What changes when the official presidential campaign begins in France?

The French presidential campaign only officially begins on Monday, but many feel it has already been going on for months. We explain what actually changes.

What changes when the official presidential campaign begins in France?
Election boards go up as the campaign officially begins in France. Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP

Monday 28th March marks the official beginning of presidential campaign season in France. 

This may come as a surprise for those of you feel like you have been reading about the election for months on end. But the official start to the campaign always falls two Mondays before the first-round vote. 

A number of important steps have already taken place in the build up to the election. The number of candidates running has already been cut down to 12 after a number of figures failed to gather enough parrainages – or signatures of support. 

So what actually changes on Monday? 

For most people, the official beginning of the campaign makes no difference to their lives. But there are some changes you should be aware of. 

  • Airtime 

The key change over this period is to do with the division of airtime between different candidates in the media. 

From January 1st, a sort of pre-electoral period, TV and radio stations had to allocate time to candidates or their backers in accordance with the candidate’s popularity (measured by polls) and previous electoral performance. 

From March 28th however, all candidates – whether French President Emmanuel Macron who is polling at 28 percent or socialist candidate Anne Hidalgo on 2 percent – are required to receive equal airtime. 

  • Candidates send letters 

Each of the candidates will send letters to voters, known as professions de foi (professions of faith), in a bid to sell themselves as the best option. The sending of theses letters is funded by public money. 

La Croix reported that about 100 million such letters are sent out in total across the two rounds of a typical French presidential election. The newspaper estimated that the cost of sending these letters in 2022 would be about €64.5 million. 

  • Election posters go up 

The most striking thing about the official start of the campaign season is the appearance of election posters all over the place, and the election boards go up outside public buildings.

As with broadcasting rules, each candidate is given equal amounts of space – so this time boards go up in sets of 12. Posters go up outside polling stations, which include town halls, schools and gyms.

Putting up posters on non-public buildings is possible but is strictly regulated

  • Videos 

Each of the 12 presidential candidates has made a clip for broadcast on public TV. 

At least part of the cost of these clips is covered by the state, but the variation in quality between them indicates that some kind of private finance is also used

The videos themselves are limited in duration and must be broadcast and during prime time. 

How long will the election period last? 

The first official campaign season will end on April 8th in French overseas territories including Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Martinique, Saint-Barthélémy, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Saint-Martin and French Polynesia. People living in these areas vote in the first round on April 9th. 

But for mainland France and other overseas territories, the campaign season draws to a close on April 9th, before the first-round vote the following day. The closing of the official campaign means that broadcasters cannot show electoral propaganda from midnight on April 8th. 

After the first round of voting, the official campaign season will begin again, on April 15th – lasting until April 22nd if you live in a far-flung overseas territory or April 23rd if you live in France. 

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France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.