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Who Runs the Country in France's Semi-Presidential system?


There are many forms of Government but what makes the French form of Government interesting is who has the executive power and who decides the policy of the Government. In the Presidential form of Government, like the US the President is elected by the people and has full executive power while in the Parliamentary form of Government like the UK, people elect members of Parliament and those members elect the prime minister who will have the executive power. In the French Fifth Republic, it is a combination of both.

The semi-presidential was brought by Charles de Gaulle a Parliamentary Government with a strong President in 1958. The President was chosen in 1958 by elected members of Parliament not by direct vote from the people. Charles de Gaulle changed that in 1962 by calling for a referendum with 62,5% of French people voting “Yes” for the President to be elected by the people. However, in France, the prime minister is not elected by the majority of the Parliament he/she is appointed by the President.

The President has reserved domains that encompass military and foreign policy while the prime minister has more say in domestic matters if he/she is from a different party. If the President’s party loses the majority of the seats in the Parliament that means he/she will need to appoint a prime minister from the opposition which is called cohabitation. Often in that case the prime minister has more power to run the country than a president with weak executive power.

The President can appoint a prime minister without the need for a vote in Parliament, but for the prime minister to be able to pass legislation the majority of the members of the Parliament need to be on the side of the prime minister. The prime minister will present to the Parliament the policies and the reforms he/she wants to achieve in a speech before them and after the speech, the prime minister will ask for a vote of confidence.

If the prime minister does not get the vote of confidence, he/she will have to resign. The prime minister can govern without asking for a vote of confidence because the vote of confidence is not obligatory according to the French constitution according to an article published by Le Mond on January 16, 2024.

Former prime minister Élisabeth Borne did not have a majority in the French Parliament so it did not ask for a vote of confidence in 2022. She would have had to resign If she had asked for a vote of confidence and did not get it. According to an article published by HuffPost on 16/1/2024, Gabriel Attal will follow his predecessor and will not ask for a vote of confidence.

Edited by: Megha Siddapura Manjunatha

 Image: Le Mond


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