EXPLAINED: The very precise rules of French election billboards

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?

EXPLAINED: The very precise rules of French election billboards
Size, location and event colours - the rules on election posters are strict in France. Photo: Damien Meyer/AFP

It’s regional election time in France – voters head to the polls on June 20th and again on June 27th. Up for grabs are seats and control of the regional councils in metropolitan and overseas France – including the Corsican Assembly, Assembly of French Guiana and Assembly of Martinique – for the next six years.

The billboards are a vital part of the election process. They will pop up again next year for the Presidential elections and at every municipal, regional and European election.

READ ALSO Five minutes to understand: The 2022 French presidential election

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 the first round of voting. Each candidate, pair of candidates or list of candidates, 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 – in the regional elections, this draw takes place in the préfecture.

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, 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.

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‘I’ve lost my eyebrows – but not my political ambition’, says France’s ex PM

France's former prime minister Edouard Philippe, a leading contender to succeed President Emmanuel Macron in 2027 elections, has opened up about a hair loss condition he says will not diminish his political ambition.

'I've lost my eyebrows - but not my political ambition', says France's ex PM

The 52-year-old politician, who spearheaded the government’s fight against the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, was a familiar face on television with his trademark brown beard.

Since leaving the post in the summer of 2020 and working as mayor of the Normandy port of Le Havre, his appearance has drastically changed with his hair and beard thinning and turning white suddenly.

“This is what had happened to me: I lost my eyebrows, and I don’t think they will come back,” he told BFMTV in an interview late Thursday.

“My beard has turned white, it’s falling out a bit and the hair too.

“The moustache is gone, I don’t know if it will come back, but I would be surprised,” he said.

“I have what is called alopecia,” he added, opening up about the auto-immune condition that accelerates hair loss.

He said the condition was “not painful, dangerous, contagious or serious”.

Philippe’s wry and avuncular style proved popular with many French and some speculated that his high approval ratings had caused tensions with Macron, with replaced him as Prime Minister in the summer of 2020.

Philippe now regularly tops polls of France’s most-loved and most-trusted politicians. 

He has now founded a new centrist party called Horizons that is allied with Macron’s ruling faction but also unafraid of showing an independent streak.

Some analysts see Philippe as an obvious potential successor to Macron, who must leave office after serving the maximum two terms in 2027.

And Philippe insisted that his condition would not stand in the way of his political plans.

“That doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my city,” he said referring to Le Havre.

Tellingly, he added: “It doesn’t stop me from being extremely ambitious for my country.”

With France buffeted by strikes and protests as the government seeks to push through landmark pension reform, Philippe gave his full backing to Macron for the changes.

He said he supported the changes “without ambiguity, without any bad note or any other kind of little complication”.