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Government and Economy

France - Government and Economy


France is a republic with an elected government. There are 22 mainland administrative divisions and a number of overseas concerns. France has a written constitution which dates from 1958 but it has had a number of amendments over the years to cover new immigration laws and European laws.

France was formerly a monarchy until the revolution in 1789 and – with the exception of a 30 year period in the mid 19th century – has remained a republic ever since. Napoleon Bonaparte was a popular leader with the French people as he built France’s empire. After several skirmishes with the British and other military leaders he was deposed and France reverted to a monarchy, but has been a republic again since 1848.

The French President is voted in by the public and serves terms lasting seven years. There are three sections to the government – the Presidential, Legislative and Judicial branches. A national assembly is part of the legislative branch of the government and has 577 members who are elected for terms of five years. The Senate is the second part of the legislative branch and has 321 members who are elected for periods of 9 years. One third of the Senate seats are elected every three years so the face of the Senate changes regularly. The Judicial branch of the government is composed of various types of courts.

When an election is held it is always on a Sunday and there are strict rules about campaigning and polls on election days. Voting is from 8 am to 6 pm if you are living in a small town or village and until 8 pm if you are in a larger urban area. All French citizens who are aged 18 or over and who are registered on the electoral roll can vote. If you are an EU citizen living in France you can register to vote in municipal and European elections. You must be registered as you will not automatically be entered onto the rolls as French citizens are.

If you wish to run for public office you must be registered to vote, so expats are able to run for office in municipal and European elections. Certain people may be denied the right to vote including criminals and those public officials who have embezzled funds. French citizens who are living abroad can register to vote as they can go to the French embassy of the country they are living in and cast their vote. Depending upon the location, you may need to vote on the Saturday before the election is held in France.

The President consults with the Prime Minister and on his suggestions appoints the cabinet of ministers. The Prime Minister is nominated by the majority in the National Assembly and is then appointed by the President. This can mean that the President and Prime Minister do not have to be from the same political party.

The country has a number of political parties. The main ones are the Socialist Party and the Union for a Popular Movement. These parties are supported by smaller parties such as the French Communist Party, the Union for French Democracy Party and the Green Party. The parties usually form coalitions in order to ensure success in elections. There are minor political parties covering all aspects of the political spectrum.

France has a thriving economy which is one of the largest in the world. The economy in France is based on a wide variety of income sources, from agriculture to heavy industry. More than half the land in the country is given over to agriculture and much of this is in wine production. Wine is one of the country’s largest exports, although textiles and car manufacturing are also large parts of the economy.

The economy is also boosted by tourism as millions of visitors from abroad fly into the country each year. All areas of France are popular with tourists so each region benefits from this area of the economy.

The rate of inflation in January 2011 was reported to be 1.8% while interest rates are at their lowest levels for some time. This is expected to have a good impact on the housing market as well as other areas of the economy.


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