President of France
President of the
Residence Élysée Palace, Paris Term length Five years, renewable once consecutively Inaugural holder Charles de Gaulle
8 January 1959
Formation Constitution of the Fifth Republic,
4 October 1958
Website http://www.elysee.fr/ France
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Politics and government of
Four of France's five republics have had presidents as their heads of state, making the French presidency the oldest presidency in Europe still to exist in some form. In each of the republics' constitutions, the president's powers, functions and duties, and their relation with French governments differed.
For details about the French system of government see Government of France.
The president of France is also the ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra, Grand Master of the Légion d'honneur and the Ordre national du Mérite and honorary proto-canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.
The current President of the Republic is Nicolas Sarkozy, since 6 May 2007.
Current presidential powers
The French Fifth Republic is a semi-presidential system. Unlike many other European presidents, the office of the French President is quite powerful. Although it is the Prime Minister of France and parliament that oversee much of the nation's actual lawmaking, the French President wields significant influence. The president holds the nation's most senior office, and outranks all other politicians.
The president's greatest power is their ability to choose the Prime Minister. However, since only the French National Assembly has the power to dismiss the Prime Minister's government, the president is forced to name a prime minister who can command the support of a majority in the assembly.
- When the majority of the Assembly has opposite political views to that of the president, this leads to political cohabitation. In that case, the president's power is diminished, since much of the de facto power relies on a supportive prime minister and National Assembly, and is not directly attributed to the post of president.
- When the majority of the Assembly sides with him, the President can take a more active role and may, in effect, direct government policy. The prime minister is then the personal choice of the President, and can be easily replaced if the administration becomes unpopular. This device has been used in recent years by both Francois Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac.
Since 2002, the mandate of the president and the Assembly are both 5 years and the two elections are close to each other. Therefore, the likelihood of a "cohabitation" is lower.
Among the powers of the government:
- The president promulgates laws.
- The president may dissolve the French National Assembly
- The president may refer treaties or certain types of laws to popular referendum, within certain conditions, among them the agreement of the Prime minister or the parliament.
- The president is the Commander-in-Chief (CINC) of the armies.
- The president may order the use of nuclear weapons.
- The president names the Prime minister but he cannot dismiss him. He names and dismisses the other ministers, with the agreement of the Prime minister.
- The president names most officials (with the assent of the cabinet).
- The president names certain members of the Constitutional Council.
- The president receives foreign ambassadors.
- The president may grant a pardon (but not an amnesty) to convicted criminals; the president can also lessen or suppress criminal sentences. This was of crucial importance when France still operated the death penalty: criminals sentenced to death would generally request that the president commute their sentence to life imprisonment.
All decisions of the president must be countersigned by the Prime minister, except dissolving the French National Assembly.
Detailed constitutional powers
The constitutional attributions of the president are defined in Title II of the Constitution of France.
Article 5 The President of the Republic shall see that the Constitution is observed. He shall ensure, by his arbitration, the proper functioning of the public authorities and the continuity of the State. He shall be the guarantor of national independence, territorial integrity and observance of treaties.
Article 8 The President of the Republic shall appoint the Prime Minister. He shall terminate the appointment of the Prime Minister when the latter tenders the resignation of the Government. On the proposal of the Prime Minister, he shall appoint the other members of the Government and terminate their appointments.
Article 9 The President of the Republic shall preside over the Council of Ministers.
Article 10 The President of the Republic shall promulgate Acts of Parliament within fifteen days following the final adoption of an Act and its transmission to the Government. He may, before the expiry of this time limit, ask Parliament to reconsider the Act or sections of the Act. Reconsideration shall not be refused.
While the president has to sign all acts adopted by parliament into law, he cannot refuse to do so and exercise a kind of right of veto; his only power in that matter is to ask for a single reconsideration of the law by parliament and this power is subject to countersigning by the Prime minister.
Article 11 The president may submit laws to the citizens in a referendum with advice and consent of the cabinet.
Article 12 The President of the Republic may, after consulting the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the assemblies, declare the National Assembly dissolved. A general election shall take place not less than twenty days and not more than forty days after the dissolution. The National Assembly shall convene as of right on the second Thursday following its election. Should it so convene outside the period prescribed for the ordinary session, a session shall be called by right for a fifteen-day period. No further dissolution shall take place within a year following this election.
Article 13 The President of the Republic shall sign the ordinances and decrees deliberated upon in the Council of Ministers. He shall make appointments to the civil and military posts of the State. [...]
Article 14 The President of the Republic shall accredit ambassadors and envoys extraordinary to foreign powers ; foreign ambassadors and envoys extraordinary shall be accredited to him.
Article 15 The President of the Republic shall be commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He shall preside over the higher national defence councils and committees.
Article 16 Where the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the Nation, the integrity of its territory or the fulfilment of its international commitments are under serious and immediate threat, and where the proper functioning of the constitutional public authorities is interrupted, the President of the Republic shall take the measures required by these circumstances, after formally consulting the Prime Minister, the Presidents of the assemblies and the Constitutional Council. He shall inform the Nation of these measures in a message. The measures must stem from the desire to provide the constitutional public authorities, in the shortest possible time, with the means to carry out their duties. The Constitutional Council shall be consulted with regard to such measures. Parliament shall convene as of right. The National Assembly shall not be dissolved during the exercise of the emergency powers.
Article 16, allowing the president a limited form of rule by decree for a limited period of time in exceptional circumstance, has been used only once, by Charles de Gaulle during the Algerian War, from 23 April to 29 September 1961.
Article 17 The President of the Republic has the right to grant pardon.
Article 18 The President of the Republic shall communicate with the two assemblies of Parliament by means of messages, which he shall cause to be read and which shall not be the occasion for any debate. He can also give an address in front of the Congress of France in Versailles. Outside sessions, Parliament shall be convened especially for this purpose.
From 1875 to 2008, the President was prohibited from entering the houses of Parliament.
Article 19 Acts of the President of the Republic, other than those provided for under articles 8 (first paragraph), 11, 12, 16, 18, 54, 56 and 61, shall be countersigned by the Prime Minister and, where required, by the appropriate ministers.
Article 49 Para 3 allows the president to adopt a law on his authority. To this end, the prime minister goes before the lower and upper houses, reads out the bill to the legislators and closes with "the administration engages its responsibility" on the foregoing. Deprived of Gaullist party support halfway into his seven-year term spanning 1974 to 1981, Pres. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing relied heavily on this provision to stalemate Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac's attempt to bring him back under Gaullist control.
There is a tradition of so-called "presidential amnesties", which are something of a misnomer: after the election of a president, and of a National Assembly of the same party, parliament traditionally votes a law granting amnesty for some petty crimes. This practice has been increasingly criticized, particularly because it is believed to incite people to commit traffic offences in the months preceding the election. Such an amnesty law may also authorize the president to designate individuals who have committed certain categories of crimes to be offered amnesty, if certain conditions are met. Such individual measures have been criticized for the political patronage that they allow. Still, it is argued that such amnesty laws help reduce prison overpopulation. An amnesty law was passed in 2002; none have yet been passed as of January 2008.
The difference between an amnesty and a presidential pardon is that the former clears all subsequent effects of the sentencing, as though the crime had not been committed, while pardon simply relieves the sentenced individual from part or all of the remainder of the sentence.
Criminal responsibility and impeachment
Articles 67 and 68 organize the regime of criminal responsibility of the President. They were reformed by a 2007 constitutional act, in order to clarify a situation that previously resulted in legal controversies.
The President of the Republic enjoys immunity during his term: he cannot be requested to testify before any jurisdiction, he cannot be prosecuted, etc. However, the statute of limitation is suspended during his term, and enquiries and prosecutions can be restarted, at the latest one month after he leaves office.
The President is irresponsible for his actions in his official capacity, except for prosecution before the International Criminal Court and impeachment. Impeachment can be pronounced by the High Court, a special court convened from both houses of Parliament on the proposal of either House, should the president have failed to discharge his duties in a way that evidently precludes the continuation of his term.
Since a 1962 referendum, the President of France has been directly elected by universal suffrage; it was previously elected by an electoral college. Following a 2000 referendum, the length of the term was reduced from 7 to 5 years; the first election to a shorter term was held in 2002. President Chirac was first elected in 1995 and again in 2002. There was no term limit, so Chirac could have run again, but chose not to. He was succeeded by Nicolas Sarkozy on 16 May 2007. Since the constitutional law of 23 July 2008, a president cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac are the only Presidents to date who have served a full two terms (14 years for the former, 12 years for the latter).
In order to be admitted as an official candidate, potential candidates must receive signed presentations (informally known as parrainages, for "godfathering") from more than 500 elected officials, mostly mayors. These officials must be from at least 30 départements or overseas collectivities, and no more than 10% of them should be from the same département or collectivity. Furthermore, each official may present only one candidate.
There are approximately 45,000 elected officials that are on the list of such officials, including around 36,000 mayors.
Spending and financing of campaigns and political parties are highly regulated. There is a cap on spending, at approximately 20 million euros, and government public financing of 50% of spending if the candidate scores more than 5%. If the candidate receives less than 5% of the vote, the government funds €800,000 to the party (€150,000 paid in advance) Advertising on TV is forbidden but official time is given to candidates on public TV. An independent agency regulates election and party financing.
French presidential elections are conducted via run-off voting which ensures that the elected President always obtains a majority: if no candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round of voting, the two highest-scoring candidates arrive at a run-off. After the president is elected, he goes through a solemn investiture ceremony called a "passation des pouvoirs" ("handing over of powers").
Succession and incapacity
Upon the death or resignation of the President, the President of the Senate acts as interim president. Alain Poher is the only person to have served this temporary position. The first time was in 1969 after Charles de Gaulle's resignation and a second time in 1974 after Georges Pompidou's death. It is important to note that, in this situation, the President of the Senate became an Interim President of the Republic; they do not become the new President of the Republic as elected and therefore do not have to resign from their position as President of the Senate. In spite of his title as Interim President of the Republic, Poher is regarded in France as a former President and is listed in the presidents' gallery on elysee.fr (the President's official site). This is in contrast to acting presidents from the Third Republic.
The first round of a new presidential election must be organized no sooner than twenty days and no later than thirty-five days following the vacancy of the presidency. Because fifteen days can separate the first and second rounds of a presidential election, this means that the President of the Senate can only act as President of the Republic for a maximum period of fifty days. During this period of Interim president is not allowed to dismiss the national assembly nor are they allowed to call for a referendum or initiate any constitutional changes.
If there is no acting president of the senate, the powers of the president of the republic are exercised by the "Gouvernement", meaning the Cabinet. This has been interpreted by some constitutional academics as meaning first the Prime Minister and, if he is himself not able to act, the members of the cabinet in the order of the list of the decree that nominated them. This is in fact unlikely to happen, because if the president of the Senate is not able to act, the Senate will normally name a new president of the Senate, that will act as President of the Republic.
During the Third French Republic the President of the Council of Ministers acted as President whenever office was vacant.
According to article 7 of the Constitution, if the presidency becomes vacant for any reason, or if the president becomes incapacitated, upon the request of the gouvernement, the Constitutional Council may rule, by a majority vote. that the presidency is to be temporarily assumed by the President of the Senate. If the Council rules that the incapacity is permanent, the same procedure as for the resignation is applied, as described above.
If the President cannot attend meetings, including meetings of the Council of Ministers, he can ask the Prime Minister to attend in his stead (Constitution, article 21). This clause has been applied by presidents travelling abroad, ill, or undergoing surgery.
Pay and official residences
The President of the Republic is paid a salary according to a pay grade defined in comparison to the pay grades of the most seniors members of the French Civil Service ("out of scale", hors échelle, those whose pay grades are known as letters and not as numeric indices). In addition he is paid a residence stipend of 3%, and a function stipend of 25% on top of the salary and residence indemnity. This gross salary and these indemnities are the same as those of the Prime Minister, and are 50% higher than the highest paid to other members of the government, which is itself defined as twice the average of the highest (pay grade G) and the lowest (pay grade A1) salaries in the "out of scale" pay grades. Using the 2008 "out of scale" pay grades this amounts to a monthly pay of €20,963, which fits the €19,000 quoted to the press in early 2008. Using the pay grades starting from 1 July 2009, this amounts to a gross monthly pay of €21,131.
The official residence and office of the president is the Élysée Palace in Paris. Other presidential residences include:
- the Fort de Brégançon, in southeastern France, is the current official presidential vacationing residence;
- the Hôtel de Marigny; standing next to the Élysée Palace, houses foreign official guests;
- the Château de Rambouillet is normally open to visitors when not used for (rare) official meetings;
- the Domaine National de Marly is normally open to visitors when not used for (rare) official meetings;
- the Domaine de Souzy-la-Briche, not a historical monument, is a private residence.
election resultsSummary of the 21–22 April and 5–6 May 2007 French presidential Candidates – Parties 1st round 2nd round Votes % Votes % Nicolas Sarkozy Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un mouvement populaire) UMP 11,448,663 31.18% 18,983,138 53.06% Ségolène Royal Socialist Party (Parti socialiste) PS 9,500,112 25.87% 16,790,440 46.94% François Bayrou Union for French Democracy (Union pour la démocratie française) UDF 6,820,119 18.57% Jean-Marie Le Pen National Front (Front national) FN 3,834,530 10.44% Olivier Besancenot Revolutionary Communist League (Ligue communiste révolutionnaire) LCR 1,498,581 4.08% Philippe de Villiers Movement for France (Mouvement pour la France) MPF 818,407 2.23% Marie-George Buffet French Communist Party (Parti communiste français) PCF 707,268 1.93% Dominique Voynet The Greens (Les Verts) VEC 576,666 1.57% Arlette Laguiller Workers' Struggle (Lutte ouvrière) LO 487,857 1.33% José Bové Alter-globalization activist 483,008 1.32% Frédéric Nihous Hunting, Fishing, Nature, Tradition (Chasse, pêche, nature, traditions) CPNT 420,645 1.15% Gérard Schivardi Workers' Party (Parti des travailleurs) PT 123,540 0.34% Total 36,719,396 100% 35,773,578 100% Valid votes 36,719,396 98.56% 35,773,578 95.80% Spoilt and null votes 534,846 1.44% 1,568,426 4.20% Votes cast / turnout 37,254,242 83.77% 37,342,004 83.97% Abstentions 7,218,592 16.23% 7,130,729 16.03% Registered voters 44,472,834 44,472,733 Table of results – ordered by number of votes received in first round, official results by Constitutional Council. List of candidates source: Decision of 19 March 2007 by the Constitutional Council.
First round results source: Official first round results announced on 25 April 2007.
Second round results source: Official second round results announced on 10 May 2007.
As of 2011 there were two living former Presidents:
According to French law, Former Presidents have guaranteed lifetime pension defined according to the pay grade of the Councillors of State, a courtesy diplomatic passport, and, according to the French Constitution (Article 56), membership of the Constitutional Council.
They also get personnel, an apartment and/or office, and other amenities, though the legal basis for these is disputed. In 2008, according to an answer by the services of the Prime Minister to a question from member of the National Assembly René Dosière, these facilities comprised: a security detail, a car with a chauffeur, office or housing space, maintained by the State. Two people service this space. In addition, the State funds 7 permanent collaborators.
There is no official status or title such as 'First Lady' for the spouse of the President under the French constitution. Charity work has traditionally been the main task of French presidential spouses under the Third, Fourth and Fifth Republics.
Presidents Spouses years Nicolas Sarkozy Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
May 2007 – October 2007
Jacques Chirac Bernadette Chirac 1995–2007 François Mitterrand Danielle Mitterrand 1981–1995 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing Anne-Aymone Giscard d'Estaing 1974–1981 Georges Pompidou Claude Pompidou 1969–1974 Charles de Gaulle Yvonne de Gaulle 1959–1969 René Coty Germaine Coty 1954–1959 Vincent Auriol Michelle Aucouturier 1947–1954 Albert Lebrun Marguerite Lebrun 1932–1940 Paul Doumer Blanche Doumer 1931–1932 Gaston Doumergue 1924–1931 Paul Deschanel Germaine Deschanel 1920 Émile Loubet Marie-Louise Picard 1899–1906 Félix Faure 1895-1899 Jean Casimir-Perier Hélène Casimir-Perier 1894–1895 Adolphe Thiers Élise Thiers 1871–1873
Age upon entering and leaving office
N° President Age upon
1 Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte 40 44 2 Adolphe Thiers 74 76 3 Patrice de Mac-Mahon 64 70 4 Jules Grévy 71 80 5 Sadi Carnot 50 56 6 Jean Casimir-Perier 46 47 7 Félix Faure 53 58 8 Émile Loubet 60 67 9 Armand Fallières 64 71 10 Raymond Poincaré 52 59 11 Paul Deschanel 65 65 12 Alexandre Millerand 61 65 13 Gaston Doumergue 60 67 14 Paul Doumer 74 75 15 Albert François Lebrun 60 68 16 Vincent Auriol 62 69 17 René Coty 71 76 18 Charles de Gaulle 68 78 19 Georges Pompidou 57 62 20 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing 48 55 21 François Mitterrand 64 78 22 Jacques Chirac 62 74 23 Nicolas Sarkozy 52 Incumbent
Time in office
N° President Length
Rank Notes 21 François Mitterrand 5109 1 Served two full terms of seven years. 22 Jacques Chirac 4382 2 Served one full term of seven years and one full term of five years. 18 Charles de Gaulle 3763 3 Served one full term of seven years and resigned during second term. 4 Jules Grévy 3228 4 Served one full term of seven years and resigned during second term. 15 Albert François Lebrun 2983 5 Served one full term of seven years and was replaced by Philippe Pétain during second term. 8 Émile Loubet 2556 6 Served one full term of seven years. 9 Armand Fallières 2557 7 Served one full term of seven years. 10 Raymond Poincaré 2556 8 Served one full term of seven years. 13 Gaston Doumergue 2556 9 Served one full term of seven years. 16 Vincent Auriol 2557 10 Served one full term of seven years. 20 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing 2551 11 Served one full term of seven years. 5 Sadi Carnot 2396 12 Served less than one full term of seven years (assassinated). 3 Patrice de Mac-Mahon 2077 13 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned). 17 René Coty 1818 14 Served less than one full term of seven years (end of the Fourth Republic). 19 Georges Pompidou 1747 15 Served less than one full term of seven years (died in office). 23 Nicolas Sarkozy 1650 16 Incumbent. 7 Félix Faure 1491 17 Served less than one full term of seven years (died in office). 1 Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte 1443 18 Served less than one full term of seven years (end of the Second Republic, proclaimed himself as Emperor). 12 Alexandre Millerand 1357 19 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned). 2 Adolphe Thiers 632 20 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned). 14 Paul Doumer 329 21 Served less than one full term of seven years (assassinated). 11 Paul Deschanel 216 22 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned). 6 Jean Casimir-Perier 203 23 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned).
- Alain Poher (served nearly two months in 1969 and about one month in 1974)
Non-Presidential Heads of State
- Jacques-Charles Dupont de l'Eure, Chairman of the Provisional Government and de facto head of state in 1848 : served less than three months
- Executive Commission: joint head of state with five co-presidents in 1848 : served less than two months. François Arago was its most prominent member.
- Louis-Eugène Cavaignac, head of government and de facto head of state in 1848 : served about six months
- Louis Jules Trochu, President of the Government of National Defense and de facto head of state (served 4 months, September 1870 to January 1871)
- Philippe Pétain, Chief of State of Vichy France: served four years (considered an illegal usurper by later governments)
- Charles de Gaulle, President of the Provisional Government: served over one and a half years
- Félix Gouin, President of the Provisional Government: served five months
- Georges Bidault, President of the Provisional Government: served five months
- Vincent Auriol, President of the Provisional Government: served less than a month
- Léon Blum, President of the Provisional Government: served one month
The constitution of the Fifth Republic greatly increased the President's powers. A 1962 referendum changed the constitution, so that the President would be directly elected by universal suffrage and not by the Parliament.
In 2000, a referendum shortened the presidential term from seven years to five years.
A maximum of two consecutive terms was imposed after the 2008 constitutional reform.
- French Presidential elections under the Third Republic
- List of Presidents of France
- Prime Minister of France
- John Gaffney. Political Leadership in France: From Charles de Gaulle to Nicolas Sarkozy (Palgrave Macmillan; 2010) 258 pages. Explores mythology and symbolism in French political culture through a study of the personas crafted by de Gaulle and his five successors.
- ^ "Loi constitutionnelle n° 2007-238 du 23 février 2007 portant modification du titre IX de la Constitution" (in French). Legifrance.gouv.fr. http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexte.do?cidTexte=JORFTEXT000000245803. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- ^ For all this section, see Articles 67 and 68 and La responsabilité pénale du président de la République, Revue française de droit constitutionnel, n° 49 –2002/1, P.U.F., ISBN 9782130527893
- ^ Law 62-1292 of 6 November 1962, article 4
- ^ Decree 2001-213 of 8 November 2001, article 6
- ^ Dépenses de campagne: énorme ardoise pour LO, la LCR s'en tire sans déficit, Metro France, 24 April 2007 (French)
- ^ http://www.elysee.fr/junior/faq/faq.htm#5
- ^ The exact title is "President of the Senate, exercising provisionally the functions of the President of the Republic"; see how Alain Poher is referred to on signing statutes into law, e.g. law 69-412
- ^ Loi du 25 février 1875 relative à l'organisation des pouvoirs publics, article 7: In case of a vacancy due to a decease or for any cause, the two houses of Parliament elect a new president. In the meantime, the executive power is vested in the council of ministers.
- ^ Ordonnance n°58-1067 du 7 novembre 1958 portant loi organique sur le Conseil constitutionnel
- ^ Loi n°2002-1050 du 6 août 2002 de Finances rectificative pour 2002, as amended
- ^ "Décret n°2002-1058 du 6 août 2002 relatif au traitement des membres du Gouvernement, art. 1" (in French). Legifrance.gouv.fr. 2002-08-06. http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichTexteArticle.do?idArticle=LEGIARTI000006213505&cidTexte=LEGITEXT000005633245&dateTexte=20090729. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- ^ Grille de salaires de la fonction publique,
- ^ Le salaire du Premier ministre a doublé depuis 2002, citing an interview given by Nicolas Sarkozy to Le Parisien
- ^ Décret n° 2009-824 du 3 juillet 2009 portant majoration à compter du 1er juillet 2009 de la rémunération des personnels civils et militaires de l'Etat, des personnels des collectivités territoriales et des établissements publics d'hospitalisation et portant attribution de points d'indice majoré
- ^ "General tax code, art. 80 undecies A" (in French). Legifrance.gouv.fr. http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCodeArticle.do?cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006069577&idArticle=LEGIARTI000018620290&dateTexte=20090729. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- ^ Loi n°55–366 du 3 avril 1955 relative au développement des crédits affectés aux dépenses du ministère des finances et des affaires économiques pour l'exercice 1955
- ^ Arrêté du 11 février 2009 relatif au passeport diplomatique, article 1
- ^ The current system for providing personnel and other amenities to the former French presidents was devised in 1981 by Michel Charasse, then advisor to president François Mitterrand, in order to care for former president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing and the widow of former president Georges Pompidou. See Senate, 19 June 2008 Proceedings
- ^ Question #140, answer published in the Journal Officiel de la République Française on 24 June 2008 page: 5368
- ^ Updated daily according to UTC.
- ^ Ordonnance du 21 avril 1944 relative à l'organisation des pouvoirs publics en France après la Libération ("Ordinance of 21 April 1944 relative to the organization of public powers in France after the Liberation"), from the Provisional government: see reference to l'usurpateur ("the usurper")
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