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Five minutes to understand: France’s 2022 presidential election

It's still more than six months away, but France's next presidential election is already the source of fevered speculation, so here's a quick guide to how it will work and what happens next.

Five minutes to understand: France's 2022 presidential election
France will pick its next president in the spring of 2022. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP


The mandate of current incumbent Emmanuel Macron runs until May 13th, 2022.

French presidents are elected for a five-year period (reduced from seven years in 2000) and presidents may serve no more than two consecutive terms in office. The set period in office means that elections are held on pre-scheduled dates, as in the USA, rather than called at a date to suit the country’s leader, as in the UK.

Polling days will be on April 10th for the first round and April 24th for the second round. As is usual in French elections, both polling days are Sundays.


Voting in French presidential elections is held in two rounds.

Voters can cast their ballot for any of the legally declared candidates in the first round. If no candidate wins a clear majority of 50 percent or more of the vote then a second round of voting is held two weeks later where voters go back to the polling booths and cast their vote for one of the two candidates who took the most votes in the first round. 


This is of course the million-euro question – who is standing in 2022? With eight months to go until the election several candidates have already declared their intention to run and opinion polls are weighing up the chances of the likely candidates – however the official list of candidates is not actually published until around seven weeks before the election.

In order to be listed on the ballot paper, candidates must secure at least 500 signatures from local or national elected officials (eg MPs, local mayors) and those officials must represent at least 30 different areas (départements or overseas territories) of France. 

In reality of course, most people begin campaigning long before, but the official election campaigning period lasts just four weeks. During that time there are strict limits on how much each candidate may spend, while TV and radio stations must give strictly equal air time to all candidates.

Macron has so far not confirmed whether he will be a 2022 candidate and many of the major parties have not picked their candidates yet.

Who can vote?

To vote in a presidential election you need to be over 18 and a French citizen. EU citizens who are permanent residents in France can vote in local and European elections, but not presidential ones. If you are a foreigner who has taken French citizenship you can vote, while French nationals living overseas also get to keep their votes, and in fact have special MPs who represent the interests of French people living abroad.

You vote directly for your preferred candidate. 

Who will win?

Good question! Probably the only thing that can be said with certainty about French presidential elections is that they are unpredictable.

Here is the expert analysis of columnist John Lichfield on the likely outcomes.

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Revealed: France’s funniest politicians and their best ‘jokes’

Politicians' jokes are more usually met with a groan than a laugh, but France's annual prize for political humour has been awarded - here are the zingers judged the best in 2022.

Revealed: France's funniest politicians and their best 'jokes'

According to the jury on the Press club, Humour et Politique awards, the funniest politician in France is the Communist leader (and 2022 presidential candidate) Fabien Roussel.

His award-winning zinger is: “La station d’essence est le seul endroit en France où celui qui tient le pistolet est aussi celui qui se fait braquer.”

It translates as ‘the petrol station is the only place where the one holding the gun is also the one who is robbed’ – a joke that works much better in French where ‘pistolet’ means both a pistol and the petrol pump. 

On a side note for British readers – Roussel also looks quite a lot like left-wing UK comedian Stewart Lee, so maybe he has funny genes.

Second prize went to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy with his withering assessment of Valérie Pécresse, the candidate for his old party in the 2022 presidential election, who did extremely badly.

“Ce n’est pas parce que tu achètes de la peinture, une toile et des pinceaux que tu deviens Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, elle a pris mes idées, mon programme et elle a fait 4.8 pourcent”

“It’s not because one buys paints, canvas and brushes that you become Picasso. Valérie Pécresse, she took my ideas, my manifesto and she got 4.8 percent of the vote.”

While these two were jokes – in the loosest sense of the word – the prize can also be awarded to politicians who make people laugh inadvertently, such as last year’s winner Marlène Schiappa who, when announcing plans to ban polygamy, felt the need to tell the French, “On ne va pas s’interdire les plans à trois” – we’re not going to outlaw threesomes.

Here’s the full list of finalists for the funniest political joke of 2022 – somehow we don’t think you’re at risk of split sides with any of these.

Ex-Prime minister Edouard Philippe talking about hard-left leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon: “Il faut une certaine audace pour que quelqu’un qui a été battu à une élection où il était candidat puisse penser qu’il sera élu à une élection où il n’est pas candidat!”

“It takes a certain audacity for someone who was defeated in an election where he was a candidate to think that he will be elected in an election where he is not a candidate!”

Ex-Assemblée nationale president Richard Ferrand: “Elisabeth Borne est formidable mais personne ne le sait.”

“Elisabeth Borne is great but no-one knows it.”

Ex-Macronist MP Thierry Solère: “Mon anatomie fait que si j’ai le cul entre deux chaises, je suis parfaitement assis.”

“My anatomy means that if I have my ass between two chairs, I am perfectly seated.”

Some information that might be useful for this one – the French phrase avoir le cul entre deux chaises (to have your ass between two chairs) is the equivalent of the English ‘falling between two stools’ – ie a person who cannot make up their mind what or who to support. Further information; Solère is a largish bloke.

Hard-left MP Eric Coquerel: “S’imaginer qu’on va remplacer Jean-Luc Mélenchon comme ça, c’est une vue de l’esprit. C’est comme se poser la question de qui va remplacer Jaurès.”

“To imagine that we will replace [party leader] Jean-Luc Mélenchon like that, is purely theoretical. It is like asking the question of who will replace Jaurès.”

Jean Jaurès is a revered figure on the French left, but not currently very active in politics, since he was assassinated in 1914.

Rachida Dati to Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Votre présence au Conseil de Paris est aussi anecdotique que votre score à la présidentielle.”

“Your presence at the Council of Paris is as anecdotal as your score in the presidential election.”

There’s no doubt that Hidalgo did humiliatingly badly in the presidential election with a score of 1.75 percent. Daiti didn’t stand in the presidential elections but she did put herself forward to be mayor of Paris in 2020 and was convincingly beaten by . . . Anne Hidalgo.

So that’s the ‘jokes’, but there were also some entries for inadvertently funny moments.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo: “Tous les matins, je me lève en me disant que tout le monde m’aime.”

“Every morning, I wake up and tell myself that everyone loves me.”

But the undisputed queen of this genre is the green MP Sandrine Rousseau, whose ideas and policy announcements seem to have provoked a great deal of mirth.

Je voudrais qu’il y ait une possibilité de délit de non-partage des tâches domestiques – I would like there to be the possibility of a crime of not equally sharing domestic tasks

Les SDF meurent plus de chaleur l’été que l’hiver – The homeless die from heat more in the summer than the winter

Il faut changer aussi de mentalité pour que manger une entrecôte cuite sur un barbecue ne soit plus un symbole de virilité – We must also change our mentality so that eating a steak cooked on a barbecue is no longer a symbol of virility.

If you prefer your humour a little more scientific, Phd researcher Théo Delemazure has done a study of which politicians and political parties are funniest when speaking in parliament.

He analysed how often speeches raise a smile or a laugh (which presumably includes sarcastic laughter) and concluded that the party that gets the most laughs is the hard-left La France Insoumise.

They are also the party that speaks most often, however, when he calculated the laughter rate per time spent speaking, the prize went to the centre-right Les Républicains.