France has a vibrant democracy. This article briefly helps you understand The Fifth Republic, Executive Branch, Legislative and Judicial branches of France. It also throws light on Promulgation of laws, the constitutional council and the list of political parties.
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The French Constitution
France is a republic; the institutions of governance of France are defined by the Constitution, more specifically by the current constitution, being that of the Fifth Republic. The Constitution has been modified several times since the start of the Fifth Republic, most recently in July 2008, when the French “Congress” (A joint convention of the two chambers of Parliament) approved – by 1 vote over the 60% majority required -constitutional changes proposed by Former President Sarkozy.
The Fifth Republic
The fifth republic was established in 1958, and was largely the work of General de Gaulle – its first president, and Michel Debré his prime minister. It has been amended 17 times. Though the French constitution is parliamentary, it gave relatively extensive powers to the executive (President and Ministers) compared to other western democracies.
The Executive Branch
The Legislative Branch
The French Parliament is made up of two houses or chambers. The lower and principal house of parliament is the Assemblée nationale, or national assembly; the second chamber is the Sénat or Senate. Members of Parliament, called Députés, are elected by universal suffrage, in general elections (élections législatives) that take place every five years. Senators are elected by “grand electors”, who are mostly other local elected representatives. The electoral system for parliamentary elections involves two rounds; a candidate can be elected on the first round by obtaining an absolute majority of votes cast. The second round is a runoff between two or more candidates, usually two
The Judicial Branch
While the Minister of Justice, le Garde des Sceaux, has powers over the running of the justice system and public prosecutors, the judiciary is strongly independent of the executive and legislative branches. The official handbook of French civil law is theCode Civil.
Promulgation of Laws
New bills (projets de loi), proposed by government, and new private members bills (propositions de loi) must be approved by both chambers, before becoming law. However, by virtue of Article 49.3 of the French constitution, a government can override parliamentary opposition and pass a law without a parilimentary vote. This does not happen frequently, and in the framework of constitutional amendments, Former President Sarkozy curtailed the possibility of using 49.3. Laws and decrees are promulgated when the official text is published in the Official Journal of the French Republic, le Journal Officiel.
The Constitutional Council
The Constitutional Council , le Conseil constitutionnel, exists to determine the constitutionality of new legislation or decrees. It has powers to strike down a bill before it passes into law, if it is deemed unconstitutional, or to demand the withdrawal of decrees even after promulgation. The Council is made up of nine members, appointed (three each) by the President of the Republic, the leader of the National Assembly, and the leader of the Senate, plus all surviving former heads of state.
Currently, as of 2020, French Government is formed by La Republique En Marche party and the President is Emmanuel Macron.
The Main Political Parties are:
On the right: The Popular Union Movement (UMP – Union pour un Mouvement Populaire),
Centre right: the New Centre (Nouveau Centre), and the Union of Democrats and Independents (launched in 2012) l’Union des démocrates et indépendants,
Centre left: The Democratic Movement (Mouvement Démocratique, MoDem)
On the left: the Socialist party (Parti Socialiste, PS) – since June 2012 the party in power. The French Communist Party (parti Communiste Français – PCF). The Green Party (Europe Ecologie Les Verts. France also has some surprisingly resiliant extremist parties on the left and on the right, including the NPA (Nouveau parti anticapitaliste) and the trotskyist Workers’ Party (Lutte ouvrière), and the National Front (Front National).
The above details would help candidates prepare for UPSC 2020.