French elections: What time is the result and what happens next?

French voters go back to the polls on Sunday for the second round of voting to pick the next French president - Emmanuel Macron or Marine Le Pen. Here's what happens on Sunday, and in the days and weeks that follow.

French elections: What time is the result and what happens next?
Voting for the second round starts on Sunday morning. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

What happens on Sunday?

The format of the voting is the same as it was in the first round on April 10th – polling stations open at 8am on Sunday and close at 7pm in most places, but the big cities have the option to keep stations open until 8pm and most of them have taken up that option.

In French overseas territories voting starts on Saturday so that votes can be counted in time for the deadline in mainland France, and there will also be polling stations around the world to allow French people living overseas to vote.

At 8pm on Sunday we get the preliminary result – as with the first round these are sample votes from specially selected polling stations.

READ ALSO How do the French produce such accurate early election results?

If the result is extremely close, there is the option not to release early results and wait for a full count, but usually preliminary results are released at 8pm.

Counting goes on through the night and the Interior Ministry releases the final, completed count on Monday morning. It is usually only 1-2 percent different to the preliminary result.

So by shortly after 8pm on polling day, we’ll should be pretty sure who will be the next president of France. 

You can follow all the latest events as they happen on Sunday evening on The Local’s live blog.

What happens if Macron wins?

If Macron wins he will be the first French president to win re-election in 20 years – since Jacques Chirac beat Marine Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie to win a second presidential term in 2002.

READ ALSO Why do the French rarely re-elect their presidents?

His team has booked the Champ-de-Mars, just under the Eiffel Tower, for Sunday night, so if he wins, this is where he will make his victory speech. 

As the incumbent, he stays in the Elysée and carries on governing, there is no transition period, although there will be an inauguration which will have to take place by May 14th, when Macron’s current term ends.

We do already know, however, that Prime Minister Jean Castex will resign and dissolve the government.

This is pretty standard and allows Macron to reshuffle his government ahead of the parliamentary elections in June.

Some of his ministers will probably stay in position, but others will move jobs and Macron will also be able to bring in people from the outside. There’s been some discussion about whether he might appoint Christine Lagarde – head of the European Central Bank and a former French finance minister under Nicolas Sarkozy – as his Prime Minister. 

The resignation will happen some time in the week following Sunday’s vote, according to (current) government spokesman Gabriel Attal. 

What happens if Le Pen wins? 

If Le Pen wins, there’s obviously a handover of power which must happen some time before Macron’s current mandate expires on May 14th. There will be an inauguration ceremony to swear her in as president, and she will make history by becoming France’s first female president. 

Macron will have to move out of the Elysée – which is the home as well as the office of French presidents – and as we know from his financial statement at the start of the election campaign he doesn’t actually own any property, so he’ll need to find somewhere to live. Brigitte Macron owns a house in the resort of Le Touquet, though, so maybe they’ll take a break by the sea.

Meanwhile Le Pen will move into the Elysée, presumably bringing her four cats with her.

For Le Pen the focus will be on forming a government – and this could be difficult for her as she doesn’t have many figures in her party who have much relevant experience to become ministers and she’s already ruled out bringing some people into her government, including her extreme-right rival Eric Zemmour and her niece Marion Maréchal, who defected to Zemmour a few weeks ago. 

What happens in June?

This isn’t the end of election season because we have more elections in June and whoever wins will have to start campaigning pretty much straight away for those.

These are the parliamentary elections. Again there’s two rounds of voting, this time with just a week between them on June 12th and 19th.

In these elections the French get to elect their local representative, known as a député, which is roughly equivalent to an MP in the UK. They sit in the Assemblée nationale, the lower house of parliament in France.

They’re crucial to the president, because any laws that he or she wishes to pass have to be debated and approved in the Assemblée nationale, so if you don’t have a majority of supporters in the parliament you may be pretty limited in what you can do.

New laws also move through the French Senate, but in the event of a dispute between the Senate and the Assemblée nationale it’s the Assemblée nationale which has the final say. 

There are several mechanisms in the French political structure that allow laws to bypass parliament – there’s something called Article 49.3 that can be used to push blocked laws through parliament – Macron used that to push through his controversial pension reforms in 2020 – and there’s also the option of putting potential laws to a referendum.

A referendum means that – if the country votes in favour – you can skip steps like a review from the Constitutional Council. Le Pen has already said that she would use this mechanism to force through changes like a ban on the Muslim headscarf and discrimination against non-French citizens for jobs and benefits, which the Council would be likely to rule unconstitutional.

But even with these mechanisms, a president who doesn’t have a majority in parliament is going to have a tough time, so it will be an important campaign.  

Once parliamentary elections are out of the way we’re nearly into les grandes vacances, so we can all take a well-earned break from politics and head for the beach.

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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.