What if….France used the Single Transferable Vote to elect her President?


Macron 25%

Pecresse 17%

Le Pen 16%

Zemmour 13%

Melenchon 10% 

Jadot 6%

Hidalgo 3%

Others 7%

There is no more dangerous voting system in Europe than France’s 2 ballot presidential election system. In theory, it has an impressive safeguard: unlike the US or UK or many other countries, in France the president has to win over half the actual votes cast by French voters, and as a result gives an impressive and democratic mandate to the winner.

The problem, as the opinion poll above outlines, is what happens when you get into a highly-fractured party system which then lowers, assuming no candidate gets over half the votes on the first round, the threshold for entry. In 2002 Jean Marie Le Pen scraped into the second round with 16% of the vote because although there were considerably more centre left votes cast, they were dispersed among so many parties as to allow for Lionel Jospin’s very narrow defeat. In the 2017 election, greater discipline on the left could have put the far left onto the second ballot. It’s not inconceivable that one could end up with a far-right and far-left candidate facing each other on the second ballot with a minority of the vote between them, as happened in Chile only recently. Sure, that happens in previous elections in France too, but could one honestly say that the majority of voters want that choice, or end up voting for the least worst candidate? That’s the problem with the two ballot system: vote for the “wrong” (that is, underperforming candidate) and your vote is essentially wasted.

But what if France were to use the Single Transferable Vote system that we use to elect presidents in Ireland? Giving French voters the option not only to vote for the party that closely represents their values with their first preference, but also for their vote to continue to matter and not just in a negative second round way as it does now. Would it be biased towards Macron, as the centrist and possibly least unpopular candidate? Possibly, but it would also allow the Le Pen/Zemmour vote to coalesce, and the disjointed centre-left of the Greens and the Socialists. Would the result be radically different? Possibly not, but it would make it harder for two extremists to end up on the final ballot whilst still giving voters the opportunity to vote for what they want more than just against someone else.

That’s the beauty of the Single Transferable Vote: it’s far less likely that a voter can end up wasting their vote. If you fill in every preference your vote will always be useful. STV recognises that political opinions can be shaded, not always 100% for/against.

I can’t predict the outcome, and I’ve done transfers en bloc and pretty crudely, but here’s a bit of fun based on most recent polls. I stop at the final elimination…

Macron 25%   25% 30% 42%

Pecresse 17% 18% 18% elim

Le Pen 16% 17%  17% 27% 33%

Zemmour 13% 15% 15% elim

Melenchon 10% 11% 16% 21%

Jadot 6%     7% 11% elim

Hidalgo 3% 4% elim

Others 7%  elim


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *