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French Vocabulary and Politics : Some Background On The Presidential Election and phrases to know.

The first round of the 2017 French presidential elections will soon be held in less than a week now. Suspense! If you are an expat in France, no doubt that you will certainly discussing the election with French friends. In this post, French à La Carte shares with you a bit of background relating to the presidential election and also some French election vocabulary to help you to follow the news. Better yet, to give your opinion while debating fervently about politics.

Background of the presidential elections:

The President of the French Republic is elected to a five-year term in a two-round election under Article 7 of the Constitution: if no candidate secures an absolute majority (i.e. including blank and void ballots) of votes in the first round, a second round is held two weeks later between the two candidates who received the most votes. In 2017, the first and second rounds are planned for 23 April and 7 May.

Some simple election facts:

  • Voters must be French citizens aged 18 or over.
  • The election nearly always has two rounds because it is very unusual for any candidate to win an absolute majority, of 50 per cent of the vote plus one. Although this has never actually happened, Charles de Gaulle came the closest in 1965, when he won 44 per cent in the first round.
  • Elections are always held on Sundays.
  • After the election, the new president will be sworn in, and in the Elysée Palace in Paris.
  • In June, French voters will again go to the polls, this time to elect deputies (equivalent to members of parliament) which should in theory give the new president the majority he needs in Parliament (l’Assemblée nationale).

Election French vocabulary to help you to follow the news:

“Système electoral” : voting system
“Elections présidentielles” : election to choose the President
“Elections municipals” – election to choose the town/village council
“Campagne électorale” – election campaign
“Bureau de vote” – Polling station

“Voter (pour/contre)” – to vote for/against
“Voter blanc” – to cast a blank vote
“Voter utile” – to vote tactically
“Voter à bulletin secret” –  to vote by secret ballot
“Un vote” – a vote
“Electeur” – a voter

Election 2017 : the four main candidates

The four main candidates this year are Francois Fillon (Republicains), Benoit Hamon (Socialists), Marine Le Pen (Front National) and Emmanuel Macron (Independent).

fillon french electionsFrancois Fillon – Republican

Initially one of the favourites, this Thatcher fan, whose main promise is to cut down on France’s enormous ‘fonctionnaire’ pool, has been surrounded by scandal and controversy over past months, severely damaging his presidential chances.

Marine Le Pen french election Marine Le Pen – National Front

Daughter of holocaust denier Jean-Marie, National Front candidate and former lawyer Marine Le Pen has popularised the National Front in France with a softer approach to her father’s hard line policies. At present, she is being seen as a strong contender for the presidency, though experts say that whilst she might get through the first round, it is unlikely that she would win the second.

Emmanuel Macron french electionEmmanuel Macron – Centrist

Relative newcomer and founder of the new centrist party, “En Marche” (On the Move), Macron was advisor to president François Hollande .
He has called for a “democratic revolution” but as yet has not provided a game plan for going about it.
He describes himself as ‘neither of the Left or Right….but for France.’

Benoit Hamon french electionBenoit Hamon – Socialist

Despite being eligible, the current president François Hollande declined to run for a second term. Leadership of the party was taken over by ex-education minister Hamon, who promises to reduce the working week to 32 hours.

Now that you are aware of the four main contenders, here are a few more words and phrases to help you along the way:

“Bulletin de vote” – ballot paper
“Urne (de vote)” – ballot box
“Isoloir “– polling booth
“Se rendre aux urnes” – to go to the poll
“Dépouillement” – Counting of votes
“Carte d’électeur” – voting card
“Élire” – to elect
“Âge légal pour voter “– voting age
“Droit de vote” – right to vote

Results of recent polls

François Fillon of the Republicans and Marine Le Pen of the National Front led in first-round opinion polls between November 2016 and mid-January 2017. Polls tightened considerably by late January and early February 2017 after the satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné published revelations about Fillon’s use of nearly €1 million in public funds to employ his wife, in what came to be known as “Penelopegate“. Macron overtook Fillon to be placed consistently second in first-round polling and, in recent weeks, has taken the lead ahead of Le Pen. Polls for the expected second round of voting further suggest that either Fillon or Macron would beat Le Pen and that Macron would defeat Fillon.

With the election heating up, it is good to know the following phrases as well:

Promesses électorales” – campaign promises
“Sondage d’opinion” – opinion poll
“Candidat” – candidate
“Circonscription”  – constituency
“Premier tour” – first ballot
“Second tour “– second ballot
“Taux de participation” – turnout at polls
“Référendum” – referendum
“Résultats” – results
“le taux d’abstention” – abstention rate
“Fraude électorale” – election fraud
“Réélection” – re-election
“Se présenter aux élections” – to stand for election
“Remporter les élections” – to win the election

“la politique” –  politics, policy

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