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French elections: What is 'parrainage' and how does it affect candidates?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 9 Feb, 2022 Updated Wed 9 Feb 2022 16:21 CEST
French elections: What is 'parrainage' and how does it affect candidates?
Getting onto the ballot paper requires the support of elected officials. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

If you follow French politics, it's about this time that you will start to see a lot of mentions of parrainage - here's what that means and how it affects the race for the presidency.

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The French word parrainage means sponsorship or guardianship and it comes from parrain - godfather.

Just as in English, parrain can be used in its literal sense for a child's godfather (godmother is marraine) or a more general sense for anyone who is a powerful figure - the classic mafia movie The Godfather is Le Parrain in France.

But in the context of presidential elections it has a more specific meaning, which is to do with how you get onto the ballot paper.

In order to be a candidate in a French election you have to be a French citizen aged 18 years or over. 

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But you also need to collect at least 500 signatures (or parrainages) from elected officials to back your campaign.

These can be from anyone elected to public office from village mayors to MPs, MEPs and Senator but there are some rules - the officials must come from at least 30 different French départements or overseas French territories and no more than 50 signatures can come from one département or overseas territory.

This year, candidates have until March 4th to gain the signatures they need, if you're on French social media you may recently have spotted lots of obscure politicians tweeting pictures of either a signed form or a letter being popped into the postbox - they're making a public declaration of their parrainage.

 

You don't need to be on Twitter though, the names of all the officials who have given their signatures will be published on March 8th, along with the list of candidates who have gained the required 500 and therefore their place on the ballot paper. 

Until that date, the question of who has the required numbers of parrainages is the subject of a lot of speculation and newspaper headlines, as well as charts like the one below, which are generally based on public declarations of support.

https://twitter.com/Laurent_Beauvai/status/1491158905564823552

 

You can follow all the latest news and explanations of the 2022 presidential election campaign HERE.

 

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