According to microedu, France is an indivisible, secular, democratic and social state with a republican form of government. Administratively, France is divided into 22 regions, 96 departments, 36,565 communes. The largest cities are Paris, Lyon (1.3 million), Lille (1.0 million), Nice (0.8 million), Toulouse (0.8 million), Bordeaux (0.7 million).
The Constitution, adopted by referendum in 1958, is in force, amended in 1962 (on the issue of electing the president), 1992, 1996, 2000 (in connection with the signing of the Maastricht, Amsterdam and Nice treaties, respectively) and 1993 (on the issue of immigration).
Since 1958, the form of government has been a semi-presidential republic: the principle of the priority of the president, who is not responsible to parliament, but is not the head of government, is clearly indicated in the Constitution. Since 1995, the president of France has been J. Chirac (re-elected in 2002), a representative of the center-right party “Union for the Unity of the People” (SON), the successor of the Gaullist parties.
In the French political system, the president is a key figure. The president is elected for a 5-year term on a majoritarian basis by direct universal suffrage (all citizens have the right to vote upon reaching the age of 18).
The main function of the president is to oversee the observance of the Constitution, acting as a national arbiter, ensuring the regular and proper functioning of the executive branch and the continuity of the state. The president is the guarantor of national independence and territorial integrity, of France’s compliance with its international obligations, he is the supreme commander in chief, represents the country in the international arena, and appoints senior civil and military officials. Appoints the prime minister, together with him forms a cabinet and terminates the powers of the latter upon his resignation. The president presides over cabinet meetings and approves its decisions.
The president is elected independently of parliament and has the right to dissolve it with the obligatory condition of announcing the date of early elections. The president is deprived of the right to initiate legislation, but he can issue decrees and decrees that have the force of laws, organize referendums on domestic and foreign policy issues. The President enjoys the right of suspensive veto on parliamentary decisions. Finally, the Constitution grants the president emergency powers in the event of a “serious and immediate threat” to the territorial integrity of the country and a violation of the “normal activities of state authorities.” In general, presidential power in France is comprehensive, it has no definite boundaries.
The prime minister is appointed by the president for an indefinite period from among the deputies of the party that won the majority in the elections. In 2002 this post was taken by J.-P. Raffarin. The prime minister is responsible both to the president and to the parliament. He directs the activities of the government and is responsible for it, ensures the implementation of laws, is responsible for the defense of the country. If necessary, instead of the president, he chairs meetings of the Supreme National Defense Council, as well as, in exceptional cases, meetings of the Council of Ministers (if there are special powers from the president in a particular area). The prime minister, together with the president, participates in the development of the government’s economic program if they belong to different parties (otherwise it is the president’s mission).
The Prime Minister enjoys the right of legislative initiative: he and members of the Cabinet may issue by-laws on economic and social issues. Approximately 20% of bills considered by Parliament are developed by the government, and the vast majority (4/5 or more) are adopted.
The French Parliament consists of two chambers – the National Assembly and the Senate. Deputies of the National Assembly are elected by majority principle by direct, universal, equal and secret ballot for a 5-year term. Since 1986, the number of deputies of the National Assembly has been 577 (previously 491). 1 deputy mandate falls on 100 thousand voters. The parties whose candidates have overcome the 5% barrier in all 96 departments enter the parliament. Members of parliament do not have the right to hold positions in the structures of the executive branch. The normal annual parliamentary session lasts at least 120 days. It is possible to convene an emergency session at the request of the Prime Minister or the majority of the members of the National Assembly to discuss issues of special national importance; its opening and closing is carried out by a special decree of the President of the country.
Chairman of the National Assembly – R. Forni (SON). The chairman, representing the parliamentary majority, is elected for the term of the legislature. Its main task is to ensure the normal functioning of the lower chamber. 6 of his deputies are the heads of the leading parliamentary parties. The agenda of parliamentary sessions is determined by the government, which thus controls the current activities of the National Assembly.
The sphere of legislative activity of the National Assembly is fixed in the Constitution and limited to 12 areas (including ensuring civil rights and freedoms of citizens; basic issues of civil and criminal law; national defense; foreign policy; legal regulation of property relations; nationalization and privatization, taxation and monetary emission and, of course, budget approval). Consideration and approval of the budget is the main opportunity for parliament to control the activities of the government; Moreover, deputies are prohibited from making proposals leading to an increase in the expenditure side of the budget. Law-making is carried out within the framework of 6 standing committees (the number established by the Constitution). They include 60-120 deputies; they are invariably chaired by representatives of the pro-government parties.