François Hollande, was elected with 51.6% of the votes on May 6, 2012, appoints Jean-Marc Ayrault as Prime Minister.
Elections are major events in the political life of the country. Except for Senate elections, voting is by direct universal suffrage and there are just over 41 million electors (out of a total population of 60 million).
Electors must have reached their majority (i.e. be at least 18 years old), be of French nationality, except for municipal and European Parliament elections, be on the electoral role in their commune of residence and be in full possession of their civic rights - convictions for certain serious crimes may lead to loss of civic rights for a specified length of time. The conditions candidates must fulfil are the same for all elections except as regards the minimum age, which varies according to the mandate sought (they must be 18 to run for municipal councillor, 21 for regional councillor, 23 for National Assembly deputy or President of the Republic and 35 for Senator).
French electors vote not only to choose their representatives at communal, departmental, regional or national level, but also on occasion in referenda. Indeed, in response to a proposal by the government or Parliament, the President of the Republic may submit a bill or major decision to them for approval in a referendum. This has happened twice in the past ten years: the first, on 6 November 1988, was on the status of New Caledonia, and the second, on 20 September 1992, on the ratification of the Treaty on European Union. A reform of the Constitution in August 1995 broadened the scope of referenda to include bills on "reforms relating to the economic or social policy of the Nation and to the public services contributing thereto".