French voters will be returning to the polls this year. After five years of Emmanuel Macron in the Elysée Palace, it is time for the voters to reelect him or opt for someone new. In 20 days, French voters will go to the polls for two rounds. On April 10 and on April 24.
Voting will open at 8am and close between 6pm and 8pm depending on location. Voting is quite simple. Electors are put in isolation booths whilst they make their decision. The voter inserts the ballot paper of their chosen candidate into an envelope. They put this envelope in a transparent ballot box where an official will say ‘A voté!’ (Has voted). Saying ‘A voté’ is ceremonial and has a double meaning. On one hand it shows that a citizen has accomplished their civic duty and on the other it shows that their vote will be counted.
The two-round system
In France, voters don’t vote just once. They vote twice. Indeed, all the candidates face off in one round and the top two candidates advance to a second round. However, if any candidates gets 50% of the vote, there will be no need for a second round. In the 57 years of using this two-rounds system this has never happened.
Indeed, France has been using a two-round system since the 1965 elections. It was first introduced by General Charles de Gaulle to give back the vote to the people. De Gaulle campaigned for a two-round system for the 1962 referendum.
Some have argued that voters vote for their favourite candidate in the first round and vote systematically in the second round. If your favourite candidate does not go through the first round, you still get to vote for which of the two remaining candidates you prefer.
This two-round system has no equal in North America and is rare in Western Europe. Austria and Portugal are among the rare Western European countries that have this voting system.
What does it take to be presidential candidate?
While in the United States you need to be at least 35 to run for President, France does not have a minimum age requirement (once you reach adulthood). You need to be 18 or older but no one that young has ever sat in the Elysée Palace. Emmanuel Macron is the youngest French president at 39. The incumbent has been sitting in the Elysée Palace for five years now and soon we will find out whether he will reach a decade in power.
Furthermore, to be an official candidate contenders need the signatures of 500 elected officials spread across 30 French departments and overseas, certifying their support for an individual’s right to run in the election. This is something that has been problematic to certain candidates this year. Christiane Taubira announced that she would not succeed in getting the 500 signatures before March 4th (the deadline) and withdrew from the presidential race.
Candidates had a cut-off date of March 4 to announce their intention to run in the elections, as well as to deposit their 500 signatures. Macron left it hours before the March 4 deadline to declare that he was running for a second mandate.
This presidential race is one to watch. In only 20 days we will find out if Macron will serve for another five years or if someone else will take over!