10 phrases you will definitely hear during the French presidential election

French President Emmanuel Macron addresses journalists at the Elysée Palace.
French President Emmanuel Macron addresses journalists at the Elysée Palace. (Photo by Michel Euler / POOL / AFP)
From political controversies to technical devices, here are 10 words or phrases you will definitely hear as France prepares for its 2022 presidential elections.


Elysée, pronounced “Elle-ee-zay”, is used to reference the Elysée Palace – the residency of the French president since 1848. 

It is used as shorthand for talking about the French executive branch more generally – in the same way that people talk about decisions coming from the White House or Downing Street. 

Kärcher – power wash

Valérie Pécresse, a right-wing candidate for France’s The Republicans party, has taken a tough line on crime so far during this presidential campaign. 

This has best been captured by the phrase: Il faut ressortir le kärcher – we need to get the power hose out.

READ MORE French presidential runner Pécresse to ‘power wash’ crime-hit areas

Pécresse was using a metaphor, first employed by former Interior Minister and President Nicolas Sarkozy back in 2005. The implication is that if elected, she will “power wash” the crime-ridden suburbs of French cities. 

A Kärcher, pronounced “car-share”, is a German company that manufactures power washers. 


French President Emmanuel Macron stirred controversy with an interview that he gave to Le Parisien newspaper in January, with the phrase: Les non-vaccinés, j’ai très envie de les emmerder – I really want to piss off the unvaccinated. 

The word emmerder, pronounced “eh-merd-eh” can also be translated as “bother”, “annoy”, “hassle”, “raise hell” – and is considered very rude. 

Macron was criticised for his use of coarse language – although many French politicians before him have also used inappropriate language while in office

READ ALSO Granny-hugging to crowd-bathing: Essential vocabulary for a French election

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Primaire – primary

A primaire, pronounced “pree-mare”, translates to English as “primary” – a process by which political parties select their candidate to run for the presidency. 

France’s Ecologist Party (EELV) and Socialist Party both held primaries in 2021, but the drawn out battle to become candidate for The Republicans drew the most media attention, with Valérie Pécresse seeing off other hopeful’s like the EU’s former chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. 

Parrainages – signatures of support/sponsorship

Parrainages, pronounced “pah-rain-arj”, are signatures of support that presidential candidates in France must collect if their names are to appear on the ballot on the day of the vote. 

To officially stand as a presidential candidate, you need to collect at least 500 signatures from elected officials like councillors, mayors, MPs and senators. These signatures must be drawn from at least 30 different départements, with no more than 50 signatures coming from the same one.

READ MORE Could a French electoral rule stop Zemmour from running for president?

Potential candidates have up until March 4th to collect the required signatures and submit proof to the Constitutional Council.

Quinquennat – Five year term

Quinquennat, pronounced “can-ken-ah”, is the name of the five-year terms served by French presidents. 

Five-year mandates were introduced for the first time for the 2002 presidential election, following a constitutional referendum two years earlier. Prior to this, French presidents served seven-year terms, known as septennats

La fin du quinquennat approche –  the end of the presidential term is approaching

Scrutin – ballot/vote/election 

Scrutin, pronounced “scroo-tan”, is a word used to describe “the vote”.

Le jour du scrutin – the day of the vote. 

Sondage – poll

Sondage, pronounced “son-dahj”, is generally used to mean “opinion poll”. 

They are frequently used in French media coverage of elections and provide a guide as to which issues are important for voters and which candidates are the most popular. 

READ MORE How reliable are French opinion polls?

They should however be taken with a pinch of salt. Experts note that a number of variables can influence the result of a poll, including timing, phrasing, whether it is conducted online or in-person and the make-up of the sample. 

Taux de participation – Voter participation/Voter turnout

Taux de participation, pronounced “toh de participah-sion”, literally means “rate of participation”. 

In an electoral context, this is used to describe the voter turnout – the percentage of the voting age population who cast their vote during an election. 

The first round of the French presidential election of 2017 saw 77.8 percent of the eligible population cast their ballot. This figure was highest among those over 70-years-old, of whom 88 percent voted and lowest among the 18-24 age group, of whom only 71 percent voted. The likelihood of voting was highest among the wealthy, the well-educated and the rural population. The second round saw a turnout of 74.6 percent. 

The voter turnout tends to be significantly lower in legislative, municipal and EU parliament elections in France. 

The opposite of a taux de participation is a taux d’abstention – abstention rate. 

Tour – voting round

In French presidential elections, there are two rounds of voting. These rounds are referred to as tours, pronounced “tore”. 

In the first round, the electorate can cast their vote for any of the official candidates.  

The two top scoring candidates from this first round then face off in a second round, with the highest scoring candidate winning the presidency. 

If any of these candidates wins an absolute majority in the first round of the election (more than 50 percent of the vote) then there is no need for a second round – this is however extremely unlikely.

The first round of the 2022 election will be held on April 10th and the second round on April 24th. 

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