French voters will go to the polls on Sunday in the first round of France’s 2022 presidential election.
Although President Emmanuel Macron is still leading the polls, his main rival Marine Le Pen has risen the ratings and now poses a real challenge to his hopes of a second term in the Elysee.
If Mrs Le Pen were elected, her far-right policies would mean enormous changes for France and for the rest of Europe.
Sky News looks at how the French president will be elected and how this year’s vote will be shaped.
How does it work?
France has a semi-presidency, which means it has both a president and a prime minister.
But compared to others similar around the world, the French president has considerably extensive powers.
They are directly elected, which means that people themselves vote for the candidate – not their party. Unlike in the United Kingdom, where the leader of the party with the most votes becomes prime minister.
The presidential vote is divided into two rounds – this year taking place on 10 and 24 April.
Each candidate with the support of 500 sponsors can participate in the first round.
If one person gets more than 50% of the vote, they win by a landslide, but that has not happened since the re-election of Charles de Gaulle in 1965.
Otherwise, only the first two candidates advance to the second round.
Whoever wins that round will be awarded – this year on May 13 – for a term of five years.
A similar vote in two rounds will then take place for the members of parliament – or deputies – in the National Assembly, the lower house of France.
Because the two votes run over the same five-year cycle, the president’s party almost always wins the majority of the 577 seats in the National Assembly.
But until 2002, the cycles were somewhat different, meaning that the president’s party sometimes failed to secure a majority, significantly reducing its power.
The new president is also tasked with electing a prime minister, to give leadership to the government while presiding over the executive branch.
There are 12 candidates in the first round of this year’s elections, ranging from far-right to far-left.
Although Mr Macron has dominated opinion polls in the years since his 2017 election, his main rival Mrs Le Pen has closed the gap in recent weeks.
Emmanuel Macron, elected at just 39, is the youngest French president in history.
Former member of the Socialist Party, the former investment banker created in 2016 his own center party La Republique En Marche (France in motion).
With the majority of En Marche in the National Assembly, Mr Macron’s pro-business policy has seen a revision of France’s highly protected labor code, nationalized railways and pension system.
This has seen him face great opposition from the Yellow Vests – or Gilets Jaunes – who have regularly held protests during his presidency.
He also had to navigate the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, like, more recently, the war in Ukraine.
Although he has played a negotiating role between the two sides, some have criticized him for holding an open dialogue with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.
Marine Le Pen
Marine Le Pen, 53, was second in the 2017 election. This will be her third attempt at the presidency.
An important far-right figure, she is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front of France and is notorious for its racist, anti-immigrant views.
She took over from her father as leader in 2011 and, in an attempt to distance herself from his reputation, she banished him from the party in 2015.
After losing Mr Macron in 2017, she changed the National Front to National Rally.
Although anti-immigration by nature and a former supporter of Mr Putin, Ms Le Pen has quickly announced her support for Ukrainian refugees.
She has also focused strongly on the cost of living crisis, which is much to her credit with her recent rise in the polls.
Leader of the far-left party La France Insoumise – France Unbowed – Jean-Luc Melenchon is the best hope of a left-wing candidate reaching the second round, currently third.
Although unlikely to defeat Mrs Le Pen, the 70-year-old is a veteran of French politics and known for his divisive rhetoric.
Its policies include draining France of nuclear energy, raising the minimum wage and reducing the presidency.
Eric Zemmour is another far-right candidate running this year.
A former columnist and TV pundit with convictions for encouraging racial hatred, he is the more radical option for Mrs Le Pen.
Fierce anti-immigration and anti-Islam, the 63-year-old’s pro-Russian views have also been a burden to him since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, with Mrs Le Pen soon dissociating herself from the Kremlin.
Right-wing candidate Valerie Pecresse already holds a high political office as president of the Ile de France region of Paris.
The 54-year-old runs for the Republicans – the mainstream Conservative party of France.
Many of her policies are similar to those of Mr Macron, which means that she has difficulty distinguishing herself and researching very highly.
Among the left-wing candidates is Yannick Jadot, a former Greenpeace campaign.
The 54-year-old has served as a Green Member of the European Parliament since 2009, representing the constituency of West France.
Mr Jadot had hoped to take advantage of the success the French Greens had in the local elections two years ago, but it does not seem likely that he will poll anywhere near the second round.
Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo introduces herself to the French Socialists.
Although popular in its current constituency, with the French left not having much success since the epic fall in popularity of Francois Hollande, the 62-year-old currently votes only in single figures.
The current leader of the French Communist Party, Fabien Roussel, has been a member of the National Assembly since 2017.
The 52-year-old’s policy includes raising taxes for large corporations and nationalizing large banks and energy companies.
A far-left candidate for the New Anti-Capitalist Party, Philippe Poutou is a former Ford factory worker who made headlines for insulting his fellow candidates in the first round of 2017 and refusing to participate in a joint photo.
It is the 55-year-old’s third attempt at the presidency.
Continuing Education Teacher Nathalie Arthaud, 60, has also run for the presidency three times since 2001.
Spokeswoman for the French Labor Party, she calls for large increases in the minimum wage and a ban on job cuts.
The only sitting MP for the extreme-right Debout la France – Rise Up, France party, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan has previously served as the mayor of Paris suburb Yerres.
The 61-year-old’s extreme immigration policy has largely been drowned out by the more popular Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour.
The founder of his own agricultural party Resistons !, former shepherd Jean Lassalle, has been a member of the Pyrenees since 2002.
Passionate about rural issues, he is well known and liked by many, but his political career is almost certain to remain limited to his seat in the National Assembly.
When are the French presidential elections, who does, and how do they work? | World news
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