A guide to French Socialists' presidential primary

by Hüseyin Koyuncu // Published October 7, 2011
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A guide to French Socialists’ presidential primary.

In this blog, we will explain the terms and conditions of these primaries, including issues around the implementation of this kind of elections in French territories. For more on the candidates and their level of support, see my blog from September. 


Majority Requirement with a Two-Round Runoff: The Socialists will hold their presidential primary in a two-round runoff system, which is common in French elections. If no candidate obtains more than 50% of the vote in the first round, the two top vote-getters will advance to the second round. 

Responsibility for Elections: The PS set up an independent High Authority to register voters monitor elections and declare the final results. The Socialists are paying for the primary. Many primary elections in the United States are paid for and administered by the government, but parties are private associations, not government entities. The French government will not pay for a party’s private nomination process.

Casting Votes: As with traditional elections, each voters will be verified. Then that voter will take a ballot, go to the voting booth, indicate their choice, put the ballot in an opaque envelope and then put the ballot into a transparent ballot box.  

Who Gets to Vote: All French citizens registered to vote before December 31, 2010, including minors who will turn 18 during the presidential election, the minor members of the PS or the MJS (Movement of Young Socialist) and foreign citizens who are members of the PS, can vote in the primaries if they pay at least 1€ and sign a commitment of recognition to the values of the Left.

The mandatory payment of at least one euro is symbolic.  Despite this, the PS actually expects the voter to leave a little more, in order to defray the cost of the primaries, which many project to be higher than foreseen..  The charter of commitment to the values of the left states "I pledge myself to the values of the Left and the Republic, to the draft of a society of freedom, equality, fraternity, secularism, justice and solidarity of progress’’ 

Where Can People Vote? This is one of the most asked questions by potential voters. The PS is not able to pay for as many polling places as a presidential election.  Yet, there will still be nearly 10,000 polling places throughout France. The PS has created an application on line so that voters can find their appropriate polling station. Posters also will be placed along polling routes to explain how to get to the station. Submitting an absentee ballot is not possible for these primaries It is mandatory to be physically in voting for a candidate. 

Voters’ privacy will be protected: Under the French Constitution, no French citizen can  be discriminated against for his or her political orientation.. It is therefore against the rules to disclose a person’s political position without consent.

If the Socialists try to establish lists of the people who choose to participate, the French government likely would take action and declare holding primaries in this way unconstitutional. That is why, the Socialist Party is committed by the National Commission for Data Protection and Liberties intermediate to destroy all lists of voters.