France is a semi-presidential representative democratic republic with strong democratic traditions and history. There are 32 Unitary Authorities of France. The Fifth French Republic is governed under a constitution adopted in 1958 and amended in 1962.
Executive power is exercised by the government.
Legislative power lies within the government, Senate and National Assembly.
The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
There is a multi-party system with left-wing (centered around the Parti-Socialiste) and right-wings (once centered around the Rassemblement pour la République (RPR) and now the Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP), with a variety of parties in between. There is universal adult suffrage with public officials elected directly by the people.
The president is determined by a two-round runoff. Candidates are listed on the ballot and voters indicate their preference. The votes are added up and if a candidate receives a majority of the vote (50% + 1 vote), that candidate is declared elected. If no one receives a majority, the two candidates who received the highest number of votes are entered into a second runoff election. The second election is typically held two weeks after the first. The idea behind this system is to ensure that the ultimate winner obtains an outright majority of all votes expressed.
The executive branch is composed of two leaders:The President of the French Republic (Président de la République française) is the seat of power and is elected to a term of five-years. François Hollande, is head of state and took office on May 15th, 2012. He is a member of the Parti Socialiste (Socialist Party, PS). This makes Hollande France's first leftist chief of state since Francois Mitterrand in 1995. His election has far-reaching effects for France, Europe, and the rest of the world.
The Prime Minister of France (Premier ministre français), currently Jean-Marc Ayrault, is the head of government. The Prime Minsiter is appointed by the president.
De Gaulle was the president from 1958-1968 and his conservative policies still have effect today. He stressed independence from the U.S. and NATO in military affairs. His successors, Georges Pompidou and Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, continued with these policies.
French parliament is a bicameral legislature composed of:
National Assembly (Assemblée Nationale) - Lower house of the Parliament of France that holds final say in legislative matters. The 577 members serve 5-year terms and are known as députés. They are elected by a single-member constituency through a two-rounds system, meaning 289 seats are required for a majority. The assembly is presided over by a president (usually) from the majority party. Following a tradition from the first National Assembly during the French Revolution, the "left-wing" parties sit to the left from the president's seat, and the "right-wing" parties sit to the right. Députés serve for a five year term.
The National Assembly meets at the Palais Bourbon. It is guarded by Republican Guards.
Senate (Sénat) - Upper house of Parliament is the Senate. There are 331 senators elected by grand electors (mayors, territory representatives) and renewed by half. Senators serve 6-year terms (since 2004). The Senate's legislative powers are limited.
France uses a civil legal system founded in the Napoleonic Code, meaning law arises primarily from written statutes. Judges do not create law, but interpret it.
French law is divided into two principal areas: private law and public law. Private law includes, in particular, civil law and criminal law. Public law includes, in particular, administrative law and constitutional law. However, in practical terms, French law comprises three principal areas of law: civil law, criminal law and administrative law.
France's highest courts are located in Paris.
The Court of Cassation (Cour de cassation) is the highest court in the judicial order. It reviews criminal and civil cases and is currently located in the Palais de Justice on the Île de la Cité (but should move the the north-west in the 17th arrondissement).
The Conseil d'État provides legal advice to the executive and acts as the highest court in the administrative order, judging litigation against public bodies. This court is located in the Palais Royal in the lst arrondissement.
Paris is the capitol of France and seat of France's national government.
The two executives, President and Prime Minsiter, each have an official residences and office.
The President of France resides at the Élysée Palace in the 8th arrondissement.
The Prime Minister is at the Hôtel Matignon in the 7th arrondissement.
Many government ministry buildings are located in the 7th arrondissement, near Matignon.
Paris has twenty arrondissements, each with a directly elected council (conseil d'arrondissement). Each elects an arrondissement mayor. A selection of members from each arrondissement council form the Council of Paris (conseil de Paris, 163 members). The Council of Paris is the administrative body for the local authority. It governs both the commune and département and is presided over by the mayor of Paris. They are in charge of housing, local transport, parks, economic development and regeneration. The council is composed of 58 elected councilors, elected by the first past the post system of election. They meet as either as a municipal council (conseil municipal) or a departmental council (conseil général), depending on the issue to be debated.
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