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Presidential Elections

The President of the Republic is elected by direct universal suffrage for a term of seven years. The two rounds of presidential elections take place at a two week interval. The last elections were held on April 23 and May 7, 1995.

Parliamentary Elections

Members of the National Assembly are elected by universal suffrage for a 5 year term. Elections are organised over two Sundays; the last elections were held on May 25 and June 1, 1997.

Senators are elected by indirect suffrage for 9 years; Senate elections are held every 3 years to renew one third of senators; the latest election was held in September 1995 for the Departments of Bas-Rhin to Val d´Oise (the Departments of Metropolitan France are listed by alphabetical order and numbered: the division for Senate election purposes follows the numbering system).

European Elections

Elections for France´s 87 seats in the European Parliament in Strasbourg are held every five years, by universal suffrage. The last elections were held in June 1994.

Local Elections
  • Regional Elections
    Regional Councillors are elected for six years by direct suffrage; a single-ballot proportional election system is used. The last election for all regions was held on March 15, 1998.
  • Cantonal Elections
    General Councillors are elected by direct suffrage for a term of six years in two ballots by absolute majority (single member), with one Councillor for each canton (a canton being a grouping of municipalities). The last Cantonal elections were held on March 15 and 22, 1998.
  • Municipal Elections
    Municipal Councillors are elected for a term of six years, by direct suffrage. Two different electoral systems apply:
    • Municipalities of less than 3,500 inhabitants: a two-ballot majority system.
    • Municipalities of over 3,500 inhabitants: two-ballot list-poll proportional majority system. The last elections were held in June 1995.


Article 3 of the Constitution states that "National sovereignty belongs to the people; they exercise it through their elected representatives or through a referendum." Article 11 of the Constitution states that a referendum may be called by the President of the Republic on government proposal or on a joint parliamentary motion, published in the Journal Officiel, to vote on a bill dealing with government powers, entailing the approval of a community agreement or providing for the ratification of a treaty which, although not unconstitutional, would affect the functioning of institutions. The last referendum to be held in France was on September 20, 1992, to obtain community support for the Maastricht Treaty. Several referendums have been organised under the Fifth Republic, which itself was created by referendum on September 28, 1958.

  • January 8, 1961: Self-determination of Algeria (Yes - 74.99%).
  • April 8, 1962: Evian agreement (Yes - 90.8%).
  • October 28, 1962: Election of the President of the Republic by Universal Suffrage (Yes - 62.25%).
  • April 27, 1969: General de Gaulle proposes new legislation on the administrative division of France and on Senate reforms (No - 52.41%).
  • April 3, 1972: Expansion of the European Community (Yes - 67.7%).
  • November 6, 1988: The Matignon Accords on New Caledonia (Yes - 79.99%)
  • September 20, 1992: Maastricht Treaty on European Union (Yes - 51.05%)

(percentages are of valid votes)

Constitutional Amendments

There have been several amendments made to the 1958 constitution, the most recent being in February 1996.

Source: About France , from the French Embassy in Australia

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