Can Emmanuel Macron run for a third consecutive presidency?

Former Justice Minister Jean-Jacques Urvoas has hinted at it. Constitutional experts believe that no scenario could seriously allow a head of state to stand on his succession.

Can Emmanuel Macron run for a third consecutive presidency?
How likely is it that Emmanuel Macron will seek reelection as president? Credit: Wikimedia

This was obvious to him on the evening of April 24, 2022, when he was re-elected. Emmanuel Macron will not be able to stand for re-election at the end of his second term, which began in May.

The French Constitution, revised in 2008, leaves no doubt on this point: "The President of the Republic shall be elected for five years by direct universal suffrage." "No one may serve more than two consecutive terms," says Article 6 of the text.

But what if the presidential election occurred before the end of his term, for example, if the head of state resigned? This question, which at first sight seems absurd, has become topical thanks to a recent opinion of the Council of State.

In mid-October, France's highest administrative court allowed the current President of French Polynesia, Edouard Fritsch, to stand for a third term, even though, according to the law, he "cannot serve more than two consecutive five-year terms." However, Edouard Frisch's first term, which began after Gaston Flosse resigned, lasted only four years.

At the end of November, in a column in L'Opinion, Jean-Jacques Urvoas, the former Minister of Justice, tried to transfer this situation to that of Emmanuel Macron. "Let's imagine that the President of the Republic dissolves the Assembly before the end of his term, loses the parliamentary elections, and resigns."

The President of the Senate would then act as interim President, and new elections would be held. "Emmanuel Macron has not served two consecutive full terms, so he could stand," said the former French Justice Minister. However, several experts contacted by Franceinfo deny this analysis.

The Polynesian situation is "not transferable"

"It is not transferable,"  retorts the constitutionalist Dominic Rousseau, for whom "the case of Polynesia cannot be a precedent to be invoked in the hypothesis imagined by Jean-Jacques Urvaux." The Organic Law of the Archipelago explicitly mentions two consecutive five-year terms, but Article 6 of the Constitution refers to "two consecutive terms" without specifying their duration.

The Constitution does not give a clear answer on the consequences of a possible resignation. During the preparation of the revision of the Constitution in 2008, this issue" was not confirmed by constitutional expert André Roux. This is even though "the intention was mainly to limit powers."

However, he does not doubt that Emmanuel Macron has already served his second term. "There is no ambiguity, no possible interpretation," he says. The situation would be different if Article 6 referred to two consecutive five-year terms, as is the case in French Polynesia.

The constitutionalist Didier Maas argues that the paragraph stating that the term of office of the President of the Republic is five years and the paragraph stating that the term of office may not exceed two terms "can be read autonomously."

Gerard Larcher at the Elysée Palace? "It's not a mandate"

Another question arises: in the event of a possible resignation of Emmanuel Macron, can the temporary President of the Senate provided for in the Constitution be considered a full mandate, which would most probably reset the counters to zero? "A provisional term is not a mandate," insists Dominic Russo.

The current President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, "was not elected President of the Republic." "This transitional period is a mechanism provided for in the Constitution to avoid a vacancy of power," says Jennifer Halter, lawyer and author of the book "Petit Livre de la Constitution française." Didier Maas believes that such a strategy would even be "a clear fraud, a kind of trick."

If Emmanuel Macron were to resign and the current head of state wanted to stand again, "the [Constitutional Council] could not be expected to endorse his candidacy,"  says Jennifer Halter. "It is not uninteresting to imagine this hypothesis, because we will be faced with a confrontation between a political phenomenon and a constituted power," says Bertrand-Leo Combrade, a professor of public law.

A possible 2032 bid from Emmanuel Macron

On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent Emmanuel Macron from standing again between 2027 and 2032 after another person has exercised his mandate. "He has indicated this to maintain his influence," says Didier Maas. In 2032, he will be only 54 years old, which does not pose a legal problem.

"He is still young and could do what Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev did," laughs André Roux. In 2008, when he was forced to step down as President, the current Head of State of Russia gave his job to the Prime Minister for one term, until 2012. He then took his job back.

Looking forward to what his future will look like in ten years, the Head of State has other weapons to try to avoid the slow devitalization of his political capital as 2027 approaches. "If he feels that the legislators do not support him, he has the option of dismissing the government," says Jennifer Halter. Resignation is unlikely. As for a third consecutive offer before 2027, this is pure fiction.