Saturday, June 09, 2007


French Legislative Election - Round 1 Eve

Tomorrow the French have another opportunity to vote; this time it is for the Assemblée Nationale (legislature).

The rules are similar to those in the presidential election. There can be a winner in the first round with an "absolute majority": over 50% of votes cast and over 25% of possible votes. If not, as many candidates can advance to the second round as receive at least 12.5% of the potential vote (total registered, regardless of turnout). Theoretically, in a very even race with 100 % turn-out, eight candidates with 12.5 % each would all advance (and if the vote were that balanced, the second round would give the same result!), but that just doesn't happen. In the second round, whoever receives the most votes wins, even if that is less than 50%. There can be no more than two rounds.

Another oddity is the election of "suppléants". Whereas the presidential candidates run alone (i.e. there is no vice-president nor are their vice-presidential candidates nor prime minister candidates), the legislative ballots each name candidates for "deputé" and "suppléant". The "suppléant" are sort of "vice-deputies", the official and permanently designated substitutes for deputies who can attend parliamentary sessions and vote in place of the deputies when the deputies send them instead of showing up themselves.

Why would "deputés" need back-up deputies or vice-deputies or whatever one should call them? If they don't expect to serve full-time, why do they run? Another particularity is the "cumul des mandats", which allows elected officials to hold more than one elected office at the same time! (During the presidential campaign, candidates proposed eliminated the "cumul des mandats"--but they all lost). In fact, not only is it allowed (with some limitations on how many offices and of what types simultaneously), it is expected of the current government ministers. Prime minister Fillon has stated that any of his fourteen ministers who is not also elected to (another) office will have to resign. Hence the need to have "back-ups" to do the actual legislating.

While there are basic restrictions on who can run (minimum age, mental and moral competence, citizenship, discharge of national service obligations, e.g.), candidates need not reside in the district in which they seek election. In most cases, having a local base and network is advantageous, of course, but prominent national figures may turn up almost anywhere. For instance Francis Lalanne, a singer (or, as he declared his occupation on his inscription, "poet") who has been visible on TV (and in concert, records, etc.) for years has chosen to run as "independent ecologist movement" candidate in the same district as Yann Wehrling, national spokesman for Les Verts (the Green party).

It is noted time and again that despite all the talk of equality in France,there is a low proportion of women in the legislature compared to other European countries. In the district in which I reside (9e du Bas Rhin), three of the eleven candidates are women. Only one ticket has two women, but I suppose they count deputies, not vice-deputies when they tally the number of women in the legislature.

Candidate Vice-Candidate

Male Female
Male UMP - Presidential majority party
UDF - Mouvement Démocrate
Front National
MNR-Contre l'Immigration-Islamisation
Lutte Ouvrière

Mouvement ecologist independent
Les Verts
Female Parti Socialiste
La France en Action
Ligue Communiste révolutionnaire

I doubt that a woman will be elected here; Sarkozy won by too large a margin for the Socialist to stand a chance. In fact, Bayrou came in ahead of Royal in the first round in this region, so I suspect the race will be between Loos of the UMP and Kern of the UDF (MoDem).

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