How can you run for the presidency in France?

French President Emmanuel Macron waves from the stairs of the Elysee Palace.
French President Emmanuel Macron waves from the stairs of the Elysee Palace. We explain the requirements that candidates must fulfil take his place. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)
One day you're casually reading The Local. The next, you're governing France. Here's what you need to do to get your name onto the presidential ballot.

Becoming the President of France carries a number of perks. Besides the €100,000 annual salary, you also automatically become the Co-Prince of Andorra and the Grand Master of the Legion of Honour.

The president’s salary is a matter of public record, but you may also have to face being quizzed about it by schoolchildren, as in this video.

Perhaps more importantly, French presidents wield significant power in a political system which is weighed heavily towards the executive branch. 

Presidential hopefuls in France need to meet certain requirements to get their names onto the ballot sheet, to stand a chance of legally winning power. We break them down for you here: 

French citizenship and age restriction

Firstly, presidential candidates must hold French citizenship and be over the age of 18. Equally, you cannot run if you are under legal guardianship or if you have been barred for doing so because of various tax offenses

You do not, however, need to have been born a French citizen or born in France in order to be eligible. The Norwegian-born Eva Joly ran for president as the Green party candidate in 2012. 

You can read our guide to becoming a French citizen here

National service

Anyone hoping to win the keys to the Elysée must have fulfilled national service requirements – either through the military or other civic duties.

National service has changed in France over time – and each individual’s circumstances influence whether or not they must meet this requirement. 

READ ALSO Holiday or boot camp? Young people in France brace for national service

Compulsory national service was scrapped in 1996 for all citizens born after December 31st 1978. In theory, anyone hoping to stand as a candidate, who was born before this date, must have met their national service obligations as required by law. 

Macron reintroduced national service on a voluntary basis in 2019 and has suggested that the scheme may become compulsory in the future. This means that presidential candidates of the future would probably have to have fulfilled either some kind of military or civic duties. 

500 signatures

French presidential candidates must have gathered 500 signatures of support from elected officials such as mayors, senators, MPs and councillors. 

These signatures must be drawn from at least 30 different départements, with no more than 50 signatures coming from the same one. An elected official can only give issue a signature of support to one candidate. Perplexingly, local officials can give their signatures to people who have not even declared their intention to run.  

READ ALSO Every fact you need to know about France’s ‘départements’

The purpose of this system is to ensure that candidates have at least some level of support across the country before entering the race. Some critics say it is undemocratic because it limits opportunities for people outside of the established political class. 

A law passed in 2016 meant that the Constitutional Council is obliged to publish a complete list detailing who elected officials give their signature to. This means that many local officials are afraid to offer signatures of support out of fear of alienating their own voter base. In 2017, only 34 percent of elected officials offered their signature to hopeful candidates. 

Potential candidates have up until the sixth Friday before the first round of the election to collect the required signatures. 

Declaration of interests 

Candidates must submit a declaration of their financial investments and debts to the Constitutional Council. The law now states that these declarations are made public before the first round of voting – which happened for the first time in 2017. 

You can read Emmanuel Macron’s 2017 declaration here. To give you an idea of his wealth, the current president’s life insurance policy was worth nearly €92,000 at the time.

READ ALSO Who’s who in the crowded field vying to unseat Macron in French presidential election

A new declaration must be issued before the end of the president’s term. 

Campaign financing records must be handed over to a national commission within two months of the passing of the election. In September, former president Nicolas Sarkozy was given a one-year sentence for breaking campaign finance rules in the 2012 election. 

The Journal Officiel 

Once all the requirements requirements are met and verified by the Constitutional Council, an official list of candidates is published in the Journal Officiel – the French government gazette. 

So far, at least 30 people have declared that they will stand as candidates in the 2022 presidential election. But the strict requirements detailed above mean that only a limited selection of them will make it onto the official ballot. 

In 2017, only eleven candidates made it onto the list, out of close to 61 people who received at least one signature of support. 

It’s not a formal requirement, but the record to date suggests that being male and white will probably help your chances – France has never had a female or a non-white president.


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