Elections in France

France is a unitary bicameral semi-presidential republic. 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 concerns amendment to the Constitution.

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

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.
  • 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 348 members, elected for six-year terms. 328 members are elected by an electoral college consisting of elected representatives from each of 96 departments in metropolitan France, 8 of which are elected from other dependencies, and 12 of which are elected by the French Assembly of French Citizens Abroad (Assemblée des Français de l'étranger) which has replaced the High Council of French Citizens Abroad (Conseil Supérieur des Français de l'Étranger) a 155-member assembly elected by citizens living abroad.

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 labour law (conseils de prud'hommes), elected by workers and employers, or those for judges administering cases of rural land leases.

French politics has ordinarily displayed 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 Socialist Party, on the right, Les Républicains and its predecessors. This pattern was upset in 2017, when neither of those parties' candidates reached the second round of the presidential election and the newly formed party En Marche! gained both the presidency and a comfortable majority in the National Assembly.

Elections are conducted according to rules set down in the Constitution of France, organisational laws (lois organiques), and the electoral code. Voting is not compulsory.

Elections are held on Sundays.[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 8 am and close at 6 pm in small towns or at 8 pm 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 before polling booths close. It has been alleged that this discourages voting in these places. For this reason, since the 2000s,[when?] elections in French possessions in the Americas, as well as embassies and consulates there, are held on Saturdays as a special exemption.

The next national election will take place in 2022. Current President Emmanuel Macron is eligible for re-election in that year.


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