The (very complicated) rules for electing the Mayor of Paris

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 10 Mar, 2020 Updated Tue 10 Mar 2020 14:07 CEST
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It must be said that sometimes the apparatus of the French state leans towards a certain complexity. From the infamous bureaucracy to the rules on labelling wine, if there is a simple way to do something, then France appears disinclined to pick it.


While the rules regulating France's municipal elections are complicated in general, the Paris system is particularly intricate, and the top job - Mayor of Paris - is decided by process that makes electing a new Pope look like the essence of speed and simplicity.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about France's (very complicated) municipal elections

The first round of voting was held on March 15th with the second due on March 22nd. However by that time the country was under lockdown, so the second round will now be held on Sunday, June 28th.

Here we have a bash at explaining how it all works.

Who are Parisians electing?

Uniquely, Paris has both an overall mayor - currently Anne Hidalgo who is standing for re-election against several other candidates - and a mayor for each arrondissement. 

Likewise there is a council for each arrondissement and an overarching council for Paris, known as the Conseil de Paris (Council of Paris).

All in all, Parisians elect local officials for 503 different posts - 163 for the Council of Paris and 340 for the arrondissement councils - although some of these are the same people (more on that later).

Anne Hidalgo is standing for re-election as Mayor of Paris in 2020. Photo: AFP

Who's standing for Mayor?

Hidalgo has been Mayor of Paris since 2014 and is fighting off four main challengers: Rachida Dati, Agnès Buzyn, Cedric Villani and David Belliard. You can read more about the main candidates and their vision for the capital here.

Hidalgo's two main competitors are looking to be Rachida Dati, from the right wing party Les Républicains, and former health minister Agnès Buzyn, from the ruling party La République en marche. It’s the first time three top contenders for the top job are all women. 

READ ALSO:  From urban forests to robot street cleaners - the five possible new faces of Paris

Agnès Buzyn, Rachida Dati and Anne Hidalgo are leading in the polls to become the next Mayor of Paris. Photo: AFP

What's the voting procedure like?

Instead of voting directly for their preferred future mayor, Parisians cast a ballot for the party of their choice in their own arrondissement. Anyone standing for Mayor in Paris must present lists in each arrondissement. 

The elected councillors will elect both the arrondissement mayor and the Paris Mayor in the week following the second round of the election.

READ ALSO ANALYSIS: Does the Griveaux affair mean it's now open season on French politicians' sex lives?

When is polling day?

The first polling day was on Sunday, March 15th.

Any party obtaining more than 50 percent of the votes the first round automatically wins half of the seats of both the arrondissement council and half of the seats that the arrondissement possesses in the Council of Paris.

In this case the second round will be scrapped and the remaining seats divided between the lists that got more than 5 percent of the votes. This was the case for four arrondissements in the 2014 municipal elections (1, 6, 16 and 17).

READ ALSO: Meet the woman aiming to become France's first municipal councillor with Down Syndrome



In case of no absolute majority during the first round, a second round will be held in which only the lists that obtained 10 percent or more of the votes in the first round will be able to present themselves.

The delayed second polling day is on Sunday, June 28th.

There is an exception to the elimination rule in that any candidate whose list got at least 5 percent during the first round can team up with another party who made it to the second round.

That's why French press speculate so much in the possible cross-party alliances. Competitors could make strategic deals between the two rounds to ensure maximal support for their mayor candidate before the final vote in the Council of Paris.

In the second round, only a relative majority will be required to win half of the seats in each council, with the remaining seats being divided between the lists that got more than 5 percent of the votes.


The city has been draped with billboards of the candidates standing for Mayor. Photo: AFP

So that's the arrondissement councils but elected, but we're still only half way there.

What about the Council of Paris?

As mentioned above, Parisians elect 364 arrondissement councillors. The Council of Paris will be made up by the 163 arrondissement councillors that got the most votes in their respective areas.

The 163 seats in the Council of Paris have been divided between Paris' 20 arrondissement depending on each area's relative population size. Smaller arrondissements like 6 and 8 have three seats, while large arrondissements like 19 and 20 have as many as 14 seats. The arrondissement with the most seats is the 15th, which holds 18 seats in the Council of Paris.

Since last election the arrondissements 1, 2, 3 and 4 have been fused together to one called 'Central Paris' with 8 seats in total. That means that there will be a total of 17 and not 20 arrondissement councils this year.

So when will the Mayor of Paris be elected?

With the Council of Paris decided, we then look at the top job - Mayor of Paris.

It's the Council of Paris that elects the Mayor and that happens in the week following the second round of the election, meaning that we should know the name of the new Mayor by July 5th.

Is the Council's voting process simple? Of course not!

To win the election the candidate must get an absolute majority of votes from councillors. 

If two rounds of voting are held without anyone getting support from more than half of the Council they will hold a third vote where the person with the most votes wins the mayor title.

Still with us? Congratulations. The City of Paris' website has even more details, which you can have a look at here.




The Local 2020/03/10 14:07

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