France/Government

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The constitution of the Fifth Republic was approved by public referendum on September 28, 1958. It greatly strengthened the authority of the executive in relation to Parliament. Under the constitution, the president is elected directly for a 7-year term (5 year from 2002). Presidential arbitration assures regular functioning of the public powers and the continuity of the state. The president names the prime minister, presides over the cabinet, commands the armed forces, and concludes treaties.

The president may submit questions to a national referendum and can dissolve the National Assembly. In certain emergency situations, the president may assume full powers. Besides the president, the other main component of France's executive branch is the cabinet. Headed by a prime minister, who is the nominal head of government, the cabinet is composed of a varying number of ministers, ministers-delegates, and secretaries of state. Parliament meets for one 9-month session each year. Under special circumstances an additional session can be called by the president. Although parliamentary powers are diminished from those existing under the Fourth Republic, the National Assembly can still cause a government to fall if an absolute majority of the total Assembly membership votes to censure.

The National Assembly is the principal legislative body. Its deputies are directly elected to 5-year terms, and all seats are voted on in each election. Senators are chosen by an electoral college for 9-year terms, and one-third of the Senate is renewed every 3 years. The Senate's legislative powers are limited; the National Assembly has the last word in the event of a disagreement between the two houses. The government has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament. The government also can link its life to a legislative text he propose, and unless a motion of censure is introduced (24h from proposal) and voted (48h from introduction) (full procedure last at most 72 hours), the text is considered adopted without a vote.

The most distinctive feature of the French judicial system is that it is divided into the Constitutional Council and the Council of State. The Constitutional Council examines legislation and decides whether it conforms to the constitution. Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, it considers only legislation that is referred to it by Parliament, the prime minister, or the president; moreover, it considers legislation before it is promulgated. The Council of State has a separate function from the Constitutional Council and provides recourse to individual citizens who have claims against the administration.

Traditionally, decisionmaking in France has been highly centralized, with each of France's departments headed by a prefect appointed by the central government. In 1982, the national government passed legislation to decentralize authority by giving a wide range of administrative and fiscal powers to local elected officials. In March 1986, regional councils were directly elected for the first time, and the process of decentralization continues, albeit at a slow pace.

Political conditions
During his first 2 years in office, President Chirac's prime minister was Alain Juppe, who served contemporaneously as leader of Chirac's neo-Gaullist Rally for the Republic (RPR) Party. Chirac and Juppe benefited from a very large, if rather unruly, majority in the National Assembly (470 out of 577 seats). Mindful that the government might have to take politically costly decisions in advance of the legislative elections planned for spring 1998 in order to ensure France met the Maastricht criteria for the single European currency, Chirac decided in April 1997 to call early elections. The Left, however--led by Socialist Party leader Lionel Jospin, whom Chirac defeated in the 1995 presidential race--unexpectedly won a solid National Assembly majority (319 seats, with 289 required for an absolute majority) in the two rounds of balloting, which took place May 25 and June 1,1997. President Chirac named Jospin prime minister on June 2, and Jospin went on to form a government composed primarily of Socialist ministers, along with some ministers from allied parties of the Left, such as the Communist and the Greens. Jospin stated his support for continued European integration and his intention to keep France on the path of toward Economic and Monetary Union, albeit with greater attention to social concerns.

The tradition in periods of "cohabitation" (president of one party, prime minister of another) is for the president to exercise the primary role in foreign and security policy, with the dominant role in domestic policy falling to the prime minister and his government. Jospin stated, however, that he would not a priori leave any domain exclusively to the president.

Chirac and Jospin have worked together, for the most part, in the foreign affairs field with representatives of the presidency and the government pursuing a single, agreed French policy. The current "cohabitation" arrangement is the longest-lasting in the history of the Fifth Republic. Presidential and legislative elections will be held in the spring of 2002.

Country name:
conventional long form: French Republic
conventional short form: France
local long form: Republique Francaise
local short form: France

Data code: FR

Government type: republic

Capital: Paris

Administrative divisions: 22 regions (regions, singular - region); Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comte, Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Rhone-Alpes
note: metropolitan France is divided into 22 regions (including the "territorial collectivity" of Corse or Corsica) and is subdivided into 96 departments; see separate entries for the overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion) and the overseas territorial collectivities (Mayotte, Saint Pierre and Miquelon)

Dependent areas: Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, New Caledonia, Tromelin Island, Wallis and Futuna
note: the US does not recognize claims to Antarctica

Independence: 486 (unified by Clovis)

National holiday: National Day, Taking of the Bastille, 14 July (1789)

Constitution: 28 September 1958, amended concerning election of president in 1962, amended to comply with provisions of EC Maastricht Treaty in 1992; amended to tighten immigration laws 1993

Legal system: civil law system with indigenous concepts; review of administrative but not legislative acts

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Jacques Chirac (since 17 May 1995)
head of government: Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (since 3 June 1997)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the suggestion of the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term; election last held 23 April and 7 May 1995 (next to be held by May 2002); prime minister nominated by the National Assembly majority and appointed by the president
election results: Jacques Chirac elected president; percent of vote, second ballot - Jacques Chirac (RPR) 52.64%, Lionel Jospin (PS) 47.36%

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlement consists of the Senate or Senat (321 seats - 296 for metropolitan France, 13 Country name:
conventional long form: French Republic
conventional short form: France
local long form: Republique Francaise
local short form: France

Data code: FR

Government type: republic

Capital: Paris

Administrative divisions: 22 regions (regions, singular - region); Alsace, Aquitaine, Auvergne, Basse-Normandie, Bourgogne, Bretagne, Centre, Champagne-Ardenne, Corse, Franche-Comte, Haute-Normandie, Ile-de-France, Languedoc-Roussillon, Limousin, Lorraine, Midi-Pyrenees, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, Picardie, Poitou-Charentes, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, Rhone-Alpes
note: metropolitan France is divided into 22 regions (including the "territorial collectivity" of Corse or Corsica) and is subdivided into 96 departments; see separate entries for the overseas departments (French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Reunion) and the overseas territorial collectivities (Mayotte, Saint Pierre and Miquelon)

Dependent areas: Bassas da India, Clipperton Island, Europa Island, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Glorioso Islands, Juan de Nova Island, New Caledonia, Tromelin Island, Wallis and Futuna
note: the US does not recognize claims to Antarctica

Independence: 486 (unified by Clovis)

National holiday: National Day, Taking of the Bastille, 14 July (1789)

Constitution: 28 September 1958, amended concerning election of president in 1962, amended to comply with provisions of EC Maastricht Treaty in 1992; amended to tighten immigration laws 1993

Legal system: civil law system with indigenous concepts; review of administrative but not legislative acts

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Jacques Chirac (since 17 May 1995)
head of government: Prime Minister Lionel Jospin (since 3 June 1997)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the president on the suggestion of the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term; election last held 23 April and 7 May 1995 (next to be held by May 2002); prime minister nominated by the National Assembly majority and appointed by the president
election results: Jacques Chirac elected president; percent of vote, second ballot - Jacques Chirac (RPR) 52.64%, Lionel JOSPIN (PS) 47.36%

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlement consists of the Senate or Senat (321 seats - 296 for metropolitan France, 13 for overseas departments and territories, and 12 for French nationals abroad; members are indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve nine-year terms; elected by thirds every three years) and the National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (577 seats; members are elected by popular vote under a single-member majoritarian system to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 27 September 1998 (next to be held September 2001); National Assembly - last held 25 May-1 June 1997 (next to be held NA May 2002)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - RPR 99, UDC 52, DL 47, PS 78, PCF 16, other 29; National Assembly - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - PS 245, RPR 140, UDF 109, PCF 37, PRS 13, MEI 8, MDC 7, LDI-MPF 1, FN 1, various left 9, various right 7

Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Appeals or Cour de Cassation, judges are appointed by the president from nominations of the High Council of the Judiciary; Constitutional Council or Conseil Constitutionnel, three members appointed by the president, three members appointed by the president of the National Assembly, and three appointed by the president of the Senate; Council of State or Conseil d'Etat

Political parties and leaders: Citizens Movement or MdC (Jean Pierre Chevenement); Democratic Force or FD [leader NA]; Ecology Gereration or GE (Brice Lalonde); French Communist Party or PCF (Robert Hue); Independent Ecological Movement or MEI (Jenevieve Andueza); Left Radical Party or PRG (previously Radical Socialist Party or PRS and the Left Radical Movement or MRG) (Jean-Michel Baylet); Liberal Democracy or DL (originally Republican Party or PR) (Alain Madelin); Movement for France or LDI-MPF (Philippe Devilliers); National Center of Independents and Peasants or CNIP (Jean Perrin); Front National or FN (Jean-Marie Le Pen); National Front-National Movement (Bruno Megret); Popular Party for French Democracy or PPDF (Herve de Charette); Radical Party or RRRS (Thierry Cornillet); Rally for the Republic or RPR (Michelle Alliot-Marie); Reformers' Movement or MR (Jean-Pierre Soisson); Socialist Party or PS (Francois Hollande); The Greens (Les Verts) (Jean-Luc Bennahmias); The Right (La Droite) (Charles Millon); Union for French Democracy or UDF (coalition of UDC, FD, RRRS, PPDF) (Francois Leotard); Union of the Center or UDC [leader NA]

Political pressure groups and leaders: Communist-controlled labor union (Confederation Generale du Travail) or CGT, nearly 2.4 million members (claimed); independent labor union or Force Ouvriere, 1 million members (est.); independent white-collar union or Confederation Generale des Cadres, 340,000 members (claimed); Union of French Corporations(Mouvement Des Entreprises de France) or MEDEF or Patronat; Socialist-leaning labor union (Confederation Francaise Democratique du Travail) or CFDT, about 800,000 members (est.)

International organization participation: ACCT, AfDB, AsDB, Australia Group, BDEAC, BIS, CCC, CDB (non-regional), CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, ECA (associate), ECE, ECLAC, EIB, EMU, ESA, ESCAP, EU, FAO, FZ, G-5, G-7, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, InOC, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, MINURSO, MIPONUH, MONUC, NAM (guest), NATO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OPCW, OSCE, PCA, SPC, UN, UN Security Council, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIFIL, UNIKOM, UNITAR, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNOMIG, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WADB (nonregional), WCL, WEU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Francois V. BUJON DE L'ESTANG
chancery: 4101 Reservoir Road NW, Washington, DC 20007
telephone: [1] (202) 944-6000
FAX: [1] (202) 944-6166
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, and San Francisco

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Felix Rohatyn
embassy: 2 Avenue Gabriel, 75382 Paris Cedex 08
mailing address: PSC 116, APO AE 09777
telephone: [33] (1) 43-12-22-22
FAX: [33] (1) 42 66 97 83
consulate(s) general: Marseille, Strasbourg

Flag description: three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), white, and red; known as the French Tricouleur (Tricolor); the design and colors are similar to a number of other flags, including those of Belgium, Chad, Ireland, Côte d'Ivoire, and Luxembourg; the official flag for all French dependent areas