2002 French presidential election

The 2002 French presidential election consisted of a first round election on 21 April 2002, and a runoff election between the top two candidates (Jacques Chirac and Jean-Marie Le Pen) on 5 May 2002. This presidential contest attracted a greater than usual amount of international attention because of far-right candidate Le Pen's unexpected appearance in the runoff election.

2002 French presidential election

 1995 21 April 2002 (first round)
5 May 2002 (second round)
Nominee Jacques Chirac Jean-Marie Le Pen
Party RPR FN
Popular vote 25,537,956 5,525,032
Percentage 82.2% 17.8%

Results of the first round by department and region

Results of the second round by department and region

President before election

Jacques Chirac

Elected President

Jacques Chirac

Chirac ran for a second term, reduced to five years instead of seven, emphasising a strong economy (mostly unaffected by downturns in Germany and the United States). It was widely expected that Chirac and Lionel Jospin, the prime minister and candidate for the Socialist Party, would be the most popular candidates in the first round, and would thus go on to face each other in the runoff. However, Jospin unexpectedly finished in third place behind Le Pen. Journalists and politicians then claimed that polls had failed to predict Le Pen's second-place finish in the general election, though his strong stance could be seen in the week prior to the election. This led to serious discussions about polling techniques and the climate of French politics.

Although Le Pen's political party National Front described itself as mainstream conservative, non-partisan observers largely agreed in defining it as a far right or ultra-nationalist party. As a protest, almost all French political parties called for their supporters to vote against Le Pen, most notably the Socialists who were traditionally billed as the archrivals to Chirac's party. Chirac thus went on to win the biggest landslide in a French presidential election (greater even than that of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in 1848, the first by direct ballot), winning over 82% of the vote.

The National Front would not appear again in the second round of the French presidential election until 2017.


Summary of the 21 April and 5 May 2002 French presidential election results
Candidates Parties 1st round 2nd round
Votes  % Votes  %
Jacques Chirac Rally for the Republic RPR 5,665,855 19.88% 25,537,956 82.21%
Jean-Marie Le Pen National Front FN 4,804,713 16.86% 5,525,032 17.79%
Lionel Jospin Socialist Party PS 4,610,113 16.18%
François Bayrou Union for French Democracy UDF 1,949,170 6.84%
Arlette Laguiller Workers' Struggle LO 1,630,045 5.72%
Jean-Pierre Chevènement Citizens' Movement MDC 1,518,528 5.33%
Noël Mamère The Greens LV 1,495,724 5.25%
Olivier Besancenot Revolutionary Communist League LCR 1,210,562 4.25%
Jean Saint-Josse Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions CPNT 1,204,689 4.23%
Alain Madelin Liberal Democracy DL 1,113,484 3.91%
Robert Hue French Communist Party PCF 960,480 3.37%
Bruno Mégret National Republican Movement MNR 667,026 2.34%
Christiane Taubira Radical Party of the Left PRG 660,447 2.32%
Corinne Lepage Cap21 Cap21 535,837 1.88%
Christine Boutin Forum of Social Republicans FRS 339,112 1.19%
Daniel Gluckstein Workers' Party PT 132,686 0.47%
Total 28,498,471 100% 31,062,988 100%
Valid votes28,498,47196.62%31,062,98894.61%
Spoilt and null votes997,2623.38%1,769,3075.39%
Votes cast / turnout29,495,73371.60%32,832,29579.71%
Registered voters 41,194,689 41,191,169
Table of results ordered by number of votes received in first round. Official results by Constitutional Council of France.

Source: List of candidates · First round result · Second round result

First round

By department
By region
By department
By region

Opinion polls


The 2002 election was the first for which the President would be elected to a five-year, instead of a seven-year, term.

In the months before the election, the campaign had increasingly focused on questions of law and order, with a particular focus on crimes committed by young people, especially those of foreign origin. Lionel Jospin was, at the time, Prime Minister of France; the Jospin government was criticised for its "softness" on crime by its political opponents. Reporting on the TF1 and France2 television channel and other media also emphasized the alleged crime wave.[1]

The first round of the election (on 21 April), which saw an exceptional number of 16 candidates, came as a shock to many commentators, almost all of whom had expected the second ballot to be between Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin. Indeed, it was this very expectation[citation needed] that led to Jospin's downfall, with a plethora of "small party" left candidates (independent socialists and republicans, Green, Communist, Trotskyist, radical etc.) all intending to support him in the second round, but to raise their profile in the first, like Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Christiane Taubira. They cumulatively took enough votes away from Jospin to (unintentionally) prevent him from reaching the second round, which he could have won. Instead Jean-Marie Le Pen faced Chirac in the second ballot. The election brought the opinion polls and two-round voting system into question as well as raising many concerns about apathy and the way in which the left had become so divided as a result of the over democratical refusal of Jospin to strategically ask the nearest small parties of his own government coalition to withdraw, like the preceding leaders of the left had done for such an election.

There was a widespread stirring of national public opinion, and more than one million people in France took part in street rallies, in an expression of fierce opposition to Le Pen's ideas. Some held up protest signs stating "I'm ashamed to be French," which parodied Le Pen's party slogan, "Proud to be French." Spontaneous street protests began in the night from 21 to 22 April, then on 22 April and 23, then as follows:

  • 24 April: 60,000 people in the streets protesting against Le Pen's success
  • 25 April: 250,000 people in the streets protesting against Le Pen's success
  • 27 April: 200,000 people in the streets protesting against Le Pen's success (including 45,000 in Paris)
  • 1 May:
    • Approximately 20,000 people turned out for the National Front's yearly demonstration in Paris in honor of Joan of Arc and in support of Le Pen.
    • Between 900,000 (according to the Ministry of the Interior) and 1,300,000 people (according to syndicates)[2] turned up to the Labor Day demonstrations and against the National Front. Hundreds of thousands of people who normally did not take part in such demonstrations came, in addition to the usual unions. In Paris, 500,000 people were seen in the streets, one of the greatest protest since the Liberation of Paris; the march was so big it had to be divided in three parts to reach the place de la Bastille.[3] In another unusual sight for 1 May demonstrations, French tricolour flags were commonplace.

The choice between Chirac, who was under suspicion for actions carried out whilst he was mayor of Paris (see corruption scandals in the Paris region) but benefited from Presidential immunity as long as he stayed president, and Le Pen, a nationalist often accused of racism and antisemitism, was one that many found tough. Some people suggested going to vote with a clothes peg on their noses to express disgust when voting for Chirac, but this may have been illegal, because it is prohibited to advertise one's vote inside the voting precinct. In the days before the second ballot, a memorable poster was put up of Chirac with the slogan "Vote for the Crook, not the Fascist".[4] Chirac defeated Le Pen by a landslide.

See also


  1. GARRIGOS Raphaël & ROBERTS Isabelle (23 April 2002). "L'insécurité, programme préféré de la télé". Libération (in French). Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  2. Vincent Glad (29 September 2010). "Écarts entre les chiffres police/syndicats: record battu". Slate (in French). Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  3. "Manifestation à Paris le 1er mai 2002 contre Jean-Marie Le Pen" (in French). Institut national de l'audiovisuel. 1 May 2002. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  4. "Votez escroc, pas facho!". Libération (in French). 23 April 2002. Retrieved 21 February 2012.

Further reading

  • Bélanger, Éric, et al. "Party, ideology, and vote intentions: Dynamics from the 2002 French Electoral Panel." Political Research Quarterly 59.4 (2006): 503-515. Online
  • Durand, Claire, André Blais, and Mylène Larochelle. "The polls in the 2002 French presidential election: An autopsy." Public Opinion Quarterly 68.4 (2004): 602-622. Online
  • Etienne, Anne. "Do Election Results Represent People's Political Ideologies? A Study of the French 2002 Presidential Elections." French Politics 5.1 (2007): 20–32.
  • Gaffney, John, ed. The French Presidential and Legislative Elections of 2002 (2004)
  • Gschwend, Thomas, and Dirk Leuffen. "Divided we stand–unified we govern? Cohabitation and regime voting in the 2002 French elections." British Journal of Political Science 35.4 (2005): 691-712. Online
  • Laver, Michael, Kenneth Benoit, and Nicolas Sauger. "Policy competition in the 2002 French legislative and presidential elections." European Journal of Political Research 45.4 (2006): 667-697. Online
  • Lewis-Beck, M. ed. The French Voter: Before and After the 2002 Elections (2004).
  • Miguet, A. (October 2002). "The French Elections of 2002: After the Earthquake, the Deluge". West European Politics. 25 (4): 207–220. doi:10.1080/713601633.

Official results