French presidential election, 2017
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The first round of the 2017 French presidential election will be held on 23 April 2017. Should no candidate win a majority, a run-off election between the top two candidates will be held on 7 May 2017.
Incumbent president François Hollande of the Socialist Party is eligible to run for a second term, but declined to do so on 1 December 2016. Benoît Hamon won the nomination for the Socialist Party in the presidential primaries on 29 January 2017.
According to opinion polls, François Fillon for The Republicans and Marine Le Pen for the National Front led in the first round of polling in 2016 and the start of 2017. By late January and early February 2017, a shifting and tightening of the polls began, with Emmanuel Macron for the new En Marche! organization potentially making the second round. Polls for the second round of voting suggest either Fillon or Macron would beat Le Pen and that Macron would beat Fillon.
The President of the French Republic is elected to a five-year term in a two-round system promulgated under Article 7 of the Constitution; if no candidate secures absolute majority (i.e., including blank and null ballots) of votes in the first round, a second round will be held two weeks later between the two candidates who received the most votes. In 2017, the first and second rounds are planned for 23 April and 7 May, respectively.
In order to be listed on the ballot during the first round, candidates must secure 500 signatures from national or local elected officials from at least 30 different departments or overseas collectivities, with no more than a tenth of these signatories from any single department. The official signature collection period will commence following the publication of the Journal officiel on 25 February to 17 March. The collection period had initially been slated to begin on 23 February, but a visit by Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to China on that date forced the delay of the issuance of the decree in the Journal officiel opening the sponsorship period. French prefectures will mail sponsorship forms to the some 42,000 elected officials (referred to as parrainages) eligible to give their signature to a candidate, which then must be delivered to the Constitutional Council for validation. Unlike in previous years, a list of validated signatures will be posted on Tuesday and Thursday of every week on the Council’s website; in years past, signatories were published only after the official candidate list had been verified following the end of the collection period. The end of the signature collection period also marks the deadline for the declaration of personal assets required of prospective candidates. The final list of candidates will be published on 21 March.
Starting 19 March, the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) will ensure that broadcasters offer “comparable programming conditions” for candidates. From 10 April, the beginning of the official campaign, audiovisual media will be required to ensure equal speaking and broadcast time. Campaigning for the first round of the election ends at midnight on 21 April, two days before ballots are cast. The Constitutional Council will verify the results of the first round during the three days from 24 April, and officially certify the vote tallies on 26 April; should a second round be held on 7 May, then the same procedure will be used again. The new President of the French Republic will be proclaimed on 11 May and undergo their investiture ceremony on 14 May at latest.
While the requirement to secure 500 signatures poses few issues for the five major candidates – François Fillon of the Republicans (LR), Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! (EM), Marine Le Pen of the National Front (FN), Benoît Hamon of the Socialist Party (PS), and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of Unsubmissive France (FI) – all of whom are expected to secure 500 parrainages, it presents a rather more significant challenge for minor candidates. Despite initial fears within the Mélenchon campaign that their candidate might not reach the threshold, he announced that he had succeeded, and managed to collect 517 guarantees of support, on 12 January. Meanwhile, Le Pen is expected to secure sufficient support without issue, with about 400 officials of her party eligible to sign her candidacy, and the FN stating that she was assured of 424 signatures on 16 February.
Among the minor candidates vying for a place on the ballot include Nathalie Arthaud of Lutte Ouvrière (LO), who also ran in the 2012 election and has stated that she is “at the moment on the same level as in 2012” and is “convinced” that she will be a candidate. Philippe Poutou of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), also on the ballot in 2012, claims to have secured only 300 signatories. The campaign of Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of France Arise (DLF), also a candidate in 2012, has only indicated that it is “on the right track” to obtain the necessary signatures. Jacques Cheminade, a left-wing Gaullist representing Solidarity and Progress (SP) and a validated candidate in both 2012 and 1995, stated that he had “500 promises of parrainages on paper” on 21 February. Michèle Alliot-Marie claims to have 300 pledges, Rama Yade declares 350, and Charlotte Marchandise – winner of the online primary LaPrimaire.org – claims 300; of those, however, only 42 are “ensured”. François Asselineau of the Popular Republican Union (UPR) intends to disclose his progress in securing signatures at a press conference on 3 March. Independent centrist and ex-MoDem MP Jean Lassalle claims to have secured 470 signatures, but hopes to gain an additional 250 promises to make up for those which might not sign for him. Christian Troadec, a Breton regionalist under the banner of Bonnets Rouges, claims only 251 promises.
The presidential race featured two prominent recusals. On 1 December 2016, François Hollande announced he would not seek a second term as president in light of his low approval rating and would not run in the Socialist Party primary; instead, his then-Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared that he would run for the PS nomination on 5 December, before ultimately being defeated by party rebel Benoît Hamon in the second round of the primary on 29 January.
François Bayrou, the three-time centrist presidential candidate and leader of the Democratic Movement (MoDem) – who came fourth in 2002, third in 2007, and fifth in 2012 – initially supported the candidacy of Alain Juppé in the primary of the right against his longtime adversary Nicolas Sarkozy, who he vowed to run against had he won the primary. However, Fillon’s victory – which saw the elimination of Sarkozy in the first round and the defeat of Juppé in the runoff – led Bayrou to reconsider lodging a bid for the presidency, despite a 2014 election promise during his successful mayoral campaign in Pau that he would not seek the presidency if he won. After an extended period of suspense, he finally announced on 22 February that he would not run for a fourth time, instead proposing a conditional alliance with Emmanuel Macron, who accepted his offer.
In addition, Yannick Jadot, nominee of Europe Ecology – The Greens (EELV) with 496 sponsorships just before the opening of the collection period, withdrew his candidacy on 23 February and endorsed Benoît Hamon, the pair having agreed on a common platform. To finalize his withdrawal, the some 17,000 EELV primary voters must vote to approve it electronically during the 48 hours from 24 and 26 February; a similar vote to open talks with Hamon and Mélenchon was earlier approved by 89.7% of those electors. Their alliance was consummated after EELV primary voters approved the Hamon–Jadot agreement on 26 February; 79.53% supported it, with 15.39% opposed and 5.08% submitting blank ballots, and an overall voter turnout of 55.25% (9,433 votes).
Europe Ecology – The Greens (EELV)
On 9 July 2016, Europe Ecology – The Greens (EELV) announced that it would hold a primary election before the 2017 presidential election. Those wishing to be nominated required the support of 36 of its “federal councilors” out of 240; nominations were open to individuals in civic society as well. The vote was open to both party members as well as sympathizers who could register to vote in the primary. The announcement came just days after prominent environmentalist Nicolas Hulot‘s surprise declaration that he would not offer himself as a presidential candidate on 5 July. EELV were the first party to hold a presidential primary for the 2017 election, with two rounds held on 19 October and 7 November 2016. It was contested by deputy, former Minister of Territorial Equality and Housing, and ex-party leader Cécile Duflot, as well as three MEPs – Karima Delli, Yannick Jadot, and Michèle Rivasi.
Duflot was considered the early favorite, though she initially opposed holding a primary, aware of the risk that she might lose it; and highlighted her experience in government. Her main proposal was to incorporate the fight against climate change into the Constitution. Yannick Jadot was perceived as her main challenger; elected as an MEP in 2009, he worked with Greenpeace France from 2002 to 2008, specializing in transatlantic trade and climate issues. With Thomas Piketty and Daniel Cohn-Bendit, he sought a “primary of all the left,” which failed to materialize. He rejected the “candidacy awaited by the political-media world” – that of Duflot, among others – and represented an anti-Duflot force from the party’s right wing. Rivasi only barely managed to qualify for the primary, earlier lacking the necessary sponsorships. Like Jadot, she represents the militant wing of the party – albeit on its left flank – and served as deputy for Drôme from 1997 to 2002 and led Greenpeace France from 2003 to 2004. Delli, the daughter of of Algerian immigrants, first became involved in politics as part of collective movements, and sought to become an MEP in 2009 after a stint as parliamentary assistant to Marie-Christine Blandin. Also of the party’s left-wing, she declared that she would defend a “popular ecology” and hoped to outmaneuver Jadot to the second round.
Jadot and Rivasi advanced to the runoff after scoring 35.61% and 30.16%, respectively, in the first round; the other two candidates were eliminated, with Duflot garnering 24.41% and Delli 9.82%. Jadot won the second round of the primary on 7 November, obtaining 54.25% of the vote against Rivasi’s 40.75%, becoming the nominee of the EELV in the presidential election.
The Republicans (LR)
Socialist Party (PS)
- First-round polling
- “Constitution du 4 octobre 1958 – Article 7”. Conseil constitutionnel. Retrieved 22 February 2017.
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- French Constitutional Council 2017 presidential election site (French)