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Friday, November 26, 2010


The First Republic in France, officially the French Republic was proclaimed on 21 September 1792, during the French Revolution. On that day Louis XVI was formally deposed, ending the French monarchy. This presaged a new era of republican government in Europe.The Republic officially lasted until the establishment of the First French Empire in 1804. Its leaders included Napoleon Bonaparte, who served as First Consul from 1799 to 1804, when he ended the republic by declaring himself Emperor Napoleon I.Constitutionally, the Republic subdivided into government by:the National Convention: 1792–95, Maximilien Robespierre, Reign of Terrorthe Directory: 1795–99, Paul Barras, Thermidorean Reactionthe Consulate: 1799–1804, Napoleon Bonaparte, Coup of 18 Brumaire

The French Second Republic (or simply the Second Republic) was the republican government of France between the 1848 Revolution and the coup by Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte which initiated the Second Empire. It officially adopted the motto Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité. The Second Republic witnessed the tension between the "Social and Democratic Republic" (French: la République démocratique et sociale) and a liberal form of Republic, which exploded during the June Days Uprising of 1848.

The French Third Republic (1870-10 July 1940) was the political regime of France between the Second French Empire and the Vichy Regime. It was a republican parliamentary democracy that was created on 4 September 1870 following the collapse of the Empire of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War. It survived until the invasion of France by the German Third Reich in 1940. Adolphe Thiers recognized as "le Libérateur du Territoire", and who rallied himself to the Republic in the 1870s, called republicanism in the 1870s "the form of government that divides France least." France might have agreed about being a republic, but it never fully agreed with the Third Republic. France's longest lasting régime since before the 1789 French Revolution, the Third Republic was consigned to the history books, as unloved at the end as it had been when first created seventy years earlier. But its longevity showed that it was capable of weathering many a storm.

The Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems. France adopted the constitution of the Fourth Republic on October 13, 1946.Some attempts were made to strengthen the executive branch of government, to prevent the unstable situation that had existed before the war, but the instability remained and the Fourth Republic saw frequent changes in government. Although the Fourth Republic oversaw an era of great economic growth in France and the rebuilding of the nation's social institutions and industry after the war, and though it is largely responsible for the development of the institutions of European unity which changed the continent permanently, it is best remembered for its constant political instability and inability to take bold decisions regarding decolonization.

The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, which was introduced on October 5, 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the French Fourth Republic, replacing a parliamentary government with a semi-presidential system. It is currently France's second-longest lasting régime since before the 1789 French Revolution, surpassed only by the Third Republic, and will become the longest-lasting one if it endures until August 12, 2028.

President of the French Republic colloquially referred to in English as the President of France, is France's elected Head of State. In each of the republics' constitutions, the president's powers, functions and duties, and their relation with French governments differed.The president of France is also the ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra, Grand Master of the Légion d'honneur and the Ordre national du Mérite and honorary proto-canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.

The current President of the Republic is Nicolas Sarkozy, from 16 May 2007, Union for a Popular MovementCurrent presidential powers

The French Fifth Republic is a semi-presidential system. Unlike many other European presidents, the office of the French President is quite powerful. Although it is the Prime Minister of France and parliament that oversee much of the nation's actual lawmaking, the French President wields significant influence. The president holds the nation's most senior office, and outranks all other politicians.The president's greatest power is his or her ability to choose the Prime Minister. However, since only the French National Assembly has the power to dismiss the Prime Minister's government, the president is forced to name a prime minister that commands the support of the majority of this assembly.

Among the powers of the president:

I. The president promulgates laws.

II. The president has a very limited form of suspensive veto: when presented with a law, he or she can request another reading of it by Parliament, but only once per law.

III. The president may also refer the law for review to the Constitutional Council prior to promulgation.

IV. The president may dissolve the French National Assembly.

V. The president may refer treaties or certain types of laws to popular referendum, within certain conditions, among them the agreement of the Prime minister or the parliament.

VI. The president is the Commander-in-Chief (CINC) of the armies.

VII. The president may order the use of nuclear weapons.

VIII. The president names the Prime minister but he cannot dismiss him. He names and dismisses the other ministers, with the agreement of the Prime minister.

IX. The president names most officials (with the assent of the cabinet).

X. The president names certain members of the Constitutional Council.

XI. The president receives foreign ambassadors.

XII. The president may grant a pardon (but not an amnesty) to convicted criminals; the president can also lessen or suppress criminal sentences. This was of crucial importance when France still operated the death penalty: criminals sentenced to death would generally request that the president commute their sentence to life imprisonment.

All decisions of the president must be countersigned by the Prime minister, except dissolving the French National Assembly.

Presidential Amnesties-There is a tradition of so-called "presidential amnesties", which are something of a misnomer: after the election of a president, and of a National Assembly of the same party, parliament traditionally votes a law granting amnesty for some petty crimes. This practice has been increasingly criticized, particularly because it is believed to incite people to commit traffic offences in the months preceding the election. Such an amnesty law may also authorize the president to designate individuals who have committed certain categories of crimes to be offered amnesty, if certain conditions are met. Such individual measures have been criticized for the political patronage that they allow. Still, it is argued that such amnesty laws help reduce prison overpopulation. An amnesty law was passed in 2002; none have yet been passed as of January 2008.

Election of President-Since a 2000 referendum, the President of France has been directly elected to a five-year term by universal suffrage. (Prior to 2000, presidential terms lasted seven years, and the first election to a shorter term was held in 2002.) President Chirac was first elected in 1995 and again in 2002. There is no term limit, so Chirac could have run again, but chose not to. He was succeeded by Nicolas Sarkozy on 16 May 2007. A term limit is due to be introduced by a constitutional reform planned to be passed on 7 July 2008, which would limit politicians to at most two presidential terms. The reform was passed on 21 July 2008. François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac are the only Presidents to date who have served a full two terms (14 years for the former, 12 years for the latter).Upon the death or resignation of the President, the President of the Senate acts as interim president. Alain Poher is the only person to have served this temporary position. The first time was in 1969 after Charles de Gaulle's resignation and a second time in 1974 after Georges Pompidou's death. It is important to note that, in this situation, the President of the Senate became an Interim President of the Republic; they do not become the new President of the Republic as elected and therefore do not have to resign from their position as President of the Senate. In spite of his title as Interim President of the Republic, Poher is regarded in France as a former President and is listed in the presidents' gallery on elysee.fr (the President's official site). This is in contrast to acting presidents from the Third Republic.

The official residence and office of the president is the Élysée Palace in Paris.

National Assembly (French: Assemblée nationale) is the lower house of the bicameral Parliament of France under the Fifth Republic. The other is the Senate The National Assembly consists of 577 members known as (deputies), each elected by a single-member constituency. Deputies are elected in each constituency through a two-rounds system. 289 seats are required for a majority. It is presided over by a president (currently Bernard Accoyer), normally from the largest party represented, assisted by vice-presidents from across the represented political spectrum. The term of the National Assembly is five years; however, the President of the Republic may dissolve the Assembly (for example, by calling for new elections) unless he has dissolved it in the preceding twelve months. This measure is becoming rarer since the 2000 referendum reduced the President's term from seven to five years : a President has its majority elected in the Assembly two months after him, and it would be useless for him to dissolve it.The official seat of the National Assembly is the Palais Bourbon on the banks of the river Seine .

Following a tradition started by the first National Assembly during the French Revolution, the “left-wing” parties sit to the left as seen from the president’s seat, and the “right-wing” parties sit to the right, and the seating arrangement thus directly indicates the political spectrum as represented in the Assembly.

The President of the Republic can decide to dissolve the National Assembly and call for new legislative elections. This is meant as a way to resolve stalemates where the Assembly cannot decide on a clear political direction. This possibility is seldom exercised. The last dissolution was by Jacques Chirac in 1997, following from the lack of popularity of prime minister Alain Juppé; however, the plan backfired, and the newly elected majority was opposed to Chirac.

The National Assembly can overthrow the executive government (that is, the Prime Minister and other ministers) by voting a motion of censure. For this reason, the prime minister and his cabinet are necessarily from the dominant party or coalition in the assembly. In the case of a president and assembly from opposing parties, this leads to the situation known as cohabitation. While motions of censure are periodically proposed by the opposition following government actions that it deems highly inappropriate, they are purely rhetorical; party discipline ensures that, throughout a parliamentary term, the government is never overthrown by the Assembly. Officially there has never been censure. The Government (the Prime Minister and the Minister of relationships with Parliament) sets the priorities of the agenda for the Assembly’s sessions, except for a single day each month. In practice, given the number of priority items, it means that the schedule of the Assembly is almost entirely set by the executive; bills generally only have a chance to be examined if proposed or supported by the executive.


Since 1988, the 577 deputies are elected by the direct universal suffrage with a two-round system by constituency, for a five-year mandate, subject to dissolution. The constituencies each comprise 100,000 inhabitants more or less. The electoral law of 1986 specifies that variations of population between constituencies should not, in any case, lead to a constituency exceeding more than 20% the average population of the constituencies of the département.[1] However, districts have not been redrawn since 1982. As a result of population movements since then, there are inequalities between the less populated rural districts and the urban districts. For example, the deputy for the most populated constituency, in the department of Val-d'Oise, represents 188,000 voters, while the deputy for the least populated constituency, in the department of Lozere, accounts for only 34,000.[2]

To be elected in the first round of voting, a candidate must obtain at least 50% of the votes cast, with a turn-out of at least 25% of the registered voters on the electoral rolls. If no candidate is elected in the first round, those who poll in excess of 12.5% of the registered voters in the first-round vote are entered in the second round of voting. If no candidate comply such conditions, the two better voted candidates advance to second round. In the second round, it is the candidate who gains the most votes who is elected. Each candidate is enrolled along with a substitute, who takes the candidate's place in the event of inability to represent the constituency, when the deputy becomes minister for example.

The organic law of 10 July 1985 established a system of party-list proportional representation within the framework of the département. It was necessary within this framework to obtain at least 5% of the vote to elect an official. However, the legislative election of 1986, carried out under this system, gave France a new majority which returned to the plurality voting system. There are 570 elected officials of the departments,[3] five representatives of the overseas collectivities (two for French Polynesia, one for Wallis and Futuna, one for Saint Pierre and Miquelon and one for Mayotte) and two for New Caledonia since 1986.

Senate (French: Sénat) is the upper house of the Parliament of France, presided over by a president.The Senate enjoys less prominence than the lower house, the directly elected National Assembly; debates in the Senate tend to be less tense and enjoy generally less media coverage.France's first experience with an upper house was under the Directory from 1795 to 1799, when the Council of Ancients was the upper chamber. There were Senates in both the First and Second Empires (the former being known as the sénat conservateur, the latter as the French Senate), but these were only nominally legislative bodies - technically they were not legislative, but rather advisory bodies on the model of the Roman Senate.

With the Restoration in 1814, a new Chamber of Peers was created, on the model of the British House of Lords. At first it contained hereditary peers, but following the July Revolution of 1830, it became a body to which one was appointed for life. The Second Republic returned to a unicameral system after 1848, but soon after the establishment of the Second French Empire in 1852, a Senate was established as the upper chamber. In the Fourth Republic, the Senate was renamed the Council of the Republic, but its function was largely the same. With the new constitution of the Fifth Republic in 1959, the older name of Senate was restored.

Composition and election

Until September 2004, the Senate had 321 senators, each elected to a nine-year term. On that date, the term was reduced to six years, while the number of senators will progressively increase to 346 in 2010 to reflect changes in the country's demographics. Senators were elected in thirds every three years; this will also change to one-half of their number every three years.

Senators are elected indirectly by approximately 150,000 local elected officials ("grands électeurs"), including regional councilors, department councilors, mayors, city councilors and their delegates in large towns, and deputies of the National Assembly. This system introduces a bias in the composition of the Senate, which favors rural areas. As a consequence, while the political majority changes frequently in the National Assembly, the Senate has remained politically conservative since the foundation of the Fifth Republic, and it is expected that it will remain so in the forthcoming years. This has spurred controversy, especially after the September 2008 senatorial elections[1] in which the (left-wing) Socialist party, despite controlling all but one of France's regions, a majority of départements, and communes representing 60% of the population, still failed to achieve a majority in the Senate.

Twelve senators are elected to represent French citizens living outside the Republic


Senators elect among themselves a President. The current incumbent is Gérard Larcher. The President of the Senate is also, according to the constitution of the Fifth Republic, first in line of succession in case of death, resignation or impeachment (only for health reasons) of the President of the Republic, thus becoming Acting President of the Republic until a new election can be held. This happened twice for Alain Poher, once at the resignation of Charles de Gaulle and once at the death of Georges Pompidou.


According to the Constitution, the Senate has nearly the same powers as the National Assembly. Bills may be submitted by the government (projets de loi) or by either house of Parliament (propositions de loi). However, if the National Assembly and the Senate cannot agree upon the language of a bill, the Government can ask the National Assembly to make a final vote on the bill, either using the original version that the National Assembly voted on, or the edited version adopted by the Commission mixte paritaire and including any amendments put forth by the Senate that the National Assembly may desire to adopt. During a period of social dominance, or conflictual bicameralism, the Assembly can override a Senate veto.

Because both houses may amend the bill, it may take several readings to reach an agreement between the National Assembly and the Senate. When the Senate and the National Assembly cannot agree on a bill, the government can decide, after a procedure called commission mixte paritaire, to give the final decision to the National Assembly, whose majority is normally on the government's side. This does not happen frequently: most of the time both houses eventually agree on the bill, or the government decides to withdraw it. However, this power gives the National Assembly a prominent role in the law-making process, especially since the government is necessarily of the same side as the Assembly, for the Assembly can dismiss the government through a motion of censure. The power to pass a vote of censure, or vote of no confidence, is limited. As was the case in the Fourth Republic's Constitution, new cabinets do not have to receive a vote of confidence. Also, a vote of censure can only occur after 10 percent of the members sign a petition; if rejected, those members who signed cannot sign another petition until that session of parliament had ended. If the petition gets the required support, a vote of censure must gain an absolute majority of all members, not just those voting. If the Assembly and the Senate have politically distinct majorities, it is expected in most cases that the Assembly will prevail, so that open conflict between the two houses is uncommon.

The Senate also serves to monitor the government's actions by publishing many reports every year on various topics.


The Senate is housed inside the Palais du Luxembourg in the 6th arrondissement of Paris and is guarded by Republican Guards. In front of the building lies the Senate's garden, the Jardin du Luxembourg, open to the public.

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