman announced that even those who are ill with Covid-19 would be allowed in polling stations to perform their civic duty. Valérie Pecresse, the candidate of the Republican party, caught the virus two weeks ago, forcing her to turn her meetings into virtual debates at the last minute.

Another element that makes the current election a campaign like no other is Macron’s decision to turn down debates with the other candidates. So far, he hasn’t participated in the multiple political events on television, unlike his competitors. This hasn’t prevented him from being well ahead of them in the polls.


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