French presidential election 2022: your questions answered

PARIS — The French go to the polls this month to choose their president, who holds the most powerful post in France and wields considera...


PARIS — The French go to the polls this month to choose their president, who holds the most powerful post in France and wields considerable control over domestic and foreign policy, in one of the most populous and remote member states. most influential in the European Union.

The war in Ukraine dominated media coverage in France and largely overshadowed the campaign. President Emmanuel Macron was accused of using his status as a warlord and Head of European diplomacy to avoid facing off against his opponents and embarking on a second term, with some critics fearing the lopsided campaign lacked substantive debate.

But the race has recently opened with a push from his main challenger, Marine Le Penthe far-right leader with an anti-EU, anti-NATO and pro-Russia platform that would reverberate around the world if she won.

Here’s what you need to know about the ballot, which will take place in two rounds on April 10 and 24.

France, a nation of more than 67 million inhabitants, is the first country in the world seventh economyin the world the most visited country, one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and a nuclear power. It is a founding member of the European Union and an essential driver of its policy.

The next French president will have to help the country navigate between two forces that are currently rocking Europe: a brutal Russian invasion of Ukraine that has displaced millions of people at the gates of the continent, and an economic recovery linked to the pandemic that puts straining supply chains.

French presidents have fearsome powers at their disposal – more than most Western leaders, with fewer checks and balances that limit executive power in other countries.

Unlike British prime ministers or German chancellors, who are chosen by the parties that control the most seats in parliament, French presidents are elected directly by the people for a five-year term. Shortly after this election, France returns to the polls to vote for representatives to the National Assembly, the most powerful chamber of parliament, where terms also last five years.

Having these two elections on the same five-year cycle greatly increases the likelihood of France voting lawmakers who support their newly elected president, meaning French presidents don’t have to worry as much as some other leaders of internal party unrest or midterm elections. . The French Prime Minister, as head of government, plays an important role in the constitutional system, as does Parliament. But the president, who appoints the prime minister, sets much of France’s agenda.

There are 12 official candidates, but polls suggest that only a handful have a chance of winning.

The current favorite is Mr Macron, 44, a former investment banker elected in 2017 with little political experience and who is seeking a second term. He was elected on the ruins of traditional French political parties with a strong pro-business platform. He overhauled the labor code, abolished a wealth tax and reformed the national railway company. But his reformist zeal was tempered by massive strikes on its plans for pension reform, Yellow vest demonstrations and the coronavirus pandemic. The war in Ukraine put him ahead in the polls, but his lead has narrowed recently, to around 25% in voter polls.

Several candidates are jostling for third place and polling between 10 and 15 percent, hoping for a last-minute push that would send them to the second ballot.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, 70, is the leader of the far-left party La France Insoumise, and the left-wing candidate best placed to reach the second round. A veteran politician and skilled speaker known for his fiery rhetoric and divisive personality, he pledged to invest in green energy, lower the legal retirement age, raise the monthly minimum wage and redistribute wealth by taxing the rich. He also wants a radical overhaul of the French Constitution to reduce presidential powers.

Valerie Pécresse, 54, is a politician who presides over the Ile-de-France region in France, an economic and demographic powerhouse that includes Paris. She is the candidate of the Republicans, the dominant French conservative party. Several of his economic proposals, such as raising the legal retirement age to 65, are similar to those of Mr Macron. But in an election where more radical voices set the tone of the debate on the right, she took a difficult turn on issues like immigration and criminalityleaving her struggling to stand out from other right-wing candidates.

Eric Zemmour63, is a far-right writer, pundit and TV star who has been part of the French media for years but whose campaign, with echoes of Donald J. Trumpat French politics muddled. He is a nationalist who conjures up images of a France in steep decline due to immigration and Islam, and he was sentenced several times for violating laws that punish defamation or acts provoking hatred or violence on the basis of race and religion. His prospects have recently been discoloration.

The remaining candidates vote in single digits and have little chance of reaching the second round. Among them are Anne Hidalgo62 years old, mayor of Paris and candidate for the moribund Socialist Party, and Yannick Jadot54, the candidate for the Greens party, who is struggling to gain ground despite growing support in France for environmental causes.

A candidate who obtains an absolute majority of votes in the first ballot is elected outright, an unlikely result that has not happened since 1965 – the first time a French president was chosen by direct universal suffrage. Instead, a run-off is usually held between the top two candidates.

French electoral regulations are strict, with strict limits on campaign finance and airtime, and with financial and logistical support from the state intended to level the playing field. rich, giving them a way to influence elections.)

  • Campaign spending is capped at about 16.9 million euros for first-round candidates, or about $18.5 million, and about 22.5 million euros for those who reach the second. Those who flout the rules — like Nicolas Sarkozy, The right-wing former French president faces fines and criminal penalties.

  • Private companies cannot make campaign donations and individuals can only donate up to €4,600 for the entire election. Candidates are reimbursed for part of their campaign expenses and the state covers certain expenses.

  • Airtime is tightly regulated by French Media Observatory. As a first step, TV and radio stations must ensure that candidates receive visibility roughly commensurate with their political prominence, based on factors such as polls, parliamentary representation and election results. previous. When the campaign officially begins, two weeks before the vote, all candidates get equal airtime. Campaigning on voting weekends is prohibited.

At 8 p.m. on election day, April 10, French media will work with pollsters to publish projected results based on preliminary vote counts. This will give a good indication of who should qualify for the second round, but if the race is tight the projections may not become clear until later. The official results will be available on the Ministry of the Interior website.

The two candidates in the second round will face each other in a televised debate before the second round of voting on April 24. If Mr. Macron is not re-elected, the new president will have until May 13 to take office. Attention will then turn to the elections to the National Assembly. All seats there will be up for grabs, in a similar two-round voting system, on June 12 and 19.

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