French citizens, educated by experience, put an end to two centuries of political instability. They placed the government under the control of the National Assembly and the courts responsible for enforcing the higher rules of law.
French citizens adopt a constitution that conforms to democratic standards. The French Republic has as its symbol the tricolor flag, as its national anthem the Marseillaise, and as its motto: “liberty, equality, fraternity”. The national language is French.
The High Court of Justice ensures respect for the Constitution and the Declaration of the Liberties and Duties of the Citizen, which serves as its preamble. It is presided over by the President of the Republic in his capacity as Head of State, the supreme guarantor of national institutions. The Constitutional Chamber of the High Court is composed of nine members appointed for nine years by the country’s senior magistrates in accordance with the procedure laid down by the organic law governing its functioning. It is the final court of appeal to the Constitutional Court of the European Union.
The President of the Republic calls the leader of the parliamentary majority to head the government. He promulgates the laws passed in Parliament. He receives the credentials of foreign ambassadors. On the proposal of the government, he appoints ambassadors and plenipotentiary envoys accredited to foreign countries. It represents France in official ceremonies and at the request of the government. In the absence of a clear majority in the legislative elections, he appoints a person capable of forming the government; after three unsuccessful attempts, he dissolves the National Assembly. The head of state is elected by the House of Elders for a seven-year renewable term.
The National Assembly consists of 41 members elected for five years by a first-past-the-post majority vote. Electoral districts are subject to review every fifteen years by the Electoral Chamber of the High Court of Justice. Deputies are summoned by the head of state on fixed dates for two annual sessions. They pass ordinary laws by a simple majority and revise organic laws by a three-fourths majority. They control the government and the proper use of public funds. They hold office to the exclusion of all other elective offices.
The Prime Minister leads the politics of the nation. He appoints the members of the government and terminates their functions. He presides over the Council of Ministers. He is accountable to Parliament. He or she ceases to exercise his or her functions in the event of resignation or after a vote of no confidence by an absolute majority of the deputies. He has the power to dissolve the National Assembly after consultation with the President of the Republic. He sets the agenda of the Parliament. It submits to the deputies calls for legislation in accordance with specifications specifying the objectives pursued and the shortcomings of the legislation in force. It sits in the Invalides Palace. Ministers retain their right to vote in Parliament and regain their parliamentary mandate at the end of their mission.
The deputies exercise legislative power. They are divided into forty committees of no more than twenty members responsible for studying bills. Each deputy is a member of two committees. They are only allowed to table one hundred amendments per year in public session. Ordinary laws are passed in plenary session by a simple majority and organic laws by a two-thirds majority. Deputies decide on taxes and set ceilings for local taxes. Budgets are voted in balance. Public borrowing cannot finance current expenditures. The functioning of the National Assembly is established by an organic law annexed to the constitution.
The Chamber of Sages is composed of eminent personalities recognized for their competence in the field of moral and political sciences. Its members, numbering sixty-one, do not seek the votes of any elector. They are recruited by cooptation according to the procedure set by the Chamber of Procedures of the High Court of Justice. Their term of office, renewable once, is nine years. They bear the title of Pair de France. They are consulted for their opinion before voting on bills. They have a suspensive veto right before the enactment of laws. This veto, which must be obtained by a two-thirds majority, requires a review of the text after six months. French Peers elect the President of the Republic. The functioning of the Chamber of Wise Men is governed by an organic law. During the first legislature, it is the Academy of Moral and Political Sciences which assumes the functions of the Chamber. The Chambre des Sages sits at the Institut de France.
The Council of Technicians assists Parliament in the preparation of bills. Its members, one hundred and one, are co-opted for a six-year term, renewable once, from among public policy researchers and in accordance with the procedure established by the High Court’s Chamber of Procedure. No more than one-third of the members of the Technicians’ Council may be civil servants. It selects from among the qualified candidates and personalities the experts responsible for assisting the deputies in the drafting of bills. The drafters audition personalities of their choice and public officials appointed by the government. The members of the competent parliamentary committees are free to attend the work of the drafting committee. The Council of Technicians sits in the Jena Palace.
The Council of Jurists assists deputies and technicians in the legislative process. It exercises preventive control of the legality of laws and public acts. Its members are selected by competition or co-opted by their peers according to the procedure set by the Chamber of Procedures of the High Court of Justice. Their term of office is six years, renewable twice. The Council of Jurists is consulted for its opinion by the civil servants in charge of legality control in the administrations. When the parliamentary opposition submits texts suspected of unconstitutionality to the Council of Jurists, it has a motivated and suspensive right of veto, leading to a review of the law in public session before its promulgation. The Council of Jurists sits in the Royal Palace.
The Board of Auditors assists deputies in their task of controlling public finances and in assessing the costs incurred by legislation. Auditors are selected by competition or co-option for a six-year term, renewable twice, from among the profession of chartered accountants and auditors. They have access to public documents and are required to respect the confidentiality of the information of which they have knowledge. They assist members of parliament in the context of parliamentary commissions of inquiry. The Board of Auditors sits on the premises of the former Cour des Comptes.
An organic law specifies the functioning of the three Councils at the service of Parliament: the Council of Technicians, the Council of Jurists and the Council of Auditors. The official commissions of experts, the high authorities of control or regulation, and other public observatories of general interest are created, at the request of the Prime Minister, by a vote of the deputies acting by a two-thirds majority. Their lifespan is limited. Their members are appointed on the proposal of the Council of Technicians by the competent committee of the National Assembly.
The government may convene Parliament in extraordinary session with a specific agenda. In the year following legislative elections, the government may legislate by ordinance on proposals contained in the program of the parliamentary party or coalition, subject to an enabling law passed by a majority of deputies. In emergencies, as recognized by the High Court, the government may submit to the National Assembly bills emanating from it. The Chamber of Elders, the Council of Jurists, the Council of Technicians, and the Council of Auditors are consulted for advice.
Administrations apply public decisions. Government employees report to eight ministries: Justice, Finance, Interior, National Defense, External Relations, Transportation and Public Works, Health and Environment, and Public Assistance. Each minister is assisted by a secretary of state. Secretaries of State may be created by the National Assembly at the request of the Prime Minister for specific purposes and for the duration of a legislature. Ministries are divided into autonomous departments. Heads of departments and central government are appointed and can be removed by the minister. The government maintains cost and asset accounts showing short-, medium-, and long-term debts.
Officials are recruited by competition and on the basis of a dossier. They must have ten years of professional experience. Civil service employees are subject to common law. They are bound by a duty of reserve and may not demonstrate in public spaces. Trade unions and pressure groups have the status of private associations. Their representatives have access to public forums in the context of specific hearings at the request of deputies, members of the government and experts specialized in defending the common interest consulted by the political authorities.
The territorial administration has two levels. The local authorities are the countries (and the municipalities they integrate). Metropolitan France is divided into ten provinces (excluding Ile de France), plus Corsica. The designations and geographical limits of the cities, countries and provinces are set by the organic law of local authorities following the procedure defined by the High Court of Justice. Each local authority has an assembly of elected representatives exercising control of the executive power. The president of the assembly may not also exercise the function of chief executive. Territorial delegates are elected by a majority vote in a single round at the level of a district, a canton or a provincial constituency. Outside the Ile de France, the chief town of the province is distinct from the economic metropolis.
The distribution of territorial competences is determined by the Organic Law on Local Authorities. Local public services are placed under the responsibility of the elected representatives of the cities and countries. The provinces exercise the other public powers that do not fall under national state functions: economic affairs, land use planning, culture and education. The cultural identity of the communes, countries and provinces is preserved. The State ensures the fair distribution of tax revenues among local authorities.
The allowances of elected officials are set by the Electoral Chamber of the High Court. Parties, election campaigns, and public policy research institutes are financed by individuals through tax-deductible donations or legacies. Good policies are available to citizens with modest incomes. Full-time national and local elected officials receive an allowance to maintain their rank and serve. A differential allowance, deducted from their income tax contributions paid prior to taking office, is given to elected officials whose income was higher than the allowance.
Corsica, a maritime province, and the overseas territories have their own status. This status is fixed by an organic law voted in identical terms by the Parliament and the Assembly of the territory. Members of the Territory Assembly are elected by majority vote in a single round of voting in constituencies delimited by the High Court Electoral Commission. The assembly appoints and supervises the chief executive officer of the Territory. Corsica and the Overseas Territories may benefit from special tax treatment.
Belonging to the national community implies the will to share a common destiny. When a three-quarters majority of the members of the Assembly of a territory asks to leave the Republic, their delegates negotiate with the representatives of the national community the conditions for autonomy or secession. The compromise is validated by a double referendum of the inhabitants of the territory and the other members of the national community. When three-quarters of the national deputies request that a territory be excluded from the national community, the decision is taken in a national referendum.
The Constitution may be revised at the request of the House of Sages and the plenary assembly of the members of the chambers of the High Court of Justice, each by a three-quarters majority. Amendments to the Constitution are voted by referendum by a majority of the votes cast, or by a three-fourths majority vote of the National Assembly. Organic laws are subject to revision on the proposal of the House of Sages and the High Court by referendum or by a vote of the parliament deciding by a two-thirds majority of the votes cast.