Politics in France

The French tend to take politics fairly seriously and the vote output is much higher here than in the UK - 79% of the voting public took part in the last Presidential election


Essentially, French politics are characterised by two opposed groups: the left wing centred around the Socialist Party, and the right wing now known as the UMP. With the election of President Hollande, the socialist grouping holds all three elected arms of Government for the first time in the history of the Fifth Republic: the Presidency, the National Assembly and the Senate.

Most politicians in France are former civil servants and many graduated from one of the “grandes ecoles” – the Ecole Nationale d’Administration

The Presidency is the most powerful position in the French political system, the residency being at the Elysee Palace in Paris. The President serves a five year term (this did used to be seven) and can seek a second term. Only two of France’s presidents have failed a re-election bid: Giscard d’Estaing and, more recently, Nicolas Sarkozy. The next election will be held in May 2017 and word on the ground generally is that this is too long to wait: many French do not have a high opinion at all of President Hollande!

There has been a lot of tension between President Hollande’s Government and the business community generally and at the moment the Government is struggling somewhat to get to grips with the economy, all the while knowing that the far right are trying to capitalise on the Government’s apparent failings.

Looking at the French public in general, the Government’s popularity is low. However, ex-President Sarkozy has been at the centre of a fairly major scandal in that the constitutional council ruled that he had completely overshot his spending limits during his 2012 election campaign and is due to pay back some €11 million in state subsidies - despite this Mr. Sarkozy is still widely thought to be plotting a return in the next presidential election in May 2017.

The National Front party headed up by Marine le Pen has seen increasing popularity over this year, such that her party has put the socialists into third place in recent by-elections.

The problem overall seems to be the general economic climate across Europe as well as the fact that there is no-one around on the political scene perceived to be a great leader. Perhaps this is something France has in common with the UK, one might suggest? Suffice to say that asking around our French friends for their views; I have not come across one person who rates President Hollande in any capacity. France is a Republic and thus the people have a lot to say for themselves and expect their voice to be heard. It will be interesting to follow what happens between now and the next Presidential election in 2017.

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