Edited by Shaun Goldfinch and Joe L. Wallis
Glyn Jones and Alistair Cole Background to the French politico-administrative system France has a curious hybrid structure of executive authority, a system sometimes known as semi-presidentialism. The 1958 constitution affirmed the bases of a normal parliamentary system, creating a government responsible to Parliament (Article 20), headed by a prime minister (Article 21). But the constitution also strengthened the President of the Republic, in practice the key executive leader for most of the 50 years of the Fifth Republic. Directly elected since 1965, the President of the Republic has usually been able to rely upon a supportive parliamentary majority. The President has hired and fired not only the Prime Minister, but all the leading ministers as well. Interventionist Presidents, backed by a supportive majority in the National Assembly, have defined the main parameters of domestic, European and foreign policy. The present incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy, has gone so far as to nominate personally advisers to ministers, as well as closely supervising the selection and dismissal of the key executive personnel. Ministers and the Prime Minister owe their survival to presidential favour and can easily be dismissed if they fall out of favour. The President of the Republic also names the leading civil servants. The top 300 or so Civil Servants are political appointees, named in the Council of Ministers on proposal of the President. The lead ministries are: the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister’s office; the Ministry of Finances; and the main spending ministries comprising Education, Health, Transport, and Defence. In...
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