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Executive power: French Presidents and British Prime Ministers.

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Presentation on theme: "Executive power: French Presidents and British Prime Ministers."— Presentation transcript:

1 Executive power: French Presidents and British Prime Ministers

2 Global Film Series Monday evenings, 7:00 p.m Hampton Hall, Marine Institute January 21 Paradise Now 2005 Best Golden Globe Foreign Language Film February 4 The Russian Ark/ Russkiy kovcheg 2002 Vision Award Toronto International Film Festival February 18 Tsotsi 2005 Best Foreign Language Film Oscar March 3 The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) 2006 Best For Film Oscar March 24 Red Road 2006 Cannes Jury Prize April 7 The Barbarian Invasions (Les Invasions barbares,) 2003 Best For Film Oscar

3 Comparing French Presidents and British Prime Ministers British prime ministers and their bases of power Commanding & retaining a parliamentary majority –But what does it take to do this? Use of ‘central agencies:’ –Downing Street –Cabinet Secretariat –The Treasury (via the Chancellor of the Exchequer)

4 French Presidents Directly elected for 5 year term (7 years through 2002) Governs through premier & cabinet -- who serve with the confidence of the National Assembly Special powers under 5 th R Constitution: –Reserved domain in foreign affairs –Ability to send messages to parliament

5 French Premiers Enjoys battery of powers under 5 th R constitution –Control of the assembly agenda and texts of bills goin –Can ask for ‘package’ vote –Can ask for limited or broader emergency powers –Can declare any motion a matter of confidence –Measures pass unless National Assembly files and approves a motion of censure Hired and fired by President But must resign if National Assembly censures

6 Voting censure Strict provisions for motion of censure Petition must be signed by 10% of members Must be approved by an absolute majority (50% +1 of entire National Assembly) Only votes for censure are counted

7 British counterpart: Prime Minister’s problem: to keep party together Different strategies –Find & maintain consensus: listen to & include diverse streams of opinion in cabinet –Damn the torpedoes: full speed ahead –Rely on rewards and punishments –But what are they? Cabinet office ‘removal of the whip’

8 5 th Republic in practice De Gaulle as first president Larger than life presidency: –Use of referenda –Initial concentration on foreign affairs –Assertion of presidential power Extra-constitutional amendment of the constitution in 1962 (for direct election of president President hires and fires premier

9 Presidential elections President is elected in a two ballot or runoff system: To be elected on the first ballot, a candidate must win an absolute majority (50%+1) of the vote cast If no candidate wins on the first ballot, a second ballot is held 2 weeks later: –Lower candidates are dropped –Candidate with the most votes wins

10 Elections to the National Assembly Deputies are elected in single member districts on a two ballot or runoff system –In order to be elected on the first ballot, a candidate must win an –If no candidate has an absolute majority, then a second runoff ballot is held one week later Candidates winning less than 12.5 % (1/8) are dropped Candidate with the most votes – a plurality – wins

11 The left Currently 3-4 parties: –Communists (PCF) –Socialists (PS) –Greens/Ecologists –Some radicals

12 The right: Gaulllists –Currently organized as UMP – Union for a Popular Majority –previously RPR,Rally for the Republic –Typically nationalistic, statist; less so now Union of Democrats for France (UDF, liberal) National Front (FN) extreme right, led by Jean Marie Le Pen election results

13 Balance among President, Premier and National Assembly: Presidential mode: Parties supporting President have a majority in the National Assembly President appoints and may remove the Premier Premier implements president’s program Parliamentary mode –Parties opposing president have a majority in the National Assembly –National Assembly can censure premier if it chooses –Outcome: either Stalemate and/or parliamentary elections OR Cohabitation – power- sharing

14 Presidential dominance: Parties supporting the President have a majority in the National Assembly President appoints a premier of his choice Premier carries out the President’s program, securing the passage of legislation as need National Assembly and Senate comply. –Premier may make legislation a matter of confidence –If he does so, the legislation passes unless 10% of deputies file a motion of censure The motion is passed by an absolute majority (50% +1) of the entire National Assembly

15 Parliamentary mode: Parties opposing the president have a majority in the National Assembly President may appoint premier of his choice, but National Assembly can censure –If premier (and cabinet) are censured, they must resign –President may then Dissolve the National Assembly and call for new elections (but only once per 12 month period) Appoint a premier acceptable to the National Assembly majority, resulting in cohabitation or power-sharing

16 French Presidents: , Presidents and parliaments from the right –De Gaulle ( ) –Pompidou ( ) –Giscard de Estaing ( ) : Francois Mitterrand (PS) : Jacques Chirac (RPR, UMP) 2007-present: Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP

17 Incidence of cohabitation (Mitterand presidency) –Right wins 1986 National Assembly elections –Mitterand appoints Chirac as Premier (Mitterand presidency) –Right wins National Assembly –Mitterand appoints Balladur as Premier (Chirac presidency) –Chirac dissolves National Assembly –Left majority –Chirac appoints Socialist, Lionel Jospin as Premier

18 The Fifth Republic in practice Constitution provides political stability, governments which can govern Regime is semi-presidential: –Can be dominated by strong presidents if they command a majority in the National Assembly –However, president’s ability to lead or dominate weakens if opposition parties have a majority: –If so, results in cohabitation – a form of power-sharing

19 British prime ministers Stronger: Winston Churchill Harold MacMillan Harold Wilson Margaret Thatcher Tony Blair Not as strong: Anthony Eden Edward Heath Harold Wilson John Major Gordon Brown?


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