To what extent has the French political system become less 'Presidential' in character since 1986?

Essay by mirza123 December 2003

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To what extent has the French political system become less 'Presidential' in character since 1986?

The French political system is described as a hybrid system with a separately elected President who shares executive power with the Prime Minister. It is a hybrid model that is most cited as a semi-presidential system where the constitution and political circumstances tend to place the emphasis on the powers of the President. The Constitution of the Fifth Republic sought to strengthen the executive in relation to the legislature. The role of the President as head of state and pivot of this new system was and is that of a national arbiter standing above party politics and responsible for ensuring that the institutions function properly. Since 1962, the President has been directly elected giving him the mandate of the people. Charles de Gaulle founder and first President of the fifth Republic believed that this made the President accountable only to the public.

Thus the directly elected President with his pivotal role outlined in the constitution of the Fifth Republic plays an almost central role in French politics. This essay seeks to outline this role in the system and address whether the French system has become less presidential since 1986.

The constitution defines the President's power and it is these powers that centralise his figure in French politics. To start with the French President is elected for five years and this is the longest term in any parliamentary system. In addition, the President may be re-elected an indefinite number of times unlike the US President. It must also be said that French President is elected more on his charisma and policies. The people elect a person to the position not a party. Therefore the incumbent having been elected can use his charisma and diplomacy to remain...