It's basically a strong Presidential system. This is a Presidential race, and the French Constitution requires that races be won by a majority of the votes cast, so they have a 2-round system, with the top 2 finishers moving on to the run-off 2 weeks after the first round.
I have French relatives and let me say the French are constantly bewildered by our electoral system. They vote, and every vote in the nation is counted with in 60 minutes of polls closing, results are certified the next morning. No hanging chads, no lawsuits, no nonsense. And yes, you MUST have picture ID and proof of citizenship when you go to vote.
For Parliamentary elections they have single-member districts (no proportional crap) and a 2-round system, so you can't get elected to Parliament without getting a majority. If the President doesn't like the Parliament, he can dissolve Parliament and demand new elections at any time.
The party system in France is highly fractured (they LOVE to argue and dispute), and quite "regionalized," so there are more than the two biggest parties in Parliament. So, yes, third (and fourth, and fifth) parties can have an impact as they scramble to cobble together a coalition, elect a "premier" and organize the National Assembly in a way to further the interest of the their party.
Le Pen's "Front National" has no current seats in the National Assembly, though interestingly, they hold 3 seats in the EU Parliament. Because so many French view them as "extreme," they never do well in a second round.
The National Assembly elections are held AFTER the Presidential election, so on June 10th and 17th, the 2-round Parliamentary election will be held, with the winners (like the President) elected for 5-year terms.
Good summary. Thanks a lot. Especially for the mention of voter ID and proof of citizenship. I’m in an argument about that with a co-worker. Love to have France on my side for this argument.
So why won’t Marine Le Pen try to get her supporters to vote for Sarkozy in the second round? Don’t they see him as better than the socialist alternative?
They say the first round is a vote from the heart and the second is from the wallet.
Since making elections predictions is illegal in France ($100,000 fine!), Twitter users used code to predict the winners and percentages.