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Over the Atlantic: the French Political System


France is a democratic country whose motto is “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” It conveys the values of people gathered in the same Nation. Once Monarchy was abolished in 1789 by what is known as the French Revolution and the decapitation of king Louis the 16th, there were different successive Republics. The Fifth Republic was approved in 1958 and is the one still in force today. The head of the State is the President of the French Republic: he is elected by universal suffrage for a 5-year term (it used to be 7-year term prior to 2002). There is no limit to the number of mandates that a same person can make as the head of the country but it has never exceeded two mandates. The current President is Nicolas Sarkozy. The President is assisted by the Government whose head is the Prime Minister, currently François Fillon, who is appointed by the President himself. The President and his Government represent the executive power leading the country.

This power is balanced by the legislative power: the Parliament. This body is bicameral, i.e. composed of two different chambers: the National Assembly and the Senate. The National Assembly deputies represent local constituencies and are directly elected for 5-year terms by the population of age to vote. The Assembly has the power to dismiss the cabinet and thus is able to punish the politics pursued by the Government. Hence, the majority in the Assembly determine the choices of the government. Unlike Assembly deputies, senators are chosen by an electoral college for 6 year-terms (previously 9-year terms). In the event of a disagreement between the two chambers, the Assembly has the final say. But when a law is proposed by the Government, it has to be approved by the National Assembly first before being presented to the Senate to be brought into effect. Hence, the Senate here has the final say since it is able to require a revision of the law before it can be brought into effect.
French politics is characterized by two main politically opposed groupings: one centered around the French Socialist Party (PS), the other being the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP), a liberal party. The latter political party currently leads the politics in France, the President as well as the greatest majority of the members of the Government being a part of it.
Lately, the President and his Government have been undergoing a strong resistance from the French population concerning a controversial law delaying the age of retirement.
Also, the President has seen his popularity drop below 30%, which has forced him to announce the forthcoming reshuffle of his Government for the last two years of his mandate and the next election in 2012.

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