Prime Minister of France
|Prime Minister of the
Logo of the French Government
Council of State
|Reports to||President of the Republic
and to Parliament
|Appointer||President of the Republic|
|Term length||No fixed term|
|Constituting instrument||Constitution of 4 October 1958|
|Precursor||Several incarnations since the Ancien Régime|
|First holder||Michel Debré|
|Salary||14 910 euros/month|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The Prime Minister of France (French: Premier ministre français) in the Fifth Republic is the head of government and of the Council of Ministers of France. During the Third and Fourth Republics, the head of government position was called President of the Council of Ministers (French: Président du Conseil des Ministres), generally shortened to President of the Council (French: Président du Conseil).
The Prime Minister proposes the list of other ministers to the President of the Republic. Decrees and decisions of the Prime Minister, like almost all executive decisions, are subject to the oversight of the administrative court system. Few decrees are taken after advice from the Council of State (French: Conseil d'État).
All prime ministers defend the programs of their ministry, and make budgetary choices. The extent to which those decisions lie with the Prime Minister or President depends upon whether they are of the same party.
The Prime Minister is appointed by the President of the Republic. The President can choose whomever he wants — this is in contrast with parliamentary systems in which the head of state has to appoint the leader of the largest party in the legislature — and in fact, only a handful of prime ministers were the leader of their own party upon taking office. Likewise, while prime ministers are usually chosen from amongst the ranks of the National Assembly, on rare occasions the President has selected a non-officeholder because of their experience in bureaucracy or foreign service, or their success in business management — Dominique de Villepin, for example, served as Prime Minister from 2005 to 2007 without ever having held an elected office.
On the other hand, because the National Assembly does have the power to force the resignation of the government, the choice of prime minister must reflect the majority in the Assembly. For example, right after the legislative election of 1986, President François Mitterrand appointed Jacques Chirac as prime minister, Chirac was a member of the RPR and a political opponent of Mitterrand's, and despite the fact the Mitterrand's own Socialist Party was still the largest party in the Assembly, the RPR had an ally in the UDF, which gave them a majority. Such a situation, where the President is forced to work with a prime minister who is an opponent is called a cohabitation.
According to article 21 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister "shall direct the actions of the Government"; in addition, article 20 stipulates that the Government "shall determine and conduct the policy of the Nation". Other members of Government are appointed by the President "on the recommendation of the Prime Minister". In practice the Prime Minister acts on the impulse of the President to whom he is a subordinate, except when there is a cohabitation in which case his responsibilities are akin to those of a prime minister in a parliamentary system.
The Prime Minister can engage the responsibility of its Government before the National Assembly. In addition to ensuring that the Government still has support in the House, some bills that might prove controversial are able to be passed this way: either the Assembly overthrows the Government, or the bill is passed automatically (article 49). The Prime Minister may also submit a bill that has not been yet signed into law to the Constitutional Council (article 61).
Before he is allowed to dissolve the Assembly, the President has to consult the Prime Minister and the presidents of both Houses of Parliament (article 12).
The prime minister, in its current form, dates from the formation of the French Third Republic. Under the French Constitutional Laws of 1875, he was imbued with the same powers as his British counterpart. In practice, however, the prime minister was a fairly weak figure, serving as little more than the cabinet's chairman. Most notably, the legislature had the power to force the entire cabinet out of office by a vote of censure. As a result, cabinets were often toppled twice a year, and there were long stretches where France was left without a government.
The 1958 Constitution includes several provisions intended to strengthen the prime minister's position. For instance, restrictions were placed on votes of censure.
Fifth Republic Records
- The only person to serve as Prime Minister more than once under the Fifth Republic was Jacques Chirac (1974-1976 and 1986-1988).
- The youngest appointed Prime minister was Laurent Fabius, on 17 July 1984. He was 37 years old.
- The oldest appointed Prime minister was Pierre Bérégovoy, on 2 April 1992. He was 66 years old.
- The only woman who was appointed at the head of government is Edith Cresson, Prime minister from 1991 to 1992.
- Two Prime ministers were mayor of Bordeaux, and in the same time, Jacques Chaban-Delmas (1969-1972) and Alain Juppé (1995-1997).
- The longest-serving Prime minister was Georges Pompidou, 6 years, 2 months and 26 days, from 1962 to 1968.
- The shortest-serving Prime minister was Edith Cresson, 10 months and 18 days, from 1991 to 1992.