Bill Clinton says in an interview (Bill Clinton on running for political office again) :

Because I was born in Arkansas, which is part of Louisiana Purchase, any person anywhere in the world that was born in a place that ever was a part of the French empire, if you move to, if you live in France for six months and speak French you can run for president of France

Is it true or just a joke ?

  • 3
    I think since he denied having an affair he probably fails some French presidential law on gross moral turpitude - or at least gross discourtesy to a women.
    – none
    Sep 27, 2012 at 16:01
  • 6
    @mgb - OTOH, that makes him immenently qualified to be Prime Minister of Italy. ;-)
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 27, 2012 at 17:35
  • 5
    @T.E.D. - But only one intern - I don't think that qualifies him to even be a local councilor in Italy
    – none
    Sep 27, 2012 at 21:02
  • 1
    @T.E.D. - wasn't Dominique (sp?) Strauss Kahn considered to be the top candidate to run for French Presidency?
    – DVK
    Oct 2, 2012 at 14:11
  • @mgb - Elizabeth Gracen. Paula Jones. Jennifer Flowers. I am probably failing to recall some names since presidential porn isn't my main area of study :)
    – DVK
    Oct 2, 2012 at 14:12

2 Answers 2


In short:

It was true until 2006. Now he can still run for president of France, but through the standard way : he can acquire French nationality through naturalization (like anyone) and run for president as a French citizen!

More precisely :

This article (Sorry, Bill Clinton. You can't be president of France or Ireland) explains deeply why :

Clinton likely got the Louisiana Purchase idea from political scientist Patrick Weil, who wrote an open letter to him in the New York Times in 2001 suggesting it:

Under Section 5 of Article 21-19 of the French civil code, citizens of states or territories over which France has ever exercised sovereignty or extended a mandate or protectorate may apply immediately for naturalization, without the normal five-year residency requirement.

Arkansas, where you were born, was once part of French Louisiana. And as a naturalized French citizen, you would have the same full rights as all other French citizens. That includes running for the presidency.

Unfortunately for Clinton, and his fellow Louisiana territory residents, Section 5 has been abrogé and doesn't appear in the current version of the code. According to a footnote in a 2004 New York Review of Books article, "After Weil's article made this provision of the French nationality law notorious, the French parliament abolished it in on July 24, 2006."

Here is the french civil code extract (Article 21-19):

Peut être naturalisé sans condition de stage :

5° Le ressortissant ou ancien ressortissant des territoires et des Etats sur lesquels la France a exercé soit la souveraineté, soit un protectorat, un mandat ou une tutelle ;

  • 1
    Good answer, but it says "According to a footnote in a 2004 New York Review of Books article, 'After Weil's article made this provision of the French nationality law notorious, the French parliament abolished it in on July 24, 2006.'" How can a footnote in a 2004 article refer to something that happened in 2006? Presumably it's a typo -- do you have a link to the Review article?
    – litlnemo
    May 4, 2014 at 11:03
  • Good point. The link is just above the quoted text : blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/09/26/…
    – JBE
    May 5, 2014 at 7:25

Its true that he said it. However, the statement itself was not true. (Sorry, French Clinton fans!)

He apparently got that idea from an open letter a political scientist wrote to him in the New York Times back in 2001 suggesting the idea. The problem there, however, is that after that letter brought attention to the Louisiana Purchase loophole, the French parliament went on to abolish the provision in 2006.

He could still try for President of the UN General Assembly I suppose.

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