World Mayor 2023

French mayors who became heads of state
By City Mayors Research

ON THIS PAGE: The French 5th Republic ||| Presidents & Prime Ministers ||| From Mayor to President ||| From Mayor to Prime Minister |||

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French Presidents and
Prime Ministers learn their political
trade in local government

July 2020: It is almost obligatory for French presidents, prime ministers and cabinet ministers to start their political careers in local government. Since the formation of the Fifth Republic in October 1958, five of France’s eight heads of state were mayors prior to being elected to the country’s highest office. Jacque Chirac was Mayor of Paris for more than 18 years. Other former presidents such as Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterand, Nicolas Sarcozy and François Hollande all served their political apprenticeships in local government. Only the Fifth’s Republic’s first two presidents, Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou and the current president Emmanuel Macron did not serve as mayors.

Of the 24 French prime ministers since 1958, some 18 also served as mayors before, during and after their appointments to the Hôtel Matignon, the official residence of French prime ministers. Among them were the Fifth Republic first prime minister Michel Debré, Jacque Chirac, before he became president, Alain Juppé, the Mayor of Bordeaux, and Manuel Valls, who served as head of government from 2014 to 2016. The latter, born in Barcelona to a Spanish father and Swiss mother, was Mayor of Évry (south of Paris) from 2001 to 2012. In 2019 he ran for Mayor of Barcelona but failed to dislodge the incumbent Ada Coloau.

President Emmanuel Macron’s first Prime Minister, Édouard Philippe, was Mayor of the port city of Le Havre. He was re-elected to that post in July 2020, days before he was replaced as Prime Minister by Jean Castex. The new French Prime Minister served as Mayor of Prades from 2008 until 3 July 2020. The majority of French cabinet ministers during the past 60 years have also had local government experience.

Under French law, prime ministers and cabinet ministers have to step aside from any local government offices when they join the government. Their municipal duties are usually performed by an acting official. Presidents of the French Republic, upon taking office, are obliged to relinquish any other posts.

Until April 2017, parliamentarians in the French Assembly, the country’s second chamber, the Senate, and the European Parliament were also allowed to serve as mayors, and a large number did so. However, a new law, originally drafted in 2014 under President François Hollande, now prohibits mayors from serving as parliamentarians in the country’s upper and lower houses as well as the European Parliament.

Presidents and prime ministers of the
French Fifth Republic who served as mayors

Office holder
Government posts
Terms as Mayor
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing President from May 1974 to May 1981 Mayor of Chamalières (Haute-Loire) from September 1967 to May 1974 Centrist
François Mitterand President from May 1981 to May 1995 Mayor of Château-Chinon Ville (Bourgogne-Franche-Comté) from 1959 to 1981 Socialist
Jacques Chirac President from May 1995 to May 2007 Mayor of Paris from March 1977 to May 1995 Centre-right
Nicolas Sarkozy President from May 2007 to May 2012 Mayor of Neuilly-sur-Seine from 1983 to 2002 Centre-right
François Hollande President from May 2012 to May 2017 Mayor of Tulle (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) from March 2001 to March 2008 Socialist
Michel Debré Prime Minister from 1959 to 1962 under President Charles de Gaulle Mayor of Amboise (Centre-Val de Loire) from 1966 to 1989 Centre-right
Jacques Chaban-Delmas Prime Minister from June 1969 to July 1972 under President Georges Pompidou Mayor of Bordeaux from October 1947 to June 1995 Centrist
Pierre Messmer Prime Minister from July 1972 to May 1974 under President Georges Pompidou Mayor of Sarrebourg (Lorraine) from 1971 to 1989 Centre-right
Jacques Chirac Prime Minster from May 1974 to August 1976 under President Giscard d'Estaing and again from March 1986 to May 1988 under President François Mitterand Mayor of Paris from March 1977 to May 1995 Centre-right
Raymond Barre Prime Minister from August 1976 to May 1981 under President Giscard d'Estaing Mayor of Lyon from 1995 to March 2001 Independent
Pierre Mauroy Prime Minster from May 1981 to July 1984 under President François Mitterand Mayor of Lille from January 1973 to March 2001 Socialist
Laurent Fabius Prime Minister from July 1984 to March 1986 under President François Mitterand Mayor of Le Grand-Quevilly (Normandy) from 1995 to 2000 Socialist
Michel Rocard Prime Minster from May 1988 to May 1991 under President François Mitterand Mayor of Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Ile-de-France) from 1977 to 1994 Socialist
Édith Cresson Prime Minister from May 1991 to April 1992 under President François Mitterand Mayor of Thuré (Nouvelle Aquitaine) from 1977 to 1983 and Mayor of Châtellerault (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) from 1983 to 1997 Socialist
Pierre Bérégovoy Prime Minister from April 1992 to March 1993 under President François Mitterand Mayor of Nevers (Bourgogne Franche-Comté) from 1983 to 1993 Socialist
Alain Juppé Prime Minister from May 1995 to June 1997 under President Jacques Chirac Mayor of Bordeaux from June 1995 to December 2004 and again from October 2006 to date Centre-right
Jean-Pierre Raffarin Prime Minister from May 2002 to May 2005 under President Jacques Chirac Deputy Mayor of Chasseneuil-du-Poitou (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) from 1995 to 2001 Centre-right
François Fillon Prime Minister from May 2007 to May 2012 under President Nicolas Sarkozy Mayor of Sablé-sur-Sarthe (Pay de la Loire) from 1983 to 2001 Centre-right
Jean-Marc Ayrault Prime Minister from May 2012 to March 2014 Under President François Hollande Mayor of Saint-Herblain (Pays de la Loire) from March 1977 to March 1989; Mayor of Nantes from March 1989 to June 2012 (Pays de la Loire) Socialist
Manuel Valls Prime Minister from March 2014 to December 2016 under President François Hollande Mayor of Evry (Ile-de-France) from March 2001 to May 2012 Social Democrat
Bernard Cazeneuve Prime Minister from December 2016 to May 2017 under President François Hollande Mayor of Cherbourg-Octeville (Normandy) from 2001 to 2012 Socialist
Édouard Philippe Prime Minister from May 2017 to July 2020 under President Emmanuel Macron Mayor of Le Havre from October 2010 to 2017 and again from 2020 to date Centrist
Jean Castex Prime Minister from July 2020 to date under President Emmanuel Macron Mayor of Prades (Pyrénées-Orientales) from March 2008 to July 2020 Centre-right

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