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French presidential election, 1974

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Title: French presidential election, 1974  
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Subject: Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, List of Presidents of France, Jacques Chaban-Delmas, National Front (France), François Mitterrand
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French presidential election, 1974

French presidential election, 1974

5 May and 19 May 1974

Candidate Valéry Giscard d'Estaing François Mitterrand
Party Independent Republicans PS
Popular vote 13,396,203 12,971,604
Percentage 50.8% 49.2%

Results of the second round: the candidate with the plurality of votes in each administrative division. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing: blue; François Mitterrand: pink

President before election

Alain Poher
(acting President after Georges Pompidou died in April)
Democratic Centre

Elected President

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
Independent Republicans

Presidential elections were held in Valéry Giscard d'Estaing by a margin of 1.6%. It is to date the closest presidential election in French history.


  • Campaign 1
  • Result 2
  • See also 3
  • External links 4


In Charles de Gaulle, was elected President of France for a seven year term. However, he died in office on 2 April 1974, and the French voters were called to elect his successor. The political classes were caught unawares by Pompidou's death.

On the Left, the Socialist Party (PS), the French Communist Party (PCF), and the Movement of Left Radicals (MRG) campaigned for the Common Program that they agreed in 1972. Whilst the PCF was the main force of this coalition (at least in terms of popular support), they united behind the candidacy of the PS leader François Mitterrand. Indeed, they thought the "Union of Left" could not win if it was led by a Communist in the presidential race. The fear of communism was often an argument used by the French Right to win elections. Furthermore, Mitterrand had succeeded in forcing an unexpected second ballot when he was candidate in 1965 against General De Gaulle. Only two smaller Trotskyist parties refused to support Mitterrand and the Common Program, as well as the Social Democratic Party founded by a split of Socialist elects who disapproved the alliance with the PCF. For the first time since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958, the Left had a serious chance of victory.

The situation in the "Presidential Majority" was very confused: no "natural candidate" had appeared. Prime Minister Pierre Messmer had announced he would run if he was the only candidate of the majority. This condition being not satisfied, he withdrew. Four men declared their will to run: former Gaullist Prime Minister Jacques Chaban-Delmas, the Chairman of the National Assembly Edgar Faure, the former Craftsmen and Shopkeepers Minister representing the ultra-conservative wing of the Gaullist Party Jean Royer, and finally the Economy Minister and leader of the Independent Republicans Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. Quickly, Faure withdrew and the real competition on the Right was between Chaban-Delmas and Giscard d'Estaing.

Chaban-Delmas conveyed an image of being a reformist Gaullist and invoked his proposals for a "New Society", which he had tried to apply when he led the cabinet (from 1969 to 1972), but he was supported by the "Barons of Gaullism" who held the bulk of ministerial offices for 16 years. His challengers denounced the continuation of the UDR-state, that is to say the appropriation of the state by the Gaullist Party.

Giscard d'Estaing portrayed himself as "the change in the continuity", a "modern turn" for the French politics, in the incumbent majority and more reassuring for moderate voters than the Common Program which was characterised as a collectivist project. He benefited from the divisions in the UDR. Indeed, 43 Gaullist personalities close to Pompidou and led by the young Interior Minister Jacques Chirac published an appeal insinuating that Giscard d'Estaing was more likely than Chaban-Delmas to defeat Mitterrand. As a result, the left-wing candidate faced the leader of the Independent Republicans in a very competitive run-off.

For the first time in the history of the French presidential elections, a Radio-TV-debate between the two finalists was organized. Mitterrand presented his competitor as the representing of the elites who pursued unfair policies, while Giscard d'Estaing criticized his opponent to be "a man of the past". The turnout reached a record and Giscard d'Estaing was elected with a margin of only 424 599 votes. He nominated Chirac as Prime Minister.


 Summary of the 5 and 19 May 1974 French presidential election result
Candidates Parties 1st round 2nd round
Votes % Votes %
François Mitterrand Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 11,044,373 43.25% 12,971,604 49.19%
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing Independent Republicans (Républicains indépendants) RI 8,326,774 32.60% 13,396,203 50.81%
Jacques Chaban-Delmas Union of Democrats for the Republic (Union des démocrates pour la République) UDR 3,857,728 15.11%
Jean Royer Independent conservative (Sans étiquette, droite conservatrice) 810,540 3.17%
Arlette Laguiller Workers' Struggle (Lutte Ouvrière) LO 595,247 2.33%
René Dumont Environmentalist (Sans étiquette, écologiste) 337,800 1.32%
Jean-Marie Le Pen National Front (Front national) FN 190,921 0.75%
Émile Muller Democratic Socialist Movement of France (Mouvement démocrate socialiste de France) MDSF 176,279 0.69%
Alain Krivine Revolutionary Communist Front (Front communiste révolutionnaire) FCR 93,990 0.37%
Bertrand Renouvin New Royalist Action (Nouvelle Action royaliste) NAR 43,722 0.17%
Jean-Claude Sebag European Federalist Movement (Mouvement fédéraliste européen) MFE 42,007 0.16%
Guy Héraud European federalist (Fédéraliste européen) 19,255 0.08%
Total 25,538,636 100% 26,367,807 100%
Valid votes 25,538,636 99.08% 26,367,807 98.66%
Spoilt and null votes 237,107 0.92% 356,788 1.34%
Turnout 25,775,743 84.23% 26,724,595 87.33%
Abstentions 4,827,210 15.77% 3,876,180 12.67%
Registered voters 30,602,953 30,600,775
Table of results ordered by number of votes received in first round. Official results by Constitutional Council of France.

Source: List of candidates · First round result · Second round result

See also

External links

  • [2] : Radio-TV debate Valéry Giscard d'Estaing/François Mitterrand
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