Polls open this Sunday for the first round of the 2017 french presidential election. The election is shaping up to be pivotal for the future of the European Union. Here we take a look at the electoral system in France as well as the key players in this year’s election.
French Presidential Election: How it Works
French Presidential elections operate under a two-round system, also known as runoff voting. In 2017, the first round will take place on April 23 and the second “runoff” round is scheduled for May 7. However, round two will only happen if none of the 11 candidates wins more that 50 percent of the vote in round one. If so, then the two candidates who win the highest number of votes in round one face-off for the presidency in round two. This is the most likely outcome. Under the 1958 constitution of the French Fifth Republic, presidents serve terms of five years before fresh elections are held.
So who are the key players this year and why is 2017 shaping up as a unique year?
Firstly, President Francois Hollande of the centre-left Socialist Party announced last year that he would not be seeking reelection. Citing weak approval ratings as his reason for standing aside, Hollande is the first french president of the Fifth Republic not to seek reelection.
Secondly, pre-election polls suggest that the next french president will likely come from outside the two major parties. This would be the first time in decades that this has happened. Hollande’s replacement as Socialist Party candidate, Benoît Hamon, is essentially out of the running based on recent polling data. Moreover, the campaign of the centre-right Republican candidate, Francois Fillion, has been rocked by the so-called “Penelopegate” scandal. The scandal centers around a police investigation into allegations of misuse of public funds. It is alleged that Fillon’s wife Penelope, as well as two of his children, were paid 900,000 euros of public funds for work which wasn’t actually done during his time as a parliamentarian. Although the investigation is still ongoing, Fillon’s polling numbers now suggest he’ll be eliminated after the first round of voting.
So that leaves us with two front-runners outside of the two major parties: Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. Emmanuel Macron is a 39-year-old former banker and was Francois Hollande’s minister for the economy. He resigned his ministry in 2016 to establish “En Marche!”, a socially liberal, economic centrist party. Macron is running on a pro-EU policy platform, and also proposes cuts to corporate tax rates whilst maintaining the retirement age and pensions. Furthermore, he has proposed a 50 billion-euro investment program to combat France’s high level of unemployment.
Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, is running as an anti-EU, anti-immigration candidate for the far-right National Front. In policies aimed at putting ‘native French’ first, Le Pen has vowed to significantly reduce immigration. She also aims to prioritize welfare, housing, and jobs for french nationals. Furthermore, riding a wave of anti-EU sentiment following Brexit, Le Pen has promised to hold a referendum on EU membership within six months of taking office. If France, a key founding member of the EU, were to exit the union, the future of both the EU and the eurozone will hang in the balance.
So those are the two favorites heading into this Sunday’s first round of voting according to the polls. But if we’ve learned anything from recent elections it’s that polling data has been increasingly unreliable. Therefore, a surprise result cannot be ruled out. This could include the progression of far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon or the under-siege Fillon into the second round.
Whatever the case, we’ll be here to cover the french presidential election results on Monday!