The 12: Meet all of France’s Presidential candidates

Voters in France head to the polls on Sunday for the first round of what appears to be an increasingly tense Presidential election.

The 12 candidates competing in the French presidential election have released official campaign videos.
The 12 candidates in the French presidential election. (Photo: Joël Saget and Eric Feferberg / AFP)

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

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


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.