French Parliament

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This article is about the post-Revolutionary and present-day institution. For the Ancien Régime institution, see Parlement.
French Parliament
Parlement français
Coat of arms or logo
Type
Type
Houses Senate
National Assembly
Leadership
Jean-Pierre BelPS
since 1 October 2011
Claude BartolonePS
since 26 June 2012
Structure
Seats 925
348 Senators
577 Deputies
French Senate 2012.svg
Senate political groups
     Communist Group (20)
     Socialist Group (128)
     Europe Écologie–The Greens (12)
     European Democratic and Social Rally (18)
     Union of Democrats and Independents - UC (32)
     Union for a Popular Movement Group (131)
     Non-Registered (7)
National Assembly of France, 18 June 2012.svg
National Assembly political groups

     Socialist Group (left) (295)
     Union for a popular Movement Group (right) (196)
     Union of Democrats and independents (centre-right) (29)
     Ecologist Group (18)
     Democratic and republican left (far left) (15)
     Radical, republican, democrat and progressist (centre-left) (15)
     Non inscrits (9)
-      miscellaneous right (2)
-      National Front (2)
-      miscellaneous left (1)
-      MoDem (centre) (1)
-      Arise the Republic (gaullist) (1)
-      Movement for France (conservative) (1)

-      Far right (1)
Elections
Indirect election
National Assembly voting system
Two-round system
Senate last election
25 September 2011
National Assembly last election
10 & 17 June 2012
Meeting place
Versailles Palace.jpg
Château de Versailles
Website
French Parliament Website

The French Parliament (French: Parlement français) is the bicameral legislature of the French Republic, consisting of the Senate (Sénat) and the National Assembly (Assemblée nationale). Each assembly conducts legislative sessions at a separate location in Paris: the Palais du Luxembourg for the Senate and the Palais Bourbon for the National Assembly.

Each house has its own regulations and rules of procedure. However, they may occasionally meet as a single house, the French Congress (Congrès du Parlement français), convened at the Château de Versailles, to revise and amend the Constitution of France.

Organization and powers[edit]

Armoiries république française.svg
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Parliament meets for one nine-month session each year: under special circumstances the President can call an additional session. Although parliamentary powers have diminished from those existing under the Fourth Republic, the National Assembly can still cause a government to fall if an absolute majority of the total Assembly membership votes a censure motion. As a result, the "gouvernement" (the term is similar to "cabinet" in the UK or "administration" in the USA, and consists of the Prime Minister and ministers) may be from the same political party as the Assembly and should be supported by a majority there to prevent a "motion de censure" or vote of no-confidence.

However, the President appoints the Prime Minister and the ministers and is under no constitutional, mandatory obligation to make those appointments from the ranks of the parliamentary majority party; this is a safe-guard specifically introduced by the founder of the Fifth Republic, Charles De Gaulle, to prevent the disarray and horse-trading caused by the Third and Fourth Republics parliamentary régimes; in practice the prime minister and ministers do come from the majority although President Sarkozy did appoint Socialist ministers or secretary of state-level junior ministers to his government. Rare periods during which the President of France is not from the same political party as the Prime Minister are usually known as cohabitation. The President chairs the "conseil des ministres", not the Prime Minister.

The cabinet (in French: "gouvernement" or, when it sits in session every Wednesday "conseil des ministres") has a strong influence in shaping the agenda of Parliament. The government also can link its term to a legislative text which it proposes, and unless a motion of censure is introduced (within 24 hours after the proposal) and passed (within 48 hours of introduction – thus full procedures last at most 72 hours), the text is considered adopted without a vote. However, this procedure has been limited by the 2008 constitutional amendment. Legislative initiative rests with the National Assembly.

Members of Parliament enjoy parliamentary immunity. Both assemblies have committees that write reports on a variety of topics. If necessary, they can establish parliamentary enquiry commissions with broad investigative power. However, the latter possibility is almost never exercised, since the majority can reject a proposition by the opposition to create an investigation commission. Also, such a commission may only be created if it does not interfere with a judiciary investigation, meaning that in order to cancel its creation, one just needs to press charges on the topic concerned by the investigation commission. Since 2008, the opposition may impose the creation of an investigation commission once a year, even against the wishes of the majority. However, they still can't lead investigations if there is a judiciary case going on already (or started after the commission was formed).

History[edit]

The French Parliament, as a legislative body, should not confused with the various parlements of the Ancien Régime in France, which were courts of justice and tribunals with certain political functions varying from province to province and as to whether the local law was written and Roman, or customary common law.

The word "Parliament", in the modern meaning of the term, appeared in France in the 19th century, at the time of the constitutional monarchy of 1830–1848. It is never mentioned in any constitutional text until the Constitution of the 4th Republic in 1948. Before that time reference was made to "les Chambres" or to each assembly, whatever its name, but never to a generic term as in Britain. Its form – unicameral, bicameral, or multicameral – and its functions have taken different forms throughout the different political regimes and according to the various French constitutions:

Date Constitution Upper chamber Lower chamber Other chamber Joint sitting Single chamber
1791 French Constitution of 1791 Assemblée Nationale
1793 French Constitution of 1793 Corps législatif
1795–1799 French Constitution of 1795 Conseil des Anciens Conseil des Cinq-Cents
1799–1802 Constitution of the Year VIII Sénat Corps législatif Tribunat
1802–1804 Constitution of the Year X Sénat Corps législatif Tribunat
1804–1814 Constitution of the Year XII Sénat Corps législatif
1814–1815 Charter of 1814 Chamber of Peers Chambre des députés des départements
1815 Additional Act to the Constitutions of the Empire Chamber of Peers Chamber of Representatives
1830–1848 Charter of 1830 Chamber of Peers Chamber of Deputies
1848–1852 French Constitution of 1848 Assemblée Nationale
1852–1870 French Constitution of 1852 Sénat Corps législatif
1871–1875 Assemblée Nationale
1875–1940 French Constitutional Laws of 1875 Sénat Chamber of Deputies Assemblée Nationale
1940–1944 French Constitutional Law of 1940
1944–1946 Provisional Government of the French Republic Assemblée Nationale
1946–1958 French Constitution of 1946 Conseil de la République Assemblée Nationale Parliament
since 1958 French Constitution of 1958 Sénat Assemblée Nationale Parlement réuni en Congrès

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Frank R. Baumgartner, "Parliament's Capacity to Expand Political Controversy in France", Legislative Studies Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 1 (Feb. 1987), pp. 33–54
  • Marc Abélès, Un ethnologue à l'Assemblée. Paris: Odile Jacob, 2000. An anthropological study of the French National Assembly, of its personnel, lawmakers, codes of behaviors and rites.

External links[edit]