Le Roi or le Président?

Our French bloggers have been doing really well this semester!  Just like the last assignment, both bloggers did such a good job that I decided to post both blogs about the French semi-presidential section. While the first post gives a great description of how France’s system works, this has some neat ties to the history behind the French executive.

Le Roi or le Président?

France is famed for their late king Louis XIV, known as le roi soleil or the Sun King. This absolute monarch was all-powerful and regarded as one of the most influential men in Europe during his time (and popular amongst the ladies). Today, Fifth Republic France has a semi-presidential system but leaves many to question whether or not they have redefined the role of Head of State. This, of course, is an exaggeration, but in contemporary France le Président de la République holds a remarkable amount of power.

The people directly elect the President every five years using a run-off election system. Nicolas Sarkozy is the current French President and he has the power to appoint the Head of Government, or the Prime Minister (officially titled le Premier ministre). Right now, the indirectly elected PM is François Fillon, “[…] the first French premier to boast a Welsh wife.”

The president has the most power seeing as he appoints the PM his cabinet, or the Gouvernement. The president can dissolve l’Assemblée Nationale (National Assembly) and announce a new election to try and change its composition in his favor. The PM has some power, like the ability to decide the order of the day at the National Assembly, including what propositions will be discussed and voted on by the deputés. The Gouvernement is responsible before the Assembly, but they have no real check over the President.

It was Charles de Gaulle who, in 1962, brought about the changes to France’s Constitution, making the president stronger. Now, in 2012, Sarkozy continues the tradition set forth by de Gaulle and even belongs to the same political party, the UMP. Sarko, in a royal fashion, stirred up commotion with his in-office divorce from Cécilia Ciganer-Albéniz and quick marriage to model and entertainer Carla Bruni. Perhaps some things will never change…

Left: Fountain at Versailles, still going strong! Right: Summer 2010, Celebration of Charles de Gaulle at L’Hôtel de Ville, Paris: The French love them some de Gaulle!

(Photos by C. F.)


Edmiston, William F. & Annie Duménil. La France Contemporaine, Fourth Edition. 2010. HeinleCengage Learning: Boston.

Field, Catherine. “France’s ‘republican monarchy’: When the president is treated like a king.” The New York Times. 2004. <http://www.nytimes.com/2004/09/01/opinion/01iht-edfield_ed3_.html?_r=1> Accessed March 20, 2012.

“France.” CIA World Fact Book. 2012. <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/fr.html> Accessed March 20, 2012.

“Louis XIV.” Chateau de Versailles. Accessed 20 March 2012. <http://en.chateauversailles.fr/history/court-people/louis-xiv-time/louis-xiv->

Wyatt, Caroline. “Profile: François Fillon.” BBC. 2007. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6641581.stm> Accessed 20 March 2012.


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