French Electoral System

Elections at the national level

France’s Fifth Republic, the starting point of which is 1958, is characterized by a hybrid system, with both parliamentary and presidential features. Its uniqueness in the European context emanates from the extended executive powers it gives to the President of the Republic. The President is directly elected for five years by universal suffrage, in a two-round system. If no candidate achieves absolute majority, then the two candidates with the highest percentages qualify for the second round. The President is the most powerful executive position in France.

Elections for the National Assembly, which has 577 seats, are also held every five years with the run-off system. There are 577 single-member constituencies. For an MP to be elected from the first round, he or she has to have absolute majority of the votes cast and a vote total equal to at least one quarter of the registered electorate. If no candidate meets the above criteria, then a run-off election is held, among all candidates who received at least one eighth of the eligible voters. If fewer than two candidates meet this requirement, then the runoff election is held between the top two candidates. France is the only established democracy with two rounds for the election of the lower house (Blais & Loewen, 2009, 345).

There is also an upper house, the Senate, which has 348 seats and is indirectly elected by an electoral college. Senators serve six-years terms and one half of seats come up for election every three years.

Elections for the European Parliament

No of MEPs: 72.

For the European Parliament elections, France is divided into 8 electoral regions that elect from 3 to 14 MEPs. For the allocation of seats both the Hare and the d’Hondt formulae are used. There is a threshold of 5% in order for a party to achieve representation in the European Parliament. This threshold applies to each constituency. Voters chose between closed party lists.

-Blais, A & Loewen, P. J. (2009) “The French Electoral System and its Effects”, West European Politics,Vol. 32, No. 2, 345–359.

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