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Who rules in France? What factors determine the actual powers of the President and Prime minister of France?

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Introduction

Who rules in France? What factors determine the actual powers of the President and Prime minister of France? In France, no single person rules the country but the power is shared between the President and the Prime minister. The President and Prime ministers both have different powers and responsibilities which are generally set by the constitution but can be altered by various external factors such as the political climate at the time and external controls. According to Vincent Wright (1978) the president of France can be said to have five basic functions: he is the head of state, the guardian of the national interest, the fountain head of patronage, the country's most prominent politician and finally the head of the executive. The President is expected to carry out ceremonial duties, make courtesy visits abroad and accredit ambassadors. He is also seen as the most significant and dominant politician with strong leadership qualities and charisma- 'De Gaulle like imperious rulers in non-democratic regimes virtually monopolized the mass media and used the press conference not so much to enlighten the people as to appeal for national unity'1. However, now must also consider the President's strong political power. The Constitution of 4 October 1958 had provided for the election of the President of the Republic by indirect universal suffrage by an electoral college comprising the members of Parliament and various representatives of local elected officials. ...read more.

Middle

He has a valid point, indeed, some of the presidential powers may be overlapping, even conflicting with those of the Prime ministers. The particular voting system adopted by a system may affect the outcome of the election and therefore determine the power given to a particular party. First-past-the-post voting was introduced by General de Gaulle as an antidote to the instability which had plagued the governments of the Fourth Republic and which had been largely due to proportional representation. The proportional system was brought back for the 1986 general election by the Socialist government - which was seeking better representation for small political groups The 1986 cohabitation brought a new stage of party development in the temporary non-coincidence of the presidential and parliamentary majorities. The President promised to stay in office unless the new majority blocked his constitutional powers. Two years later the first past the post system was reinstated and has remained in tact ever since. However, this cohabitation must have changed the power balance between the President and Prime minister. The President used to be more far more dominant prior to this cohabitation but this power sharing changed things. William Saffran stated that 'In 1988 much of the Presidents power was restored yet his relationship to the Premier has remained ambiguous considering both his policy disagreements with Rocard and the fact ...read more.

Conclusion

Dreyfus also recognises that there are legal restrictions by which 'the state is made to respect the law'8. Laws can be submitted to different bodies such as the Constitutional council, the council of state, The European commission and the European court of justice. Another restraint on the powers of the President and Prime minister are extra-institutional controls. They are not laid down in documents but can be in the form of interest and pressure groups. The media also has a lot of influence when it comes to the policy and power. The case of the Le Monde newspaper is significant as it played a major role in the resignation of the defence secretary after the Rainbow warrior fiasco of 1985. 1 Saffran, W.1991 (Third edition), The French Polity,pg 155 New York, Longman Press 2 Saffran, W.1991 (Third edition), The French Polity, pg 152 New York, Longman Press 3 Macridis, RC 1975, French Politics In Transition: The years after DeGaulle, pg 8,Cambright, Mass. Winthrop publishing. 4 Saffran, W.1991 (Third edition), The French Polity, pg 158 New York, Longman Press 5 Saffran, W.1991 (Third edition), The French Polity, pg 151 New York, Longman Press 6 Wright, V. 1978, The Government and Politics of France,pg 108, London, Hutchinson 7 Dreyfus F, (Taken from Hall, P et all,1990, Developments in French Politics, pg 134, London, Macmillan 8 Dreyfus F, (Taken from Hall, P et all,1990, Developments in French Politics, pg 134, London, Macmillan ...read more.

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