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Calendar: What happens and when in the 2022 French presidential election campaigns

Calendar: What happens and when in the 2022 French presidential election campaigns
Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP
When France heads to the polls in April 2022 to pick a new president, it will be the culmination of a long and complicated process which is already underway. These are the key dates of the coming months.

First of all, the different political parties will need to pick their candidate. Or at least decide how they’re going to pick their candidate.

Primaries

They were a key feature of the 2017 presidential election.

Inspired by the American model, the traditional centre-left and centre-right parties Parti Socialiste (PS) and Les Républicains (LR) as well as the Greens all selected their candidate following primary elections, which included televised debates.

The failure of any of those candidates to make it to the 2017 presidential run-off put plenty of people off that idea.

Scarred by their 6 percent score in 2017, the Parti Socialist decided they would select their candidate following an internal vote among party activists, without a public debate. On October 14th, the party voted to nominate Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo as its official candidate.

Following a vote among party members, Les Républicains has also decided against organising an open primary, and will instead nominate its candidate during a party congress limited to members on December 4th. That vote will include Xavier Bertrand (despite his previous declaration that he would run as an independent) Valérie Pécresse and Michel Barnier.

The Green Party decided to stick with primaries, though. They went through a first round of voting to select their candidate between September 16th and 19th. MEP Yannick Jadot and economist Sandrine Rousseau faced off in the run-off from September 25th to 28th, with Jadot eventually winning the nomination.

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Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen of the far-right Rassemblement National (RN) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the far-left La France Insoumise have already announced their intention to run and leftist Arnaud Montebourg is also running with the backing of a new movement named l’Engagement.

Incumbent Emmanuel Macron has not yet declared whether he will run, but it is widely expected that he will. Some political analysts say a late declaration will be in his interest, possibly not even until the beginning of 2022. 

Declaring candidates

Anybody can run for President in France, you just need to be a French citizen, at least 18 years old and eligible to vote.

However there is one major hurdle to clear before you can be added to the official list of candidates: you need to be nominated by at least 500 elected officials from 30 départements or overseas territories, without more than 10 percent coming from one département or overseas territory. These could be MPs, MEPs, mayors, regional councillors, or any other elected official.

The period in which candidates can gather nominations will begin at least ten weeks before the first round of the presidential election in April 2022, and will end six weeks before the election, after which point it will be impossible to launch a campaign. The final deadline for candidates to be added to the official list is therefore February 27th.

The campaign begins

Although in reality most candidates are already in full campaigning mode, campaigning officially begins at the end of February, six weeks before the vote.

But in terms of TV and radio appearance, the rhythm of the campaign follows rules set by the Conseil supérieur de l’audiovisuel (CSA) media regulator, which delineates three separate periods to the campaign with different rules on who can be given airtime.

In 2017, the first stage began on February 1st, eleven-and-a-half weeks before the first round of voting on April 23rd. During this period, the time TV and radio programmes spent talking to, or about, candidates or their backers was monitored according to an equity principle – meaning the time allotted to each candidate was based on their popularity and importance in the election.

A second period began on March 20th, with the above rules now applying to specific morning and evening slots, so that all candidates would be exposed to peak-time audiences.

Finally, two weeks before the vote, the principle of equity was replaced by equality, meaning all candidates must be granted the same airtime, regardless of their chances of winning. The CSA has not yet published its guidelines for 2022, but they’re likely to follow a similar calendar, with equal airtime rules starting on March 28th.

From a financial point of view the campaign has already begun: campaign spending is counted from July 1st 2021, so candidates must already begin combing through their expenses and figuring out which are linked to the campaign, if they don’t want to end up like Nicolas Sarkozy.

Decision time

The most important dates to remember are April 10th and April 24th. 

All candidates stand in the first round of voting, and then the two with the highest score go through the the second round two weeks later. By tradition, polling day is always a Sunday but because of the time difference, citizens in certain overseas territories will vote on the Saturday.

Not everybody is happy about the dates. Marine Le Pen has complained that the first round falls during the school holidays in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and Hauts-de-France regions, where her party would expect to do well, and that all schools will be on holiday for the second round.

The investiture of the new president can take place any time between the election and the end of the current head of state’s mandate, on May 13th. Recent presidents have all taken office after between one and two weeks. If Macron manages to win a second term, he will continue his mandate.

Legislative elections

But voting doesn’t end once the occupant of the Elysée is decided.

Ever since the length of a presidential term was reduced from seven years to five years in 2000, meaning it was the same length as mandates for MPs in the Assemblée Nationale, presidential and legislative elections are always held the same year.

This time, the French will vote for their MPs (députés) two months after choosing the President. The first round of voting will take place on June 12th, with the second round a week later on June 19th.


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