A comparative chronology of democracy / election and how it has and will influence politics in France between the time period of 1970-2020. In 1958, the highly centralized Fifth Republic was created, which lasts to the present day. Its constitution is characterized by the strong executive powers vested in the presidency. This constitution was approved by popular vote, and direct elections every seven years elect a President. The President presides over a cabinet of members headed by a Prime Minister of his or her choosing. The legislative body is divided into two houses, the National Assembly and the senate, whose members are elected for nine-year terms.
The National Assembly's members are directly elected for five-year terms. The Senate members are indirectly elected by an electoral college to serve nine-year terms. The French judicial system assesses the constitutionality of legislation that is referred to review by the Parliament, Prime Minister or President. The Fifth Republic was almost overthrown in 1968 by a radical alliance of students and industrial workers.
In reaction, conservative presidents and center-right majorities in the National Assembly governed France throughout the 1970 s. In 1981, a Socialist Francois Mitterland won the presidential election, the first time the Socialist party's candidate had been victorious. In May 1988, he was reelected for a second term. Jacques Chirac, who had been both mayor of Paris and Prime Minister, had succeeded Mitterland as president in May of 1995 after a narrow victory over the Socialist challenger Lionel Jospin. In the legislature, Chirac had the benefit of a conservative majority. This came about after a victory for the right in the legislative elections in March 1993: unusually, the two right-wing parties, the Gaullist Rally for the Republic Party (RPR) and the more centrist Union Democratique Francaise (UDF) -normally fierce rivals, agreed to present joint candidates.
Edouard Balladur of the RPR, a sometime Minister of Finance, became Prime Minister. In 1995, Balladur was replaced by Alain Ju ppe, whose rigorous pursuit of an economic austerity program undermined the support for the government and opened the way for revival of the left. Presently, France has a mixed presidential and parliamentary government that unites directly and popularly elected President, as Head of State, with a cabinet dependent on parliamentary confidence. As in other presidential governments, the president's term is fixed, but he or she may be reelected an unlimited number of times. The French Constitution of 1958 reduced the power of the Parliament and conferred onto the President the right to dissolve the National Assembly and to appoint the head of French government, the Prime Minister, as well as the Council of Ministers.
The former executive is also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces and is directly responsible to the Parliament, a two-chambered body. Originally the Prime Minister's significant power as head of the government (Council of Ministers) and the majority party in the National Assembly was sustained by the Fifth Republic's constitutional arrangement. During Charles de Gaulle's presidency, however, responsibility for matters of foreign policy and national defense was transferred away from the government's leadership, and the Prime Minister was divested of a good deal of his political power. Currently, the authority and influence of the presidency eclipses that of the government and the Prime Minister, although certain domestic obligations have been returned to the latter.
This uneven balance of authority is unlike the power arrangements in more traditional forms of parliamentary governance. Characteristics of this type of a regime, however, are evident in the President's relationship to the Prime Minister and the Parliament. When the majority in the Parliament backs the President, the prime minister tends to act as a deputy to the head of state. Regardless of who is in power in the government, the president always appoints a prime minister from the parliamentary majority party, so the two executives may disagree on policy issues and strive to limit each other's authority.
This type of rule, known as cohabitation, is currently evident in France; the chief of state is President Jacques Chirac, who has been in power since May of 1995 and is the member of the Rally for the Republic (RPR) Party. Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, the Socialist head of government, has been in power since June of 1997. The most recent legislative election in France was held on May 25 th, 1997. The National Assembly (Assemblee Nationale) consists of 577 members, each of whom is elected for a five-year term in single seat-constituencies. The percentages are based on percent of the total nationwide vote, so they do not necessarily correspond to number of seats won by a particular party.
If no candidate received greater than 50% of the vote, run-off elections were held on June 1 st, and candidates receiving more then 12. 5% of the original vote were eligible to continue to compete for a seat. The current French President's term ends on 16 May 2002 at midnight. A new President has to be elected between 20 and 35 days before that date. The first ballot of the 2002 election took place on Sunday 21 April 2002 and the second ballot will be held on Sunday 5 May. President Jacques Chirac and M.
Jean-Marie Le Pen will run for the position.