French elections appear to be a labyrinth of parties, institutions, behaviors. But France’s presidential contests serve as a guide through that labyrinth. Over the last 30 years, France has known three presidents of the Republic: Socialist François Mitterrand (1981–1995), Gaullist Jacques Chirac (1995–2007), and the current leader from the right, Nicolas Sarkozy (2007–). Having only three national leaders across this length of time gives the impression that the country has had great continuity of government, drawing on a narrow, traditional political class to replenish itself. In some ways, this impression of political inbreeding rings true. (Take the example of Chirac. He was prime minister for Mitterrand in 1986, and ran against him in 1988 and against Jospin in 1995 and in 2002.) However, this apparent continuity mask the complexity of French electoral politics. When we look at the multitude of parties involved over this period, together with the institutional changes, the notion of seamless power transitions vanishes. By way of introduction, we sketch the contemporary changes in French parties and institutions. Against this backdrop, the behavior of the French voter fits. We explain that fit through an analysis of the dominant, ordering election in the system – presidential selection.
KeywordsPrime Minister Presidential Election Vote Share Condorcet Winner Vote Choice
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.