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Price Of Votes At The 2012 French Election

The French president is the executive head of state in France, renewed every five years in a two-rounds ballot. The last French presidential election took place in 2012 where François Hollande from the Parti Socialiste was elected on the second ballot against the outgoing president Nicolas Sarkozy. 10 candidates confronted during the campaign, spending millions of Euros in order to gain advantage. By dividing numbers of votes by total campaign spendings for each candidate, it becomes easy to estimate the price of votes at the 2012 French election.

Regulation around the elections

One of the first requirements to stand for the French Presidential election is to get sponsorship from 500 of the 36700 French mayors [1]. Only 10 candidates succeeded to gather these valuables signatures and began the campaign, officially the 9th of April 2012 [2].

Law strictly regulates [3] funding of political campaigns France. Expenses are capped at 16 Millions Euros for candidates standing for the first ballot, and 21.59 Millions Euros for the 2 candidates reaching the second ballot Law regulates donations too, forbidding private companies to donate, even in-kind. Private persons can donate up to 150 Euros in cash, and are capped at 4,600 Euros. Many court cases [4] concerning political parties funding in France stay under way as they tend to try to get around these rules.

Campaigns accounts of each candidate are published [5] after the ballots. Campaigns expenses are partially refunded by the French state: 4.75% of the expenses of the first ballot for the candidates obtaining less than 5% of the votes at this turn, 47.5% for those obtaining more than 5%. For the candidates of the second ballot, 47.5% for the expenses of the second ballot are refunded in the limit of 10.6 Millions €.

First ballot

Figure 1 shows the distribution of candidates according to their campaigns expenses and obtained votes at the end of the first ballot. Hover your mouse over each candidate name to display the exact values.

Figure 1: Price of votes at first ballot, 2012. Source: Journal Officiel

Small candidates

At the origin of the graph, Jacques Cheminade, Nathalie Arthaud, Eva Joly, Philippe Poutou and Nicolas Dupont-Aignan did not spent more than 2 Millions Euros. They did not passed the million of votes either. All these candidates got only 4.75% of their expenses refunded.

Middle candidates

Marine Lepen, François Bayrou and Jean-Luc Mélenchon form the middle cluster They obtained between 3 and 7 millions votes at the end of the first ballot. François Bayrou makes an excellent performance considering the amount spent in his campaign: 1.2 Million Euros.

Second ballot candidates

François Hollande for the Parti Socialiste and Nicolas Sarkozy for the UMP are far in front of their competitors. For the second ballot, they unblocked the next spending cap to continue their campaign during the 2 weeks that separates the 2 ballots.

Price of votes at the first ballot

We can now divide the expenses to get the price of votes for each candidate at the first ballot:

Figure 2: Price of votes for each candidate

Jacques Cheminade payed the high price for votes. At 5.5€ for each vote as he signs the poorest score of this election. He reiterates the 1995 situation where he standed for the presidential election and obtained a similar result.

With 66 Millions of Euros spent and 35 Millions of votes, the average price of votes of the first ballot is 1.83 €. However, only François Hollande and the Parti Socialiste got what they paid for by wining the election.

The real price of votes

Taking into account all the campaign expenses and the results of the second ballot. French people expressed 34 Millions of votes. Nicolas Sarkozy paid 2,18€ each of his votes while François Hollande paid 2,11€ or 2.74$ at the time. Compared to USA where Eduardo Porter estimated the price of votes at 33$ [6], it’s pretty cheap. Even in as well as in Thailand, where votes were bought, this time for real, at 4$ [7].

While limiting expenses, ensuring equal media time for each candidate and strictly supervising the campaigns, the French law concerning elections leads to a low price per vote. It also forces candidates eager to spend more in their campaign to get around regulations and not to declare all of their sources of revenue.


[4] Liste d’affaires politico-financières françaises, (2018). https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_d%27affaires_politico-financi%C3%A8res_fran%C3%A7aises.

[5] Publication des comptes de campagne des candidats à l’élection présidentielle des 22 avril et 6 mai 2012 adressés à la Commission nationale des comptes de campagne et des financements politiques, (2012). https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liste_d%27affaires_politico-financi%C3%A8res_fran%C3%A7aises.

[6] The Cost of a Vote Goes Up, (2010). https://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/07/opinion/07sun3.html.

[7] Victors in Thailand, Linked to Vote-Buying, Seek Coalition, (1995). https://www.nytimes.com/1995/07/04/world/victors-in-thailand-linked-to-vote-buying-seek-coalition.html.