2002 French presidential election

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2002 French presidential election
Flag of France.svg
  1995 21 April 2002 (first round)
5 May 2002 (second round)
Turnout71.60% (first round) Decrease2.svg6.78 pp
79.71% (second round) Increase2.svg0.05 pp
  Jacques Chirac 2004 (cropped).jpg Jean-marie le pen cropped.jpg
Nominee Jacques Chirac Jean-Marie Le Pen
Party RPR FN
Popular vote25,537,9565,525,032

Election presidentielle francaise de 2002 T1 carte departements & regions.svg
Results of the first round by department and region

Election presidentielle francaise de 2002 T2 carte departements & regions.svg
Results of the second round by department and region

President before election

Jacques Chirac

Elected President

Jacques Chirac

Presidential elections were held in France on 21 April 2002, with a runoff election between the top two candidates, incumbent Jacques Chirac of the Rally for the Republic and Jean-Marie Le Pen of the National Front, on 5 May. This presidential contest attracted a greater than usual amount of international attention because of far-right candidate Le Pen's unexpected appearance in the runoff election.


Chirac ran for a second term, reduced to five years instead of seven previously by a 2000 referendum, emphasising a strong economy (mostly unaffected by downturns in Germany and the United States). It was widely expected that Chirac and Lionel Jospin, the outgoing cohabitation Prime Minister and nominee of the Socialist Party, would be the most popular candidates in the first round, thus going on to face each other in the runoff, with opinion polls showing a hypothetical Chirac versus Jospin second round too close to call. However, Jospin unexpectedly finished in third place behind Le Pen. Journalists and politicians claimed polls had failed to predict Le Pen's second-place finish in the general election, though his strong stance could be seen in the week prior to the election.[ citation needed ] This led to serious discussions about polling techniques and the climate of French politics.

Although Le Pen's political party, the National Front, described itself as mainstream conservative, non-partisan observers largely agreed in defining it as a far-right and nationalist party. As a protest, almost all French political parties called for their supporters to vote against Le Pen, most notably the Socialists, who were traditionally billed as the archrivals to Chirac's party. Chirac thus went on to win in the largest landslide in a presidential election in French history (greater even than that of Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte in 1848, the first by direct ballot), winning over 82% of the vote.

The National Front would not appear again in the second round of the presidential election until 2017. After Chirac's victory, no French President would win a second term until Emmanuel Macron in 2022.


The 2002 election was the first for which the President would be elected to a five-year, instead of a seven-year, term.

In the months before the election, the campaign had increasingly focused on questions of law and order, with a particular focus on crimes committed by young people, especially those of foreign origin. Lionel Jospin was, at the time, Prime Minister of France; the Jospin government was criticised for its "softness" on crime by its political opponents. Reporting on the TF1 and France2 television channel and other media also emphasized the alleged crime wave. [1]

Opinion polls

First round

Opinion polling for the French presidential election, 2002.png

Second round (Chirac–Jospin)

Opinion polling for the French presidential election, 2002 Jospin-Chirac.png


The first round of the election (on 21 April), which saw an exceptional number of 16 candidates, came as a shock to many commentators, almost all of whom had expected the second ballot to be between Jacques Chirac and Lionel Jospin. Indeed, it was this very expectation[ citation needed ] that led to Jospin's downfall, with a plethora of "small party" left candidates (independent socialists and republicans, Green, Communist, Trotskyist, radical etc.) all intending to support him in the second round, but to raise their profile in the first, like Jean-Pierre Chevènement and Christiane Taubira. They cumulatively took enough votes away from Jospin to (unintentionally) prevent him from reaching the second round, which he could have won. Instead Jean-Marie Le Pen faced Chirac in the second ballot. The election brought the opinion polls and two-round voting system into question as well as raising many concerns about apathy and the way in which the left had become so divided as a result of the over democratical refusal of Jospin to strategically ask the nearest small parties of his own government coalition to withdraw, like the preceding leaders of the left had done for such an election.

There was a widespread stirring of national public opinion, and more than one million people in France took part in street rallies, in an expression of fierce opposition to Le Pen's ideas. Some held up protest signs stating "I'm ashamed to be French," which parodied Le Pen's party slogan, "Proud to be French." Spontaneous street protests began in the night from 21 to 22 April, then on 22 April and 23, then as follows:

The choice between Chirac, who was under suspicion for actions carried out whilst he was mayor of Paris but benefited from Presidential immunity as long as he stayed president, and Le Pen, a nationalist often accused of racism and antisemitism, was one that many found tough. Some people suggested going to vote with a clothes peg on their noses to express disgust when voting for Chirac, but this may have been illegal, because it is prohibited to advertise one's vote inside the voting precinct. In the days before the second ballot, a memorable poster was put up of Chirac with the slogan "Vote for the Crook, not the Fascist". [4] Chirac defeated Le Pen by a landslide.

CandidatePartyFirst roundSecond round
Jacques Chirac Rally for the Republic 5,665,85519.8825,537,95682.21
Jean-Marie Le Pen National Front 4,804,71316.865,525,03217.79
Lionel Jospin Socialist Party 4,610,11316.18
François Bayrou Union for French Democracy 1,949,1706.84
Arlette Laguiller Workers' Struggle 1,630,0455.72
Jean-Pierre Chevènement Citizens' Movement 1,518,5285.33
Noël Mamère The Greens 1,495,7245.25
Olivier Besancenot Revolutionary Communist League 1,210,5624.25
Jean Saint-Josse Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions 1,204,6894.23
Alain Madelin Liberal Democracy 1,113,4843.91
Robert Hue French Communist Party 960,4803.37
Bruno Mégret National Republican Movement 667,0262.34
Christiane Taubira Radical Party of the Left 660,4472.32
Corinne Lepage Cap21 535,8371.88
Christine Boutin Forum of Social Republicans 339,1121.19
Daniel Gluckstein Workers' Party 132,6860.47
Valid votes28,498,47196.6231,062,98894.61
Invalid/blank votes997,2623.381,769,3075.39
Total votes29,495,733100.0032,832,295100.00
Registered voters/turnout41,194,68971.6041,191,16979.71
Source: List of candidates  · First round result  · Second round result

First round

By department

By region

Second round

By department

By region

See also

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  1. GARRIGOS Raphaël & ROBERTS Isabelle (23 April 2002). "L'insécurité, programme préféré de la télé". Libération (in French). Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  2. Vincent Glad (29 September 2010). "Écarts entre les chiffres police/syndicats: record battu". Slate (in French). Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  3. "Manifestation à Paris le 1er mai 2002 contre Jean-Marie Le Pen" (in French). Institut national de l'audiovisuel. 1 May 2002. Retrieved 21 February 2012.
  4. "Votez escroc, pas facho!". Libération (in French). 23 April 2002. Archived from the original on 14 June 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2012.

Further reading

Official results