From Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon to Yannick Jadot, the French presidential elections which will take place in April 2022, certainly do not lack candidates. The last Presidents in office went through a pandemic, terrorist attacks, an economic crisis, social movements (eg “Gilets Jaunes”) without forgetting climate change. Yet, 9 women and 22 men have officially declared being in the run for the presidency. We can expect for this number of candidates to rise even more before the numbers drop. This is because as of yet, the incumbent President, Emmanuel Macron, has not mentioned anything about a new term. However, his recent political ploy with the famous Youtubers McFly & Carlito, for example, foreshadows that he is currently campaigning.
We should be able to expect the number of candidates of the right and the ecologists to decrease since primary elections are going to be held in Autumn 2021 in order to determine which candidate will be representing their interests in the presidential elections of 2022.
Some were expecting Christiane Taubira – Keeper of the Seals and Minister of Justice from 2012 to 2016, former MEP and MP — to run once again for the office as she already did in 2002 but she will not be a candidate for the French presidential elections as she declared on France Inter. She believes the left has enough candidates as it is. However, she also does not plan on standing by as she states “I am going to campaign and one way or another, I will find my place.”
This high number of candidates can be explained by the simple fact that there are only a few conditions which need to be respected to run for the presidency. For example, having the French nationality, being more than 18 years old, not being deprived of their rights of eligibility established by a judicial decision, and obtaining 500 sponsorships are among the few criteria required to run. Moreover, presidential elections in France are more about candidates than parties. Political families like the left or the right have subdivisions which are particularly visible during periods of presidential elections. This factionalism explains why there are several candidates in one and the same political family.
Who are they?
Stéphane Le Foll
Radical Left & Far-left
Marine Le Pen
After stating that she wanted to focus on her local term, Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo from the Socialist Party has officially announced that she is running. Arnaud Montebourg, former Minister of the Economy, Industrial Renewal and Digital Affairs, stepped down from politics in 2016 after the primaries but he announced his candidacy for these elections in September 2021. Pierre Larrouturou is the budget rapporteur for the European Parliament and after hesitating between the Socialist Party and Europe Ecology – The Greens, he founded Nouvelle Donne. The last candidate from the left, Stéphane Le Foll, is part of the Socialist Party as Anne Hidalgo.
Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Christophe Lagarde have not announced their candidacy yet but the head of the Union of Democrats and Independents, Jean-Christophe Lagarde, stated that he would announce his decision in Autumn 2021.
Regarding the incumbent French president Emmanuel Macron, even though he is not a declared candidate, his recent trip to Marseille lets us believe that he is indeed campaigning for the presidential elections.
Three of the five candidates for the primaries belong to Europe Ecology – The Greens: Vice-President of the University of Lille Sandrine Rousseau, MEP Yannick Jadot and Grenoble’s mayor Éric Piolle. MP and President of Ecology Generation, Delphine Batho, announced her candidacy in July 2021 and the entrepreneur Jean-Marc Governatori is co-president of Cap Ecology which is the result of a merger between Cap21 and the Independent Ecological Alliance.
The first round of the primary elections for the ecologists were held from September 16 to September 19. Thus, Yannick Jadot arrived first with 27.70% followed closely by Sandrine Rousseau with 25.14%. The second tour is currently being held from September 25 to September 28.
As for Antoine Waechter, he declared being a candidate under the party he founded in 1994, the Independent Ecological Movement and he chose not to participate to the primaries.
Five out of the eight candidates are participating to primary elections: Denis Payre, Eric Ciotti, Michel Barnier, Philippe Juvin – which are all members of The Republicans - and Valérie Pécresse.
Jacline Mouraud claims to be from a “social right”. Jean-Frédéric Poisson used to be Christine Boutin’s right-hand before he replaced her as head of the Christian-Democratic Party. As for Xavier Bertrand, he was a Minister under Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy.
Radical Left and Far left
Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s candidacy for these presidential elections is his third. He obtained 19.6% of the votes at the first round in 2017. As for Fabien Roussel, he is the head of the French Communist Party.
Nathalie Arthaud has been advocating for the party Lutte Ouvrière since she was eighteen years old, and she has been a candidate for the elections since December 2020. The militant Marxist Anasse Kazib is a railwayman and a trade unionist. Like Jean-Luc Mélenchon, this is Philippe Poutou’s third candidacy for the French presidential elections, and he is a member of the New Anticapitalist Party.
In January 2020, the daughter of the co-founder of the National Front, Marine Le Pen, announced her candidacy. In 2017, she obtained 21.3% of the votes and lost against Emmanuel Macron at the second round. As for the Eurosceptic founder of Debout la France, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan announced his candidacy in September 2020. The candidate Antoine Martinez, leader of the radical group created after the terrorist attacks which took place in Paris in November 2015, has also been in the run since 2020. Florian Philippot used to be part of the National Front alongside Marine Le Pen, but he left the party in 2017 to take the lead of The Patriots which is a Eurosceptic and nationalist party.
As he stated in a recent debate with Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Eric Zemmour’s priority as a potential candidate is fighting immigration.
François Asselineau and Jean Lassale were already candidates in the presidential elections of 2017. Asselineau believes in “Frexit” meanwhile Lassale is known for his hunger strike in 2006 or also for singing the Occitan anthem in the National Assembly to contest an announcement by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2003. Hélène Thouy is an attorney and the co-founder and co-president of the Animalist Party. Mayor Marie Cau believes in surrogacy which she wishes to legalize. The youngest candidate, Clara Egger, is a teacher-researcher specialized in international relations. As for Alexandre Langlois, he claims to be a candidate “neither on the right nor the left”. Finally, the last candidate is Georges Kuzmanovic. He believes in France leaving the European Union, the Eurozone and his slogan is “Reprendre le contrôle” meaning “Take back control” which is the same that was used by the Brexit Party across the Channel.
Rule of the 500 sponsorships
The candidates running are required to have 500 sponsorships of elected representative people (such as MPs, mayors, senators, councilmen and councilwomen, …). This rule has existed for the elections of the President of the Republic at universal direct suffrage since 1962 under the Article 3 of the Act of November 6, 1962.
There have been changes since then, however, for example: after the writs are published, the collection of the sponsorships begins. Since March 29, 2021, this writ has to be published “at least ten weeks before the date of the first round”.
In 1965, 1969 and 1974, for the three firsts presidential elections at direct universal suffrage, only 100 sponsorships were required to run. But 12 candidates ran for the presidency in 1974 and therefore a reform was adopted on June 18, 1976. From now on, the candidates would need 500 sponsorships.
Moreover, the act from 1962 has a clause stipulating that the candidates must represent France at a national level and not just focus on a local area. For example, the sponsors must be from at least 30 different departments or overseas collectivity, but a candidate cannot have more than a tenth of their sponsorship in the same department or collectivity – in this case, it means that they cannot have more than 50 sponsors in the same department or collectivity.
Why does this rule exist? This act was passed in order to prevent both having too many candidates and having unreliable ones. However, this Act is criticized and often questioned as it has been less and less efficient over the years. For instance, 16 candidates ran for the presidential elections of 2002, which was the highest it had ever been, and 11 declared candidates ran for the office in 2017. Is a new record going to be achieved next year and if so, should this act be revisited since it is not fulfilling its mission anymore?
The official list of candidates will be published by the Constitutional Council in March 2022. The candidates on the list will be able to participate to the first round of the French presidential elections of 2022 that will take place on April 10, 2022. However, if no candidate wins a majority of the vote at the first round, then a second round with be held on April 24, 2022, only with the top two candidates.
According to a study from Ipsos partnering with Sopra Steria, at fifteen months before the Presidential elections, 38% of the French people think that Emmanuel Macron would make a good president against 30% for Marine Le Pen and 29% for Xavier Bertrand. Of the respondents, 18% thought Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo and the president of La France insoumise, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, would be a good President.
The top two candidates are the incumbent president Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen with 24 to 27% of the voting intentions for Macron and 25% à 26.5% for Le Pen according to the hypotheses of the study.
Even though the number of candidates will decrease because of primaries this year for two of the political groups, we can still expect a high number of candidates for the 2022 presidential elections. Does it mean that the rule of 500 sponsorships could be modified once more? Most importantly, this high number of candidates shows that people are not satisfied with the political spectrum they used to have. In France, there is a common thinking that every politician is the same: full of empty promises. It is common to hear French people say that they do not vote for the candidate they believe in most anymore, they vote for the candidate they dislike the least. For instance, in the second round of the 2017 presidential elections which opposed Emmanuel Macron to Marine Le Pen, the rate of abstention was 25.44%. Moreover, this round also had the highest rate of blank votes under the Vth French Republic with 8.49% according to the Interior ministry. In total, the rate of blank and invalid votes was 12% which means that between the rate of abstention and the blank and invalid votes, 1/3 of French people were not satisfied with the candidates according to RTL.
French people claim they are tired of always seeing the same faces and they want change. Therefore, why are the two top candidates identical as in 2017? Wanting change and taking a leap of faith into a new candidate are two very different things. In the long run, maybe trusting a known candidate is easier than turning to someone new, full of promises.
Given the complexity of the world we live in and the challenges we must face, should we perceive this large panel of choices as an opportunity? Or is it confusing for the citizens to have these many candidates? Ultimately, should we expect a duel between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen as it was the case in the presidential elections of 2017?