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The Constitutional council's duties relating to the presidential election

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2012 presidential election - general presentation

"The Constitutional Council shall ensure the proper conduct of the election of the President of the Republic. It shall examine complaints and shall proclaim the results of the vote" (Article 58 of the Constitution).

In relation to the presidential election, the Constitutional Council has a broad mission covering the preparation and conduct of balloting, the proclamation of the results and challenges filed by candidates against the decisions of the National Commission of Campaign Accounts and Political Financing [Commission nationale des comptes de campagne et des financements politiques, CNCCFP].

Before the election

The Constitutional Council must receive all preparatory acts relating to the election adopted for the purposes of organising the ballot by the Government and the relevant administrative authorities pursuant to Article 3 of Law no. 62-1292 of 6 November 1962 on the election of the President of the Republic and Article 46 of Ordinance no. 58-1067 of 7 November 1958 :

  • Formal notice to electors;
  • Applicable regulatory texts;
  • Circulars to prefects and mayors;
  • Electoral documents such as reports, standard form ballot papers, etc.;
  • Various notes intended for the candidates.
  • The first note on which the Constitutional Council is consulted is that relating to the procedures for financing the election campaign laid down by the National Commission of Campaign Accounts and Political Financing. Since candidates' campaigns may start during the year leading up to the month in which the ballot is held, the Constitutional Council has to rule very early on the election.

This consultation and preparatory activity is carried out during the months running up to the election. The Constitutional Council accordingly

  • approves the proposal form,
  • finalises the computer processing procedure for proposals,
  • carries out all factual and legal checks which may be necessary in order to draw up the official list of candidates;
  • answers questions put by the candidates, the institutions or the media;
  • provides guideline information to the public (website www.conseil-constitutionnel.fr);
  • prepares the implementation of logistical arrangements (including in particular computer logistics) for the national counting of votes, in consultation with the Interior Minister;
  • appoints its delegates (1,400 magistrates) to monitor electoral operations on site.
Election day

The Constitutional Council may be contacted at any time by telephone (essentially intended for its delegates) and receives any information relating to the conduct of the balloting and any difficulties.

Immediately after each round of voting

The Council validates the results acting as the national vote counting commission, examines challenges and the reports from its delegates, makes any adjustments which may be necessary and then proclaims the results.

After the announcement of the result

The Constitutional Council is the sole arbiter on challenges brought by the candidates objecting to decisions issued regarding their campaign accounts by the National Commission of Campaign Accounts and Political Financing. This activity may occur around six months after the election.

* * *

The "peak periods" of the Council's activity remain

  • the acceptance of submissions of candidacies ("parrainages" or proposals) and the preparation of the list of candidates,
  • general monitoring of each round of voting,
  • the announcement of the result.

Monitoring of the electoral campaign is essentially a matter for independent administrative authorities

  • the Supreme Radio and Television Council [Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel] (www.csa.fr),
  • the National Commission of Campaign Accounts and Political Financing (www.cnccfp.fr),
  • the National Commission for the Monitoring of the Electoral Campaign [Commission nationale de contrôle de la campagne électorale].
* * *

"The Constitutional Council receives submissions or proposals of candidacies for inclusion in the list of candidates for the presidential election

In addition to the requirement that general eligibility criteria be met, the potential candidate must be proposed by at least 500 eligible elected officials. In order to do so, each elected official submits a presentation or proposal to the Constitutional Council within a specific deadline, according to a standard form approved by the Constitutional Council (see subparagraph 1 of Article 3 of Law no. 62-1292 of 6 November 1962 on the election of the President of the Republic).

The 500 proposals must be received from elected officials from at least 30 departments or overseas authorities, none of which may be accounted for in respect of more than one tenth, that is up to 50 proposals for each individual department or authority.

The law specifically lists the different categories of elected officials which are eligible to propose a candidate as mayors, members of Parliament, members of the European Parliament, members of a departmental or regional general council, and in general members of other local government assemblies with the exception of town councils. Around 47,000 offices confer the right to propose a candidate, which corresponds overall to more than 42,000 elected officials.

After publication of the formal notice to electors (around 20 February in the year in which the election is held), each elected official concerned will receive one single proposal form addressed to him by the office of the prefect, as well as an envelope addressed to the Constitutional Council.

Irrespective of his political affiliation, each elected official is free to choose whether or not to make a proposal and may propose any candidate of his choosing. Irrespective of the number of offices held, he may only make one single proposal for one individual candidate.

Candidates may also organise the collection of proposals on their own behalf and arrange for them to be forwarded to the Constitutional Council no later than the 6th Friday before the vote, that is for the 2012 election before 6pm on Friday 16 March. In 2007 around 17,000 forms were sent to the Council.

The Constitutional Council verifies the validity of the proposals (identity of the elected official, mandate, constituency...) and informs each candidate in due course of the number of valid proposals received.

Upon conclusion of control operations, the Constitutional Council ensures that the persons proposed consent to their candidacy and acknowledges the filing of declarations regarding their financial circumstances. On around 20 March, it then draws up a list of candidates for the presidential election, which is published in the Official Journal. The candidates' order in the list is determined by lots drawn in session.

Each candidate receives the same campaign facilities from the State in relation to the presidential election, including in particular the payment of an advance of € 153,000 for the campaign.

No later than 8 days before the 1st round of voting, the Council publishes a list of 500 names of proposing elected officials for each candidate, chosen at random from the proposals validated. No elected official who has proposed a candidate may request that his name not be published.

* * *

The Constitutional Council monitors the regularity of voting operations

For the presidential election, there are around 65,000 polling stations throughout the country and abroad, principally at embassies and consulates.

In order to monitor voting and counting on the ground, the Constitutional Council appoints magistrates from the ordinary or the administrative courts as delegates (see Article 48 of Ordinance no. 58-1067 of 7 November 1958).

On the election day each of the Council's delegates visits all of the polling stations in its sector.

They control the proper operation of the polling stations, and in particular ensure that votes are secret, free and sincere; they verify in particular that:

  • the polling stations are open and comprised of a chairman and at least two assessors;
  • voters receive all of the ballot papers containing the names of the candidates;
  • the secrecy of the election is guaranteed by the provision of booths and the requirement that voters actually enter the booth;
  • voters' identities are verified and they sign the attendance list after voting;
  • the ballot box is transparent and is never left unattended;
  • the register of objections is accessible...

In the event of any irregularity or difficulty, the Council's delegate will intimate his observations to the president of the polling station; if they are not taken into account, he will mention this fact in this report of voting operations and if necessary submit a report to the Constitutional Council.

Depending upon the level of seriousness of the irregularities alleged, their persistence notwithstanding a warning by the delegate and their impact upon the result, the Council may annul all or part of the results from the polling station.

* * *

The Constitutional Council validates the votes and announces the result of the election.

The reports on the results from the polling stations are collected centrally initially, depending upon the circumstances, at municipal level, then at departmental or overseas authority level by the counting commissions appointed for this purpose or, for voting stations located abroad, by a commission within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

These reports are sent to the Constitutional Council as quickly as possible which acknowledges their content, verifying the observations made by its delegates, examining challenges and adjusting the results if necessary.

The Council declares the results of the first round and, upon conclusion of the second round, declares the candidate elected.