Politics of France
- This article discusses political groups and tendencies in France; for information on the political and administrative structures of France, see Government of France.
French politics under the Fifth Republic
After Charles de Gaulle had the constitution of the French Fifth Republic adopted in 1958, France was ruled by successive right-wing administrations until 1981. Throughout the 1960s, left-wing parties fared rather badly in national elections. The successive governments generally applied the Gaullist program of national independence, and modernization in a dirigiste fashion. The Gaullist government, however, was criticized for its heavy-handedness: while elections were free, the state had a monopoly on radio and TV broadcasting and sought to have its point of view on events imposed (this monopoly was however not absolute, since there were radio stations transmitting from nearby countries specifically for the benefit of the French). De Gaulle's social policies were decidedly conservative.
In May 1968, series of worker strikes and student riots rocked France. These did not, however, result in an immediate change of government, with a right-wing administration being triumphantly reelected in the snap election of June 1968. The French electorate turned down a 1969 referendum on the reform of the French Senate, in a move widely considered to be mostly motivated by weariness with de Gaulle.
In 1981, François Mitterrand, a Socialist, was elected president, on a program of far-reaching reforms. After securing a majority in parliament through a snap election, his government ran a program of social and economic reforms:
- social reforms:
- economic reforms:
- the government embarked on a wave of nationalizations;
- the duration of the legal workweek was set to 39 h, instead of the previous 40 h.
However, in 1983, high inflation and economies woes forced a dramatic turnaround with respect to economic policies, known as rigueur (rigor) – the Socialist-Communist government then embarked on policies of fiscal and spending restraint. Though the nationalizations were subsequently reverted by both subsequent left-wing and right-wing governments, the social reforms undertaken have stood still.
Since then, the government alternated between a left-wing coalition (composed of the French Socialist Party, the French Communist Party and more recently Les Verts, the Greens) and a right-wing coalition (composed of Jacques Chirac's Rally for the Republic, later replaced by the Union for a Popular Movement, and the Union for French Democracy). Those two coalitions are fairly stable; there as been none of the mid-term coalition reorganizations and government overthrown that were commonplace under the Fourth Republic.
Recent French politics
During his first 2 years in office, President Jacques Chirac's prime minister was Alain Juppé, who served contemporaneously as leader of Chirac's neo-Gaullist (RPR) Party. Chirac and Juppé benefited from a very large, if rather unruly, majority in the National Assembly (470 out of 577 seats). However, the administration was increasingly embroiled in corruption scandals regarding the past of the RPR (see Corruption scandals in the Paris region); furthermore, some reforms were highly impopular and cause a series of strikes. Mindful that the government might have to take politically costly decisions in advance of the legislative elections planned for spring 1998 in order to ensure that France met the Maastricht criteria for the single European currency, Chirac decided in April to call early elections.
The Left, led by Socialist Party leader Lionel Jospin, whom Chirac had defeated in the 1995 presidential race-unexpectedly won a solid National Assembly majority (319 seats, with 289 required for an absolute majority). President Chirac named Jospin prime minister on June 2, and Jospin went on to form a government composed primarily of Socialist ministers, along with some ministers from allied parties of the Left, such as the Communist Party and the Greens. Jospin stated his support for continued European integration and his intention to keep France on the path toward Economic and Monetary Union, albeit with greater attention to social concerns.
The tradition in periods of "cohabitation" (president of one party, prime minister of another) is for the president to exercise the primary role in foreign and security policy, with the dominant role in domestic policy falling to the prime minister and his government. Jospin stated, however, that he would not a priori leave any domain exclusively to the president.
Chirac and Jospin worked together, for the most part, in the foreign affairs field with representatives of the presidency and the government pursuing a single, agreed French policy. Their "cohabitation" arrangement was the longest-lasting in the history of the Fifth Republic. However it ended, following the National Assembly elections that followed Chirac's heavy defeat of Jospin (who failed even to make it through to the second round of voting) in the 2002 presidential election. President Chirac's current prime minister is the right wing Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
Political parties and leaders
In the "remarks" column: "minor" indicates a party that makes less than 3% in national elections; "major" indicates a party that can lead a national government; "one-person" indicates a party that has only one leading and commanding personality.
|Name||Name in English||Acronym||Leader or chairman||Remarks|
|Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire||Revolutionary Communist League||LCR||Alain Krivine|
|Lutte Ouvrière||Workers' Struggle||LO||Arlette Laguiller, spokeswoman|
|Parti des Travailleurs||Workers' Party||PT||minor|
|Parti Socialiste||Socialist Party||PS||François Hollande||major|
|Parti Radical de Gauche||Left Radical Party||PRG||Jean-Michel Baylet||minor; previously Parti Radical Socialiste, Radical Socialist Party or PRS, Mouvement des Radicaux de Gauche, Left Radical Movement or MRG, Radical|
|Parti Communiste Français||French Communist Party||PCF||Marie-George Buffet|
|Union pour un Mouvement Populaire||Union for a Popular Movement||UMP||Alain Juppé||major; as of 2004, the president (Jacques Chirac), the prime minister (Jean-Pierre Raffarin) and the speakers of both houses of parliament are from UMP|
|Union pour la Démocratie Française||Union for French Democracy||UDF||François Bayrou|
|Centre National des Indépendants et Paysans||National Center of Independents and Peasants||CNI, CNIP||Annick du Roscoät||minor, associated with UMP|
|Les Verts||The Greens||Gilles Lemaire|
|Génération Écologie||Ecology Generation||GE||Brice Lalonde||minor|
|Mouvement Écologiste Indépendant||Independent Ecological Movement||MEI||Antoine Waechter||minor|
|Front National||National Front||FN||Jean-Marie Le Pen||one-person|
|Mouvement National Républicain||National Republican Movement||MNR||Bruno Mégret||one-person|
|La Droite||The Right||Charles Millon||minor, one-person|
|Mouvement des Citoyens||Citizens' Movement||MdC||Jean-Pierre Chevènement||minor, one-person|
|Mouvement pour la France||Movement for France||MPF||Philippe de Villiers||minor, one-person|
|Rassemblement pour la France et l'Indépendance de l'Europe||Rally for France and European Independence||RPFIE||Charles Pasqua||minor, one-person|
|Former parties of note|
|Rassemblement pour la République||Rally for the Republic||RPR||Michelle Alliot-Marie||major|
|Démocratie Libérale||Liberal Democracy||DL||Alain Madelin||originally Parti Républicain - Republican Party or PR|
Political pressure groups and leaders
- Confédération Générale du Travail or CGT, nearly 2.4 million members (claimed), traditional ties with the French Communist Party
- Force Ouvrière (FO), 1 million members (est.)
- Confédération Générale des Cadres (white-collar and executive workers), 340,000 members (claimed)
- Confédération Française Démocratique du Travail or CFDT, about 800,000 members (est.), considered to be close to the reformist options of the French Socialist Party.
- Confédération Française des Travailleurs Chrétiens
- Solidaires Unitaires Démocratiques, the "Group of 10", a group of radical trade unions;
- Union of French Corporations (Mouvement des Entreprises de France or MEDEF, formally known as CNPF), sometimes referred to as patronat
- Fédération Nationale des Syndicats d'Exploitants Agricoles
- Centre National des Jeunes Agriculteurs
- Confédération Paysanne
- official online repository of laws and regulations
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- Politique.com, portal on French politics.
- France Politique portal on French politics
- I-Politique.org portal on French politics