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President of the French Republic

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President of the French Republic

President of the French Republic
Président de la République française
Élysée Palace, Paris
Term length Five years, renewable once consecutively
Inaugural holder Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte
20 December 1848
Formation Constitution of the Fifth Republic,
4 October 1958
Salary €14 910,31/month [1]

The President of the French Republic (French: Président de la République française, French pronunciation: ​[pʁezidɑ̃d(ə) la ʁepyblik fʁɑ̃ˈsɛz]), is the head of state of France and supreme commander-in-chief of the French Armed Forces. The president's powers, functions and duties, and their relation with French governments differed with the various French constitutions.

The president of France is also the ex officio Co-Prince of Andorra, Grand Master of the Légion d'honneur and the Ordre national du Mérite and honorary proto-canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome.

The current President of the Republic is François Hollande, who took office on 15 May 2012.


Since the Referendum on the Direct Election of the President of the French Republic, 1962, the President has been directly elected by universal suffrage; he or she was previously elected by an electoral college.

After the Referendum on the Reduction of the Mandate of the President of the French Republic, 2000, the length of the term was reduced from 7 to 5 years; the first election to a shorter term was held in 2002. President Chirac was first elected in 1995 and again in 2002. At that time, there was no limit on the number of terms, so Chirac could have run again, but chose not to. He was succeeded by Nicolas Sarkozy on 16 May 2007.

Following a further change, the Constitutional law on the Modernisation of the Institutions of the Fifth Republic, 2008, a president cannot serve more than two consecutive terms. François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac are the only Presidents to date who have served a full two terms (14 years for the former, 12 years for the latter).

In order to be admitted as an official candidate, potential candidates must receive signed nominations (informally known as parrainages, for "godfathering") from more than 500 elected officials, mostly mayors. These officials must be from at least 30 départements or overseas collectivities, and no more than 10% of them should be from the same département or collectivity.[2] Furthermore, each official may nominate only one candidate.[3] There are exactly 45,543 elected officials, including 33,872 mayors.

Spending and financing of campaigns and political parties are highly regulated. There is a cap on spending, at approximately 20 million euros, and government public financing of 50% of spending if the candidate scores more than 5%. If the candidate receives less than 5% of the vote, the government funds €800,000 to the party (€150,000 paid in advance)[4] Advertising on TV is forbidden but official time is given to candidates on public TV. An independent agency regulates election and party financing.

French presidential elections are conducted via run-off voting which ensures that the elected President always obtains a majority: if no candidate receives a majority of votes in the first round of voting, the two highest-scoring candidates arrive at a run-off. After the president is elected, he goes through a solemn investiture ceremony called a "passation des pouvoirs" ("handing over of powers").[5]


The French Fifth Republic is a semi-presidential system. Unlike many other European presidents, the French President is quite powerful. Although it is the Prime Minister of France and parliament that oversee much of the nation's actual day-to-day affairs, the French President wields significant influence and authority, especially in the fields of national security and foreign policy. The president holds the nation's most senior office, and outranks all other politicians.

The president's greatest power is his/her ability to choose the Prime Minister. However, since the French National Assembly has the sole power to dismiss the Prime Minister's government, the president is forced to name a prime minister who can command the support of a majority in the assembly.

  • When the majority of the Assembly has opposite political views to that of the president, this leads to political cohabitation. In that case, the president's power is diminished, since much of the de facto power relies on a supportive prime minister and National Assembly, and is not directly attributed to the post of president.
  • When the majority of the Assembly sides with him, the President can take a more active role and may, in effect, direct government policy. The prime minister is then the personal choice of the President, and can be easily replaced if the administration becomes unpopular. This device has been used in recent years by both François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac.

Since 2002, the mandate of the president and the Assembly are both 5 years and the two elections are close to each other. Therefore, the likelihood of a "cohabitation" is lower. Among the powers of the government:

  • The president promulgates laws.
    • The president has a very limited form of suspensive veto: when presented with a law, he or she can request another reading of it by Parliament, but only once per law.
    • The president may also refer the law for review to the Constitutional Council prior to promulgation.
  • The president may dissolve the French National Assembly
  • The president may refer treaties or certain types of laws to popular referendum, within certain conditions, among them the agreement of the Prime minister or the parliament.
  • The president is the Commander-in-Chief of the French Armed Forces.
  • The president may order the use of nuclear weapons.
  • The president names the Prime minister but he cannot dismiss him. He names and dismisses the other ministers, with the agreement of the Prime minister.
  • The president names most officials (with the assent of the cabinet).
  • The president names certain members of the Constitutional Council.
  • The president receives foreign ambassadors.
  • The president may grant a pardon (but not an amnesty) to convicted criminals; the president can also lessen or suppress criminal sentences. This was of crucial importance when France still operated the death penalty: criminals sentenced to death would generally request that the president commute their sentence to life imprisonment.

All decisions of the president must be countersigned by the Prime minister, except dissolving the French National Assembly.

Detailed constitutional powers

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 and this power is subject to countersigning by the Prime minister.

Article 11 The president could submit laws to the people in a referendum with advice and consent of the cabinet.

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, allowing the president a limited form of rule by decree for a limited period of time in exceptional circumstance, has been used only once, by Charles de Gaulle during the Algerian War, from 23 April to 29 September 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. He can also give an address in front of the Congress of France in Versailles. Outside sessions, Parliament shall be convened especially for this purpose.

From 1875 to 2008, the President was 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.

Article 49 Para 3 allows the president to adopt a law on his authority. To this end, the prime minister goes before the lower and upper houses, reads out the bill to the legislators and closes with "the administration engages its responsibility" on the foregoing. Deprived of Gaullist party support halfway into his seven-year term spanning 1974 to 1981, Pres. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing relied heavily on this provision to stalemate Paris Mayor Jacques Chirac's attempt to bring him back under Gaullist control.

Presidential amnesties

There is a tradition of so-called "presidential amnesties", which are something of a misnomer: after the election of a president, and of a National Assembly of the same party, parliament traditionally votes a law granting amnesty for some petty crimes. This practice has been increasingly criticized, particularly because it is believed to incite people to commit traffic offences in the months preceding the election. Such an amnesty law may also authorize the president to designate individuals who have committed certain categories of crimes to be offered amnesty, if certain conditions are met. Such individual measures have been criticized for the political patronage that they allow. Still, it is argued that such amnesty laws help reduce prison overpopulation. An amnesty law was passed in 2002; none have yet been passed as of January 2008.

The difference between an amnesty and a presidential pardon is that the former clears all subsequent effects of the sentencing, as though the crime had not been committed, while pardon simply relieves the sentenced individual from part or all of the remainder of the sentence.

Criminal responsibility and impeachment

Articles 67 and 68 organize the regime of criminal responsibility of the President. They were reformed by a 2007 constitutional act,[6] in order to clarify a situation that previously resulted in legal controversies.[7]

The President of the Republic enjoys immunity during his term: he cannot be requested to testify before any jurisdiction, he cannot be prosecuted, etc. However, the statute of limitation is suspended during his term, and enquiries and prosecutions can be restarted, at the latest one month after he leaves office.

The President is not deemed personally responsible for his actions in his official capacity, except where his actions are indicted before the International Criminal Court or where impeachment is moved against him. Impeachment can be pronounced by the High Court, a special court convened from both houses of Parliament on the proposal of either House, should the president have failed to discharge his duties in a way that evidently precludes the continuation of his term.

Succession and incapacity

Upon the death or resignation of the President, the President of the Senate acts as interim president.[8] Alain Poher is the only person to have served in this temporary position twice. The first time was in 1969 after Charles de Gaulle's resignation and a second time in 1974 after Georges Pompidou's death. It is important to note that, in this situation, the President of the Senate became an Interim President of the Republic; they do not become the new President of the Republic as elected and therefore do not have to resign from their position as President of the Senate. In spite of his title as Interim President of the Republic, Poher is regarded in France as a former President and is listed in the presidents' gallery on (the President's official site). This is in contrast to acting presidents from the Third Republic.

The first round of a new presidential election must be organized no sooner than twenty days and no later than thirty-five days following the vacancy of the presidency. Because fifteen days can separate the first and second rounds of a presidential election, this means that the President of the Senate can only act as President of the Republic for a maximum period of fifty days. During this period of Interim president is not allowed to dismiss the national assembly nor are they allowed to call for a referendum or initiate any constitutional changes.

If there is no acting president of the senate, the powers of the president of the republic are exercised by the "Gouvernement", meaning the Cabinet. This has been interpreted by some constitutional academics as meaning first the Prime Minister and, if he is himself not able to act, the members of the cabinet in the order of the list of the decree that nominated them. This is in fact unlikely to happen, because if the president of the Senate is not able to act, the Senate will normally name a new president of the Senate, that will act as President of the Republic.

During the Third French Republic the President of the Council of Ministers acted as President whenever office was vacant.[9] According to article 7 of the Constitution, if the presidency becomes vacant for any reason, or if the president becomes incapacitated, upon the request of the gouvernement, the Constitutional Council may rule, by a majority vote,[10] that the presidency is to be temporarily assumed by the President of the Senate. If the Council rules that the incapacity is permanent, the same procedure as for the resignation is applied, as described above.

If the President cannot attend meetings, including meetings of the Council of Ministers, he can ask the Prime Minister to attend in his stead (Constitution, article 21). This clause has been applied by presidents travelling abroad, ill, or undergoing surgery.

Pay and official residences

The President of the Republic is paid a salary according to a pay grade defined in comparison to the pay grades of the most seniors members of the French Civil Service ("out of scale", hors échelle, those whose pay grades are known as letters and not as numeric indices). In addition he is paid a residence stipend of 3%, and a function stipend of 25% on top of the salary and residence indemnity. This gross salary and these indemnities are the same as those of the Prime Minister, and are 50% higher than the highest paid to other members of the government,[11] which is itself defined as twice the average of the highest (pay grade G) and the lowest (pay grade A1) salaries in the "out of scale" pay grades.[12] Using the 2008 "out of scale" pay grades[13] this amounts to a monthly pay of 20,963 €, which fits the 19,000 € quoted to the press in early 2008.[14] Using the pay grades starting from 1 July 2009,[15] this amounts to a gross monthly pay of 21,131 €.

The salary and the residence stipend are taxable for income tax.[16]

The official residence and office of the president is the Élysée Palace in Paris. Other presidential residences include:

  • the Fort de Brégançon, in southeastern France, is the current official presidential vacation residence;
  • the Hôtel de Marigny; standing next to the Élysée Palace, 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 has not been used by the President since 2007, and is available for lease.[17]

2012 election

Former Presidents

As of 2012 there are three living former Presidents:

Name Term of office Date of birth
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing 1974–1981 (1926-02-02) 2 February 1926 (age 88)
Jacques Chirac 1995–2007 (1932-11-29) 29 November 1932 (age 81)
Nicolas Sarkozy 2007–2012 (1955-01-28) 28 January 1955 (age 59)

According to French law, Former Presidents have guaranteed lifetime pension defined according to the pay grade of the Councillors of State,[18] a courtesy diplomatic passport,[19] and, according to the French Constitution (Article 56), membership of the Constitutional Council.

They also get personnel, an apartment and/or office, and other amenities, though the legal basis for these is disputed.[20] In 2008, according to an answer by the services of the Prime Minister to a question from member of the National Assembly René Dosière,[21] these facilities comprised: a security detail, a car with a chauffeur, office or housing space, maintained by the State. Two people service this space. In addition, the State funds 7 permanent collaborators.

Presidential spouse

There is no official status or title such as 'First Lady' for the spouse of the President under the French constitution. Charity work has traditionally been the main task of French presidential spouses under the Third, Fourth and Fifth Republics.

Presidents Spouses years
François Hollande Valérie Trierweiler (domestic partner) 2012—
Nicolas Sarkozy Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
Cécilia Sarkozy
February 2008–May 2012
May 2007–October 2007
Jacques Chirac Bernadette Chirac 1995–2007
François Mitterrand Danielle Mitterrand 1981–1995
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing Anne-Aymone Giscard d'Estaing 1974–1981
Georges Pompidou Claude Pompidou 1969–1974
Charles de Gaulle Yvonne de Gaulle 1959–1969
René Coty Germaine Coty 1954–1959
Vincent Auriol Michelle Aucouturier 1947–1954
Albert François Lebrun Marguerite Lebrun 1932–1940
Paul Doumer Blanche Doumer 1931–1932
Gaston Doumergue 1924–1931
Paul Deschanel Germaine Deschanel 1920
Émile Loubet Marie-Louise Picard 1899–1906
Félix Faure 1895–1899
Jean Casimir-Perier Hélène Casimir-Perier 1894–1895
Adolphe Thiers Élise Thiers 1871–1873

Age upon entering and leaving office

President Age upon
entering office
Age upon
leaving office
1 Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte 40 44
2 Adolphe Thiers 74 76
3 Patrice de Mac-Mahon 64 70
4 Jules Grévy 71 80
5 Marie François Sadi Carnot 50 56
6 Jean Casimir-Perier 46 47
7 Félix Faure 53 58
8 Émile Loubet 60 67
9 Armand Fallières 64 71
10 Raymond Poincaré 52 59
11 Paul Deschanel 65 65
12 Alexandre Millerand 61 65
13 Gaston Doumergue 60 67
14 Paul Doumer 74 75
15 Albert François Lebrun 60 68
16 Vincent Auriol 62 69
17 René Coty 71 76
18 Charles de Gaulle 68 78
19 Georges Pompidou 57 62
20 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing 48 55
21 François Mitterrand 64 78
22 Jacques Chirac 62 74
23 Nicolas Sarkozy 52 57
24 François Hollande 57 Incumbent

Time in office

President Length
in days
Rank Notes
21 François Mitterrand 5109 1 Served two full terms of seven years.
22 Jacques Chirac 4382 2 Served one full term of seven years and one full term of five years.
18 Charles de Gaulle 3763 3 Served one full term of seven years and resigned during second term.
4 Jules Grévy 3228 4 Served one full term of seven years and resigned during second term.
15 Albert François Lebrun 2983 5 Served one full term of seven years and was replaced by Marshal Philippe Pétain during second term.
8 Émile Loubet 2556 6 Served one full term of seven years.
9 Armand Fallières 2557 7 Served one full term of seven years.
10 Raymond Poincaré 2556 8 Served one full term of seven years.
13 Gaston Doumergue 2556 9 Served one full term of seven years.
16 Vincent Auriol 2557 10 Served one full term of seven years.
20 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing 2551 11 Served one full term of seven years.
5 Sadi Carnot 2396 12 Served less than one full term of seven years (assassinated).
3 Patrice de Mac-Mahon 2077 13 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned).
23 Nicolas Sarkozy 1826 14 Served one full term of five years.
17 René Coty 1818 15 Served less than one full term of seven years (end of the Fourth Republic).
19 Georges Pompidou 1747 16 Served less than one full term of seven years (died in office).
7 Félix Faure 1491 17 Served less than one full term of seven years (died in office).
1 Prince Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte 1443 18 Served less than one full term of four years (end of the Second Republic, proclaimed himself as Emperor).
12 Alexandre Millerand 1357 19 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned).
2 Adolphe Thiers 632 20 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned).
14 Paul Doumer 329 21 Served less than one full term of seven years (assassinated).
11 Paul Deschanel 216 22 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned).
6 Jean Casimir-Perier 203 23 Served less than one full term of seven years (resigned).

Interim President

  1. Alain Poher – as President of the Senate was called on to serve as Interim President of France in April-June 1969 and April-May 1974

Non-Presidential Heads of State

  1. Jacques-Charles Dupont de l'Eure, Chairman of the Provisional Government and de facto head of state in 1848 : served less than three months
  2. Executive Commission: joint head of state with five co-presidents in 1848 : served less than two months. François Arago was its most prominent member.
  3. Louis-Eugène Cavaignac, head of government and de facto head of state in 1848 : served about six months
  4. Louis Jules Trochu, President of the Government of National Defense and de facto head of state (served 4 months, September 1870 to January 1871)
  5. Philippe Pétain, Chief of State of Vichy France: served four years (considered an illegal usurper by later governments[22])
  6. Charles de Gaulle, First President of the 1944-46 Provisional Government: served over one and a half years
  7. Félix Gouin, Second President of the Provisional Government: served five months
  8. Georges Bidault, Third President of the Provisional Government: served five months
  9. Léon Blum, Fourth President of the Provisional Government: served one month


Under the Third and Fourth Republic, which were parliamentary systems, the office of President of the Republic was a largely ceremonial and powerless one.

The constitution of the Fifth Republic greatly increased the President's powers. A 1962 referendum changed the constitution, so that the President would be directly elected by universal suffrage and not by the Parliament.

In 2000, a referendum shortened the presidential term from seven years to five years.

A maximum of two consecutive terms was imposed after the 2008 constitutional reform.

See also



Further reading

  • John Gaffney. Political Leadership in France: From Charles de Gaulle to Nicolas Sarkozy (Palgrave Macmillan; 2012), ISBN 978-0-230-36037-2. Explores mythology and symbolism in French political culture through a study of the personas crafted by de Gaulle and his five successors.

External links

arz:رؤسا الجمهوريه الفرنسيه الخامسه

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