The President of France, known officially as the President of the Republic (Président de la République in French), is France's elected Head of State.
Four of France's five republics have had presidents as their heads of state, making the French presidency the oldest presidency in Europe.
In each of the republics' constitutions the president's powers, functions and duties, and their relationships with French governments differed.
The current President of the (fifth) Republic is Jacques Chirac.
Unlike many other European presidents, the office of the French President is quite a powerful one, especially in matters of foreign policy, although it is the prime minister and his gouvernement that are formally expected to run the country. The president names the prime minister. However, since the French National Assembly has the power to dismiss the Prime Minister's gouvernement, the president is forced to name a prime minister that is agreeable to the majority of this assembly; this leads to political cohabitation.
When the majority of the Assembly sides with him, the President takes a more active role and may, in effect, direct the country's policy. The prime minister is then often a mere "fuse" — replaced when the administration becomes too unpopular.
Current constitutional attributions
The constitutional attributions of the president are defined in Title II of the Constitution of France.
Article 5 The President of the Republic shall see that the Constitution is observed. He shall ensure, by his arbitration, the proper functioning of the public authorities and the continuity of the State. He shall be the guarantor of national independence, territorial integrity and observance of treaties.
Article 8 The President of the Republic shall appoint the Prime Minister. He shall terminate the appointment of the Prime Minister when the latter tenders the resignation of the Government. On the proposal of the Prime Minister, he shall appoint the other members of the Government and terminate their appointments.
Article 9 The President of the Republic shall preside over the Council of Ministers.
Article 10 The President of the Republic shall promulgate Acts of Parliament within fifteen days following the final adoption of an Act and its transmission to the Government. He may, before the expiry of this time limit, ask Parliament to reconsider the Act or sections of the Act. Reconsideration shall not be refused.
While the president has to sign all acts adopted by parliament into law, he cannot refuse to do so and exercise a kind of right of veto; his only power in that matter is to ask for a single reconsideration of the law by parliament.
Article 11 [the president may submit laws to the citizens in a referendum]
Article 12 The President of the Republic may, after consulting the Prime Minister and the Presidents of the assemblies, declare the National Assembly dissolved. A general election shall take place not less than twenty days and not more than forty days after the dissolution. The National Assembly shall convene as of right on the second Thursday following its election. Should it so convene outside the period prescribed for the ordinary session, a session shall be called by right for a fifteen-day period. No further dissolution shall take place within a year following this election.
Article 13 The President of the Republic shall sign the ordinances and decrees deliberated upon in the Council of Ministers. He shall make appointments to the civil and military posts of the State. [...]
Article 14 The President of the Republic shall accredit ambassadors and envoys extraordinary to foreign powers ; foreign ambassadors and envoys extraordinary shall be accredited to him.
Article 15 The President of the Republic shall be commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He shall preside over the higher national defence councils and committees.
Article 16 Where the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the Nation, the integrity of its territory or the fulfilment of its international commitments are under serious and immediate threat, and where the proper functioning of the constitutional public authorities is interrupted, the President of the Republic shall take the measures required by these circumstances, after formally consulting the Prime Minister, the Presidents of the assemblies and the Constitutional Council. He shall inform the Nation of these measures in a message. The measures must stem from the desire to provide the constitutional public authorities, in the shortest possible time, with the means to carry out their duties. The Constitutional Council shall be consulted with regard to such measures. Parliament shall convene as of right. The National Assembly shall not be dissolved during the exercise of the emergency powers.
Article 16 has been used only once, by Charles de Gaulle during the Algerian War, from April 23 to September 29, 1961.
Article 17 The President of the Republic has the right to grant pardon.
Article 18 The President of the Republic shall communicate with the two assemblies of Parliament by means of messages, which he shall cause to be read and which shall not be the occasion for any debate. Outside sessions, Parliament shall be convened especially for this purpose.
Since 1875, the President is prohibited from entering the houses of Parliament.
Article 19 Acts of the President of the Republic, other than those provided for under articles 8 (first paragraph), 11, 12, 16, 18, 54, 56 and 61, shall be countersigned by the Prime Minister and, where required, by the appropriate ministers.
Upon the death or resignation of the President, the President of the Senate becomes interim president. Alain Poher is the only person to have served this temporary position.
The official residence and office of the president is the Élysée Palace in Paris. Other presidential residences include:
- the Fort de Bregançon, in southeastern France, is the current official presidential vacationing residence;
- the Hôtel de Marigny; standing next to the Élysée Palace, it houses foreign official guests;
- the Château de Rambouillet is normally open to visitors when not used for (rare) official meetings;
- the Domaine National de Marly is normally open to visitors when not used for (rare) official meetings;
- the Domaine de Souzy-la-Briche, not a historical monument, is a private residence.
Presidents of France are de jure Co-Prince of Andorra.
Presidents of France
The list below follows on from List of French monarchs.
Adolphe Thiers, 1871-1873 (Thiers became president before the adoption of the Constitution of 1875 so his constitutional position was different from that of later presidents.)
Patrice MacMahon, duc de Magenta, 1873-1879
Jules Grévy, 1879-1887
Marie François Sadi Carnot, 1887-1894
Jean Casimir-Périer, 1894-1895
Félix Faure, 1895-1899
Émile Loubet, 1899-1906
Armand Fallières, 1906-1913
Raymond Poincaré, 1913-1920
Paul Deschanel, February 18 1920 - September 21 1920
Alexandre Millerand, 1920-1924
Gaston Doumergue, 1924-1931
Paul Doumer, 1931-1932
Albert Lebrun, 1932-1940
Provisional Government of the Republic ("Chairman of the Provisional Government", not President)
- Senate President Alain Poher twice acted as President for a few months immediately following de Gaulle's resignation (1969) and Pompidou's death (1974).
Presidential elections results
Government of France, Politics of France, List of French prime ministers, List of Foreign Ministers of France
- Web page of the President http://www.elysee.fr/ang/index.shtm
Last updated: 05-03-2005 17:50:55