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What is the French System of Government?

The French system of government is a unique blend of presidential and parliamentary systems, with a President as head of state and a Prime Minister leading the government. Power is balanced between these roles, ensuring stability and democratic governance. How does this system shape France's political landscape? Join us as we explore the intricacies of French governance.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The French system of government is a semi-presidential system that sets a high value on the separation of powers, along with freedoms for citizens. The Constitution of 1958 sets most of the principles which govern the country out, with additions being added periodically to keep it current and useful. Although the French Constitution does not specifically include a Bill of Rights, the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” written in 1789, is mentioned in the Constitution. This document played an important role in the French revolution, spelling out rights and principles which were believed to be vital to living happily and freely. The nation's motto is liberte, egalite, fraternite, which translates as “liberty, equality, brotherhood.”

Three different branches make up the French government: the presidential branch, legislative branch, and judicial branch. The powers of the presidential branch are split between the president and a prime minister whom he or she appoints. The legislative branch is broken up into a National Assembly, voted in by the populace, and a Senate, appointed by an electoral college. The judicial branch is quite complex and extensive, with a Court of Cassation serving as the court of last resort and a Council of State to provide judicial review and interpret laws.

The French government is divided into the presidential branch, judicial branch, and legislative branch.
The French government is divided into the presidential branch, judicial branch, and legislative branch.

Multiple political parties work together with the framework of the French system of government. They often form cooperative coalitions to accomplish things that they would be unable to do individually. Two major coalitions represent parties on the left and right, and one usually controls the government at any given period of time. The diverse parties within the government allow for a greater range of ideas within the government, leading to more progressive legislation and reform.

All French citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote.
All French citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote.

All French citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote in elections. Convicted criminals may have their right to vote abridged under certain circumstances. In order to run for public office, a citizen must be a registered voter, and the commission of certain crimes may bar someone from running for office. The president is elected for a five year term, as are members of the National Assembly. Senators are appointed for six year terms, with one third of the Senate rotating out at a time.

While the political parties in France can be divided into right and left leaning parties, the political party spectrum is much more broadly represented than in the United States.
While the political parties in France can be divided into right and left leaning parties, the political party spectrum is much more broadly represented than in the United States.

The prime minister is an interesting figure in the French system of government. In order to serve, he or she must be approved by the National Assembly, which can force both the president and the prime minister out with a vote. This can sometimes lead to a situation in which the president and the prime minister are of different party beliefs, to satisfy the National Assembly. The prime minister makes a number of executive decisions, which are subject to review by other branches.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of government does France have?

France operates under a semi-presidential representative democratic republic system. This means that the government is composed of a President, who is the head of state, and a Prime Minister, who is the head of government. The French political structure blends elements of a parliamentary system with a strong presidency, allowing for both a directly elected President and a government responsible to the legislature, the French Parliament.

How is the French President elected, and what are their powers?

The French President is elected by direct popular vote for a five-year term, which can be renewed once. According to the French Constitution, the President has significant powers, including appointing the Prime Minister, presiding over the Council of Ministers, dissolving the National Assembly, and being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The President also has the power to initiate referendums and can exercise emergency powers under Article 16 of the Constitution.

What is the role of the French Prime Minister?

The French Prime Minister is appointed by the President and is responsible for running the government and implementing national policy. The Prime Minister oversees the day-to-day affairs of the government, proposes legislation, and is accountable to the Parliament. The Prime Minister also coordinates the actions of the various ministries and has the power to delegate certain responsibilities to other ministers.

How is the French Parliament structured?

The French Parliament is bicameral, consisting of two houses: the National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) and the Senate (Sénat). The National Assembly is the lower house, with 577 deputies elected for five-year terms through a two-round voting system. The Senate is the upper house, with 348 senators elected for six-year terms by an electoral college. Both houses are involved in the legislative process, but the National Assembly has the final say on most matters.

Can the French government be dissolved, and under what circumstances?

Yes, the French government can be dissolved under certain circumstances. The President of France has the authority to dissolve the National Assembly and call for new legislative elections. This is typically done in response to a political crisis or to seek a fresh mandate from the electorate. However, this power is used sparingly, as it can lead to political instability. The last time the National Assembly was dissolved was in 1997 by President Jacques Chirac.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HistoricalIndex researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HistoricalIndex researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon931218

The vice-president is only a collaborator with the U.S President. The prime minister is more than that. France is a parliamentary system and the tradition is the president chooses the prime minister in the major party in the national assembly. If they are from the same party, it's difficult to separate their respective power because they are both working.

The separation of their power is clearly in "cohabitation" when the prime minister not come from the presidential party. France had three governments in this case during the five republics.

In this situation, the prime minister does all, but diplomacy, military affair and public order stay in the president's hands, and he can choose the ministries from those administrations, but the prime minister leads all the other ministries, even the very influential ministry of finances.

anon929639

France is becoming a dictatorship. The president has all powers; he can cancel a court's decision. He completely controls the media (see gayet gate). Revolution is boiling here, and it might explode anytime.

anon292965

How does the government serve the French people?

Babalaas

The roles of the president and prime minister are very different. The Prime minister of France is in charge of creating regulations and laws; basically being the head of government. The French President is the Head of state, having the power of executive order, and the obligation to choose the Prime Minister.

The power of the president lies in the make-up of parliament. If the president and parliament are of the same political affiliation, the president is quite powerful. If they are of different political affiliation then the presidents power is diminished. This is because the parliament has to approve the presidents choice of prime minister.

The Prime minister and the his ministers (what we would consider a cabinet) make laws to be passed by parliament. This gives the prime minister considerable power. Remember though, this power is only granted because s/he was selected by the president and confirmed by parliament.

The president is elected by the people as well as members of parliament; making them career politicians. Because the prime minister is not elected, s/he is usually someone from the private sector or military who is not involved in politics. This helps the French Government to be swift acting, and gives the citizens some measure of direct control.

PelesTears

What are the roles of the President and Prime minister in the French Government? Are they similar to the roles of the president and vice president in the United States? The French system of government seems similar to ours, but I never understood the role of a Prime minister.

Maybe one is in charge of domestic policy while the other is in charge of foreign policy. Can anyone explain this to me in a little more detail? Thanks.

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    • The French government is divided into the presidential branch, judicial branch, and legislative branch.
      By: CGinspiration
      The French government is divided into the presidential branch, judicial branch, and legislative branch.
    • All French citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote.
      By: illustrez-vous
      All French citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote.
    • While the political parties in France can be divided into right and left leaning parties, the political party spectrum is much more broadly represented than in the United States.
      By: benkenogy
      While the political parties in France can be divided into right and left leaning parties, the political party spectrum is much more broadly represented than in the United States.