Incumbent Emmanuel Macron’s early lead has been drastically cut, and polls suggest a tight race for the Elysée.
On Sunday, April 10th, voters have a choice of 12 candidates.
These are then whittled down to two for a second round, held two weeks later.
Here, a matter of days before polling stations open, here’s a rundown of the 12 candidates on the ballot.
Emmanuel Macron (centrist, La République en Marche)
You may think you know the current tenant at the Elysée Palace, the ‘banker’ turned politician who became President in 2017 at 39.
But, the ‘investment banker’ period on his pre-Presidential CV only accounts for four years of his professional life, between 2008 and 2012, when he worked for the private Rothschild & Cie Banque.
In fact, the bulk of his career was spent as a technocrat and economic adviser, before he joined François Hollande’s government in 2012.
More on Macron’s life, passions and unexpected talents: 5 things you didn’t know about Emmanuel Macron
Marine Le Pen (Rassemblement National)
If the polls are correct, Le Pen is likely to reach the second round of voting having campaigned extensively on cost of living issues, while avoiding more difficult matters, such as her eurosceptic views, policies on immigration, and long history of support Vladimir Putin.
The far-right politician’s 2022 campaign is largely funded by loans from Hungarian banks, while for the 2017 campaign Rassemblement National was in receipt of loans from Russian lenders.
Talking of funding, she had to pay back nearly €300,000 in EU funds which investigators said was improperly used to finance party work.
More on Le Pen’s political family legacy and her life outside politics: 5 things you didn’t know about Marine Le Pen
Eric Zemmour (Reconquête)
He’s the far-right TV pundit and author with a collection of criminal convictions for hate speech, who got off to a strong start, but whose campaign now appears to be faltering – in part because he has been unable to distance himself from his long links to Putin.
Perhaps unexpectedly for someone on the far right, Zemmour is Jewish and his parents were born in Algeria, which at that point was a French colony.
He has controversially (by which we mean almost all respected historians say that he’s wrong) suggested the French Vichy regime protected French Jews during World War II and ‘only’ allowed those born overseas to be deported to Nazi death camps.
More on Zemmour’s complicated private life and checkout problems: French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Eric Zemmour
Jean-Luc Melenchon (La France Insoumise)
The far-left firebrand, in his third Presidential campaign, is snapping at Le Pen’s heels in the polls for the first round of voting, and could sneak in to the second round.
Although he likes to present himself as a political outsider, Mélenchon is among the most experienced of all the candidates running for Macron’s job – he’s been a local and regional councillor, an MP, government minster, a Senator and an MEP since he won his first election in 1983.
He had his first presidential run in 2012 then formed his own political party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) in February 2016 and ran in the 2017 election – finishing 4th with 19 percent of the vote. This time he is again running as the LFI candidate.
More on Mélenchon’s policies and his technical talents: French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Jean-Luc Mélenchon
Valérie Pécresse (Les Républicains)
She has described herself as ‘one third Margaret Thatcher and two thirds Angela Merkel’, but, if the polls are correct, it seems she possesses only a fraction of the electoral appeal of either as she comes to the end of what has so-far been a mediocre campaign.
Pécresse is fluent in four languages – French, Japanese, English and Russian – and has previously suggested making renewing residency permits conditional on ‘mastery of the French language’ … though she has yet to say what standard will pass for ‘mastery’. She generally takes a hard line on immigration issues and has called for a cap on visas to arrivals in France from outside the EU.
More on Pécresse’s family life and Soviet camp visits: French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Valérie Pécresse
Yannick Jadot (Europe Ecologie les Verts)
A casual dresser who has promised to put on a tie if he gets into office, who is passionate about environmental activism and unafraid to take on the hunting lobby.
Hunting is a highly popular pastime in France and for this reason many politicians fear to suggest extra regulations on the sport. Not so Jadot, who is on record as saying that he wants to ban hunting at weekends and during the school holidays.
As well as the environmental concerns, he was also responding to safety worries, since every year in France passers-by (and hunters themselves) are killed or injured by la chasse.
More on Jadot’s activist past and his problem with ties: French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Yannick Jadot
Fabien Roussel (Parti Communiste)
Polls show Roussel languishing in the low single digits in this campaign – but he’s clearly given French Communists a new ‘happy’ tone, and he’s made some political capital with repeated promises to “defend steak for the French people”.
More seriously, Roussel wants to reduce the French working week from the current official level of 35 hours to 32 hours, and wants to raise the minimum wage, after taxes, to €1,500 a month, lower the retirement age to 60, pay students €850 a month, and nationalise EDF and Engie.
He wants to pay for this in part by reintroducing the wealth tax that was scrapped by Macron, and tripling it.
More on Roussel’s favourite foods and Resistance links: French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Fabien Roussel
Anne Hidalgo (Parti Socialiste)
The Mayor of Paris has been unable to make any real impression on the polls, amid a wider long-running malaise in the country’s traditional centre-left party.
One of her major problems in a national campaign is that she is often regarded as too Parisian, even though she was born in Spain and grew up in Lyon. But, in the capital, she’s proving – mostly – pretty popular. She was reelected in 2021 with a healthy majority.
It seems many in the capital appreciate changes she has made – increasing cycle lanes, making popular areas like the banks of the Seine car-free and allowing cafés to expand their outdoor seating areas.
More on Hidalgo’s swimming links and labour law background: French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Anne Hidalgo
Jean Lassalle (Résistons)
He may be trailing in the polls, but Jean Lassalle can console himself on winning one vote – presidential candidate the French would most like to have a drink with – with 39 percent of those polled saying he’d be their preferred political drinking partner.
He’s also pretty committed. In 2018, he said he was shocked by levels of racism and antisemitism he encountered during a 4,500km, eight-month, hike around France that he took on to gain a better understanding of the population.
In the run up to the 2022 presidential election, he is touring the country in a big blue bus with a photo of his face and the message La France Authentique emblazoned across the side.
More on Lassalle’s sheep farming and buses: 5 things you didn’t know about Jean Lassalle
Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout La France)
The 61-year-old Nicolas Dupont-Aignan is running as a presidential candidate for the third time, pitching himself as the man who can restore sovereignty to France.
The self-proclaimed ‘best elected mayor in France’ – he won three elections in the commune of Yerres, where he served as mayor between 1995-2017, with more than 75 percent in the first round – he would like to radically restructure the EU to give member states greater autonomy and has previously voiced his support for withdrawing from Nato.
More on Dupont-Aignan’s ideas policy towards Belgium: 5 things you didn’t know about Nicolas Dupont-Aignan
Philippe Poutou (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste)
The candidate who scraped in with his 500 ‘parrainages’ just before the deadline is making his third bid for the highest office in the land, which he will then seek to abolish.
In his manifesto, Poutou also calls for the abolition of the Senate and the creation of a sixth Republic, in which decisions are made via direct democracy, such as referenda. This is a significant change from his previous election bids where he argued for moving to a purely parliamentary system.
More on Poutou’s ideas and his car: 5 things you didn’t know about Philippe Poutou
Nathalie Artaud (Lutte Ouvrière)
The teacher who acts as the national spokesperson for the far-left Lutte ouvrière party, and who thinks the Communist party is ‘too establishment’ is another who is running for office for a third time, having stood in 2012 and 2017.
She is no fan of rival candidate Emmanuel Macron, and has described his record as president as, “devastating”.
“You have seen the health catastrophe, the state of hospitals, soaring inequality, precariousness that continues… at the other end what do we see? We see billionaires that have doubled their wealth,” she said.
“The big bosses can congratulate themselves, they are happy, that is obvious. But when you go to the working class, we can only be very angry.”
More on Arthaud’s election strategy: 5 things you didn’t know about Nathalie Arthaud