Short for FR by Abbreviationfinder, France has so-called semi-presidential rule, which is a mixture of presidential rule and parliamentarism. The president is head of state and appoints and dismisses the government. Parliament consists of the directly elected National Assembly and the indirectly elected Senate. The National Assembly has the strongest position of both chambers, as it can cast off the government through a vote of no confidence and has a decisive vote in terms of legislation. The political landscape is dominated by a right and a left bloc.
The Constitution dates from 1958 when the “Fifth Republic” was introduced (see Modern History). However, several changes have been made since then.
Previously, the President and members of the National Assembly had various long terms of office. It helped that the president and the parliamentary majority during periods had different political affiliations, so-called cohabitation (la cohabitation). In order to reduce the risk of this situation, from 2002 onwards, equal length of mandate periods were introduced.
- Countryaah: Total population and chart of France for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
Presidential elections are now held every five years (against earlier every seventh), a few weeks before elections to the National Assembly. If no candidate receives more than half of the votes in a first round of elections, the two main candidates will meet in a second round. According to a rule that came into being in 2008, a president may not sit for more than two terms in a row.
The President himself appoints the Prime Minister, can dissolve the National Assembly and announce new elections, and announce binding referendums. In exceptional circumstances, the President can rule by decree, that is, decisions that have the same force as laws, even though they are not passed by Parliament. In essence, it is the president who directs the government’s policies, although the prime minister does much of the daily work. The President has a particularly strong influence on foreign and defense policy.
There are 577 members of the National Assembly, 22 of whom represent France’s overseas territories and 11 are appointed by French nationals residing abroad. Members are elected by majority vote in one-man constituencies. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in their constituency, those who have received at least 12.5 percent have the right to stand in a decisive second ballot, where the one with the most votes wins.
The members of the Senate are indirectly elected by approximately 150,000 representatives of regional assemblies, municipal councils and other political bodies. The term of office is six years and elections are held for half of the seats every three years. Until 2004, the term of office was nine years and elections were then held to one third of the seats at a time. The transition took place gradually until 2011, at the same time as the number of seats was gradually increased from 321 to 348. 19 senators represent the overseas territories and 12 represent French citizens abroad.
In the past, the Senate emerged as a politically conservative force, as the electoral system gives the countryside a relatively strong position and the right-wing parties are stronger there. However, with the Senate elections in September 2011, the left gained a majority in the upper house, for the first time since the fifth republic was introduced.
France metropolitan area, ie the French mainland and the island of Corsica, is divided into 13 regions and 96 departments. The number of regions was previously 22, but they were merged in 2016. Five regions – which here coincide with ministries – are located in the overseas territories (see below). Furthermore, there is a division into over 300 districts, just over 2,000 cantons and 35,500 municipalities. Elected parishes govern the regions, ministries and municipalities. Unlike other elections, regional elections are proportional.
For centuries, France has been a highly centralized country with power concentrated in Paris. The local bodies have been weak and almost considered part of the state administration. The regions were created during the 1980s so that the central government could more effectively coordinate the social and economic development of the country. The regions’ influence and budget are limited, and they have direct decision-making power only in the operation of colleges, universities and higher vocational schools and in certain environmental issues.
In recent years, a stronger regional identity has begun to emerge in several parts of the country, and local self-government at various levels has developed. In 1982, Corsica was given a constitution which marks that the island differs from other regions. An elected national council was empowered to independently manage the island’s economy.
The political unrest that has occurred in Corsica since 1975 continued despite the establishment of a national council. At times, the unrest has been about internal settlements within the nationalist movement, but in other cases tourism facilities and government buildings have been attacked. Bomb attacks have occurred. The nationalists have demanded increased autonomy for Corsica and have consisted of several different groups, some of whom have been accused of conspiring with the Italian mafia. However, the nationalists have received just under 20 percent of the vote in the regional elections. The armed separatist group Corsica’s national liberation front(FLNC) announced a ceasefire in 2002-2007, but several outbreak groups continued bombing. Around the middle of the 2010s, two outbreak groups ended their operations. In 2015, the National Assembly approved that Corsica from 2018 will be given the status of collectivité territoriale unique, which means, among other things, that the legislative councils at the regional and departmental level are merged into a single assembly.
The overseas areas (see Geography) have different status. Guadeloupe, Martinique, French Guiana, Réunion and Mayotte are so-called overseas regions or ministries (régions d’outre mer / départements d’outre mer). They have the same position as the regions / departments in France itself but with a certain right to adapt laws to local conditions. French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy are collectivités d’outre-mer. They are largely managed as a French department, but are not yet fully part of the French state. New Caledonia has its own status and far-reaching self-government. All overseas territories send representatives to the French Parliament.
The French judiciary is based on the country’s first uniform law collection, the Civil Code of 1804 (Code Civil or Code Napoléon). Just as in Sweden, there is a system of public courts and one with administrative courts.
In the first instance, among the general courts, there are a number of different names depending on the nature of the case (criminal cases, disputes of varying kinds). Appeal judgments are brought by appellate courts. The highest court is the Cour de Cassation. It makes no judgments, but refers cases to another appellate court for reconsideration if it considers that errors have been committed.
Among the administrative courts, Le Conseil d ‘Etat is the highest court. Le Conseil Constitutionnel examines whether laws are in accordance with the constitution and issues binding decisions.
French policy is characterized by a strong concentration on Paris. The parties are generally not popular movements, and the party organizations at regional and local level are poorly developed. Today’s leading parties are relatively new creations. The difference between the two largest parties has decreased in recent years.
Socialist organizations were formed as early as 1879, but the current Socialist Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste, PS) was founded in 1969 when several leftist groups merged. Two years later, another collection of groups, led by François Mitterrand, joined the French left-wing figure for a quarter of a century. Mitterrand was president from 1981 to 1995. In the 2012 presidential election, the socialists regained presidential power when their candidate François Hollande won. During Holland’s presidency, the party became increasingly divided; left-wing parties in the party opposed the Hollande government’s economic policies and labor market reforms (see Modern History). Hollande’s low voter support and the failure to organize the economy contributed to PS’s strong race in the National Assembly elections in 2017.
The major bourgeois party is the Republicans (les Républicains), who took this name in May 2015 after previously being named Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire, UMP). Republicans /The UMP was formed in 2002 through a merger of the conservative Gaullist Party Republican Assembly (Rassemblement Pour la République, RPR), significant parts of the Center Party of French Democracy (Union pour la Démocratie Française, UDF) and neoliberal Liberal Democracy (Démocratie Libérale, DL). RPR drew its inspiration from the nationalist and social conservative movement that Charles de Gaulle created after World War II, but was first formed in 1976 by Jacques Chirac. The UDF was formed in 1977 as a valaliance of bourgeois middle parties to support President Valéry Giscard d´Estaing. The UMP won the presidential power in the 2002 election and retained it during Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007-2012 term. Republicans returned to the 2017 parliamentary elections but remained the second largest party.
The parties and members of the UDF who did not join the UMP in 2002 continued their cooperation under the old name. After the 2007 presidential election, however, the majority of UDF members – including most in Parliament – chose to support the new president Nicolas Sarkozy and instead formed the New Center (Nouveau Center, NC). But UDF leader François Bayrou chose to form another middle party, the Democratic Movement (Mouvement Démocrate, Modem). Modem allied with President Emmanuel Macron’s newly formed Republic of the Road (LREM, see below) ahead of the 2017 parliamentary elections.
A new center has been included since 2012 in the mid-Alliance Union of Democrats and Independents (Union of Democrats and Independents, UDI) together with, among others, the Radical Party (Parti Radical, PR). The Radical Party is the oldest party in the country and was originally a left-wing party but is now liberal and closely affiliated with the UMP. Another party within the UDI is the Center Alliance (Alliance Centriste).
Also on the left are several parties. The Social Liberal Radical Left Party (Parti Radical de Gauche, PRG) is often the support party for the PS but emphasizes private ownership to a greater extent. The French Communist Party (Parti Communiste Français, PCF), which was formed in 1920, has long been one of the strongest Communist parties in Western Europe. Communism’s fall in the early 1990s contributed to the party losing support, while undermining the Socialist Party’s success on the left. In connection with the EU elections in 2009, PCF formed an Alliance Alliance, the Left Front (Front de Gauche, FG) with the relatively newly formed Left Party (Parti de Gauche, PG) and other left groups. PG’s leader Jean-Luc Mélenchon was the Left Front candidate in the 2012 presidential election. In 2016, before the 2017 elections, he formed the new party Okuvade France (La France Insoumise, FI) and was himself the presidential candidate.
On the far left are, among others, the Labor Camp (Lutte Ouvrière, LO) and the New Anti-Capitalist Party (Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, NPA), which was formed in 2009 and is the heir to the Trotskyist Communist Revolutionary Alliance (Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire, LCR).
The Greens received little support from the electorate for a long time, but in the 2012 election, the party, which in 2010 joined the Alliance of European Ecology and formed the European Ecology-The Greens (Europe Ecology-Les Verts, EELV), came in third place.
In the shadow of growing economic problems, the right-wing National Front (Front National, UN) has achieved success, especially in the 2010s (see Current policy). The party was founded in 1972 and was led by Jean-Marie Le Pen until 2011, when his daughter Marine Le Pen took over the helm. The party stands for strong nationalism, mistrust of immigrants and tries to coin criticism against European cooperation and the political elite. In June 2018, the party changed its name to the National Collection (Rassemblement national). The party leader Marine Le Pen’s hope was that the party would, through the change of name, free itself from being associated with past racism and anti-Semitism and thus be open to the support of new voters and cooperation with other parties.
A new political center movement, En Marche (On the way) was formed in the spring of 2016 by Emmanuel Macron, who lacked connection with any established party even though he was Minister of Economy in the Socialist government under Manuel Valls (see Current policy). Macron won the presidential election in 2017. His party took the name Republic on the road in June 2017 (La République en Marche, LREM). The party won big in the elections.