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EXPLAINED: The very precise rules of French election billboards

James Harrington
James Harrington - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: The very precise rules of French election billboards
Billboards for the 2024 European elections, pictured in Paris. Photo: The Local

Villages, towns and cities across France have suddenly sprouted a number of large temporary metal billboards - but what are they, where did they come from and what happens next?

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It's election time in France - voters head to the polls on Sunday, June 9th to vote in the European election, picking their representative in the European parliament.

And in France the billboards are a vital part of the election process - they pop up every time there is a presidential, parliamentary, municipal, regional or European election.

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They're for election posters and France has some strict and extremely precise rules on election publicity material. 

The boards are installed by the local authority outside voting stations a few weeks prior to voting. Each party in the election is allocated an equal space on these boards for election posters.

In order to be completely fair, the ordering of space for candidates on the boards is decided by a draw, which each candidate or party assigned a number. So for example if the centre-left Parti Socialiste is assigned board number eight, then their poster will appear on billboard eight in every town and city in France.

Town halls can install billboards at other locations, too. The maximum number of billboards per town is fixed according to the number of voters.

Candidates can also use free posting (affichage libre) spaces around town during the campaign period and in the six months leading up to the election.

According to the Electoral Code, candidates who put their posters outside these legally sanctioned areas or periods risks a fine, and their posters can be taken down. 

The panels must be large enough to allow for the correct display of at least: a small poster measuring 297mm x 420mm and a large poster measuring 594mm x 841mm.

In the case of a second round of voting - which doesn't happen in European elections but does happen in local, parliamentary and presidential elections - the posters of candidates no longer involved in the ballot should be removed by the Wednesday between ballots.

French candidates and parties receive limited public subsidies to cover expenses in their election poster campaigns. Funding is always provided after each election round, in the form of reimbursements for incurred expenses. 

There are also rules on allowable colours in posters - for example: the French bleu-blanc-rouge combination is not permitted unless they are the colours of the party logo. They should not be printed on white paper, unless they include writing or colour pictures.

Although most election posters feature a picture of the candidate - often with their better-known party leader - this is not compulsory.

France's Animalist party has become known for its unusually cute election posters featuring an appealing animal such as a kitten or duckling.

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