Despite the recent presidential election of the United States of America, I now find myself in the midst of another presidential election here in France. Thus, I have taken this opportunity to learn more about the French presidential election process.
Some of the differences are as follows:
1) The Electoral College
The most obvious difference would be- seeing that France is roughly the size of Texas- there is no need for any sort of Electoral college. Although many people may pose the question “Why does the electoral college exist?” it is actually quite important. Sure, it is difficult to argue the idea that a whole population could vote for a certain candidate, yet that candidate may not win. However, if the election was solely based on popular vote- there would be no need for candidates to campaign around the country. In fact, they could visit and obtain the votes of the people in major cities such as New York, NY, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston or Dallas, TX, Philadelphia, PA etc.. and still win despite leaving a grand portion of the slightly less populated mid-west uninterested and not inclined to vote for anyone in particular. Therefore, the electoral college is an attempt to allot more value to the states that may be less populated than others.
2) The Term
While in the USA, a presidential term lasts 4 years, in France it actually lasts 5.
3) Primary Elections
In France, primary elections only occur withing the Socialist party and the Republicans. However, in the United states, candidates start campaigning the spring before the year of the election whereas in France, candidates start just a few months prior.
4) The French System
The French election system is very well known for being a “two-round” voting system. Within the first round there can be numerous candidates- the first round of elections this past Sunday, there were 11 candidates. However, assuming that no one candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, the two candidates who receive the most votes during the first round, move on to the second and final round.
This Sunday the two winners were:
– Macron with about 23% of the vote (who left the socialist party to create his own social-liberal party “En Marche!”)
– Marie Le Pen with 21% of the vote (of the Front National)
However it was a close second for both Fillon and Mélenchon. They both received about 20% of the vote.
5) Register with a Party
Although the rules and requirements to vote in the USA are determined by each state, in MA. for example, it is absolutely necessary to register with a political party and receive the ballot of that candidate. However, in France people do not associate themselves with a political party. When it is time to vote, they vote for whomever they want and receive a ballot with all the candidates.
6) Finally, I thought it was interesting that, contrary to the USA, in France, red is actually associated with the left side of the political spectrum and blue is associated with the right!
I know I have much more to learn about the French electoral process, but these are some differences that have interested me thus far. Until next time- and by then, France will have a new president!