How is the French Electoral System Unique?

The French are unique in that they are one of the only countries to have a Semi-Presidential electorla system. What is this kind of electoral system you ask? A semi-presidential system is characterized by a spread of power in the government. The government’s power comes from three different sources: A Strong president, a prime minister, and a Bureaucracy. France has one of the most effective bureacracies in all of Europe.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½The French bureacracy is able to accomplish a lot of items on their agendas.

The French president has a lot of strong powers and is a very influential office. United control of the government is when the president and prime minister are both from the same political party. When this happens, more legislation is abled to be passed easier because there is less gridlock in the government.�¯�¿�½ When the president and prime minister are from different political parties it is called cohabitation. The terms of the president in past years have been for 7 year terms but recently since 2002 the term of the president has been reduced to 5 years. In French history there have been two presidents who have had an enormous amount of power. Those two men are Charles DeGaule and Francois Mitterand. DeGaule was president from 1958 to 1969 and Mitterand was president from 1981 to 1995.�¯�¿�½

The president is bound by the French Constitution and electoral system. In France there is a two ballot system. In the first round a multitude of parties try to gain power in France. In the second tour, two candidates emerge from the pool of candidates. The two men are then voted on by the French public until one man has the simple majority of votes which is 50% plus 1. France is characterized by this Single Member, single majority voting system.

The powers of the president are the ability to name the prime minister and approve of the prime minister’s choice for cabinet positions. Other powers of the president include the ability to preside over the council of ministers, conduct foreign affaris, and direct the armed forces. Another important power in the power to dissolve the national assmebly. However the president can only do this one time every 12 months. He also appoints 3 members of the Constitutional Court including the presiding judge on the court. There are also three different articles in the Constitution which grant the president powers. Article 16 states the emergency powers clause which allows the president to declare a state of emergency and assume full control of the government in a time of a crises. Article 11 allows the president to sponsor a referendum. Finally, Article 89 allows the president to propose amendments to the Constitution provided that the prime minister supports the amendment.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

The prime minister is the head of the government but the constitution is ambiguous about the true nature of the prime minister’s powers. When the prime minister and president are from different political parties and have different viewpoints, the power of the prime minister increases because he can check the authority of the president. When the prime minister and president are from the same party the power of the prime minister decreases but more legislation and goals of the party are able to be accomplished. The prime minister also nomiates the cabinet members but the president must approve of each person. Finally, the prime minister is often used as a scapegoat by the president. The prime minister takes the blame for unpopular decisions made but the president takes the credit for popular decisions. This creates a no-win type of situation for the prime minister.

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