The Prime Minister is the holder of the second highest office in France. The President, who appoints but cannot dismiss the Prime Minister, can ask for their resignation. The Government of France, including the Prime Minister, can be dismissed by the National Assembly. Upon appointment the Prime Minister proposes a list of ministers to the President. Decrees and decisions signed by the Prime Minister, like almost all executive decisions, are subject to the oversight of the administrative court system. Some decrees are taken after advice from the Council of State (French: Conseil d'État), over which the Prime Minister is entitled to preside. Ministers defend the programmes of their ministries to the Prime Minister, who makes budgetary choices. The extent to which those decisions lie with the Prime Minister or President often depends upon whether they are of the same political party.
While prime ministers are usually chosen from amongst the ranks of the National Assembly, on rare occasions the President has selected a non-officeholder because of their experience in bureaucracy or foreign service, or their success in business management—Dominique de Villepin, most notably, served as Prime Minister from 2005 to 2007 without ever having held elected office.
Although the President's choice of Prime Minister must be in accordance with the majority in the National Assembly, a Prime Minister does not have to ask for a vote of confidence after their government's formation. They can base their legitimacy on the President's assignment as Prime Minister and approval of the Government. However, it is traditionally expected that the Government seeks a motion of confidence upon entering office.
According to article 21 of the Constitution, the prime minister "shall direct the actions of the Government". Additionally, Article 20 stipulates that the Government "shall determine and conduct the policy of the Nation", and it includes domestic issues, while the president concentrates on formulating directions on national defense and foreign policy while arbitrating the efficient service of all governmental authorities in France. Other members of Government are appointed by the president "on the recommendation of the prime minister". In practice the prime minister acts in harmony with the president to whom he is a subordinate, except when there is a cohabitation in which case his responsibilities are akin to those of a prime minister in a parliamentary system.
The prime minister can "engage the responsibility" of their Government before the National Assembly. This process consists of placing a bill before the Assembly, and either the Assembly overthrows the Government, or the bill is passed automatically (article 49). In addition to ensuring that the Government still has support in the House, some bills that might prove too controversial to pass through the normal Assembly rules are able to be passed this way.
The prime minister may also submit a bill that has not been yet signed into law to the Constitutional Council (article 61). Before they are allowed to dissolve the Assembly, the president has to consult the prime minister and the presidents of both Houses of Parliament (article 12). They are, as the representative of the government, the only member of the government able to introduce legislation in Parliament.
Under the Third Republic, the French Constitutional Laws of 1875 vested the president of the council with similar formal powers to those which at that time the British prime minister possessed. In practice, however, this proved insufficient to command the confidence of France's multi-party parliament. Most notably, the legislature had the power to force the entire cabinet out of office by a vote of censure. As a result, cabinets were often toppled twice a year, and there were long stretches where France was left with only a caretaker government. Under the circumstances, the president of the council was usually a fairly weak figure whose strength was more dependent on charisma than formal powers. Often, he was little more than primus inter pares, and was more the cabinet's chairman than its leader.
After several unsuccessful attempts to strengthen the role in the first half of the twentieth century, a semi-presidential system was introduced under the Fifth Republic. It was at this point that the post was formally named "Prime Minister" and took its present form. The 1958 Constitution includes several provisions intended to strengthen the prime minister's position, for instance by restricting the legislature's power to censure the government. As a result, a prime minister has only been censured once during the existence of the Fifth Republic, in 1962 when Georges Pompidou was toppled over objections to President Charles de Gaulle's effort to have the president popularly elected. However, at the ensuing 1962 French legislative election, de Gaulle's coalition won an increased majority, and Pompidou was reappointed prime minister.
The current officeholder is Jean Castex, who was appointed on 3 July 2020.
Fifth Republic records
The only person to serve as prime minister more than once under the Fifth Republic was Jacques Chirac (1974–1976 and 1986–1988).
The youngest appointed prime minister was Laurent Fabius, on 17 July 1984. He was 37 years old.
The oldest appointed prime minister was Pierre Bérégovoy, on 2 April 1992. He was 66 years old.
The only woman who was appointed at the head of government is Édith Cresson, prime minister from 1991 to 1992.
The president of France, officially the president of the French Republic, is the head of state and head of executive of France, as well as the commander-in-chief of the French Armed Forces. As the presidency is the supreme magistracy of the country, the officeholder is the holder of the highest office in France.
Jacques René Chirac was a French politician who served as President of France from 1995 to 2007. Chirac was previously the Prime Minister of France from 1974 to 1976 and from 1986 to 1988, as well as the Mayor of Paris from 1977 to 1995.
France is characterised by numerous political trends. This article provides an overview of some of them.
Dominique Marie François René Galouzeau de Villepin is a French politician who served as Prime Minister of France from 31 May 2005 to 17 May 2007 under President Jacques Chirac.
Jean-Pierre Raffarin is a French politician who served as Prime Minister of France from 6 May 2002 to 31 May 2005.
The order of precedence for public ceremonies in France is established by Décret n°89-655 du 13 septembre 1989 relatif aux cérémonies publiques, préséances, honneurs civils et militaires. The original oder has been modified since 1989, for example inserting the Defender of Rights after that office's 2011 creation. As of 21 January 2021 the order is as follows:
The President of the Republic
The Prime Minister
The President of the Senate
The President of the National Assembly
Former Presidents of the Republic, in order of term
The Government, in the order decided by the President of the Republic
Former Prime Ministers, in order of term
Dominique de Villepin
The President of the Constitutional Council
The Vice President of the Conseil d'État
The President of the Economic, Social and Environmental Council
The Defender of rights
Members of the National Assembly
European parliament members
The judicial authority represented by the first President of the Court of Cassation and the public prosecutor of that court
The first President of the Revenue Court and the public prosecutor of that court
The Great Chancellor of the Légion d'honneur, chancellor of the National Order of Merit and the members of the councils of these orders
The Chancellor of the Order of the Libération, and the members of the council of this order
The Chief of the Defence Staff
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Édouard Balladur is a French politician who served as Prime Minister of France under François Mitterrand from 29 March 1993 to 17 May 1995. He unsuccessfully ran for president in the 1995 French presidential election, coming in third place. At age 92, Balladur is currently the oldest living former French Prime Minister.
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Cohabitation is a system of divided government that occurs in semi-presidential systems, such as France, whenever the president is from a different political party than the majority of the members of parliament. It occurs because such a system forces the president to name a premier who will be acceptable to the majority party within parliament. Thus, cohabitation occurs because of the duality of the executive: an independently elected President and a prime minister who must be acceptable both to the president and to the legislature.
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French legislative elections took place on 21 and 28 March 1993 to elect the tenth National Assembly of the Fifth Republic.
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