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French Parliament

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French Parliament

Parlement français
16th Legislature of the French Fifth Republic
Coat of arms or logo
Gérard Larcher, LR
since 1 October 2014
Yaël Braun-Pivet, RE
since 28 June 2022
Senate political groups
  •   SR (133)
  •   S (64)
  •   UC (56)
  •   RDPI (22)
  •   CRCE (18)
  •   LIRT (18)
  •   E (17)
  •   RDSE (16)
  •   RASNAG (4)
National Assembly political groups
Parliament dissolved
Indirect election
Two-round system
Last Senate election
24 September 2023
Last National Assembly election
12 and 19 June 2022
Next Senate election
By September 2026
Next National Assembly election
30 June and 7 July 2024
Meeting place
Aile du Midi, Château de Versailles (joint session)
Palais du Luxembourg, meeting place of the French Senate
Palais Bourbon, meeting place of the French National Assembly

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

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

History and name[edit]

The French Parliament, as a legislative body, should not be 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 1946. Before that time, reference was made to "les Chambres" or to each assembly, whatever its name, but unlike in Great Britain, the legislature as a whole had no name as such.

Across the varied constitutional structures used in France since 1791, all have had a legislative body of varying names, which has for most of its history been bicameral (though at times unicameralism and more unorthodox forms with three or more chambers have existed)

Date Constitution Upper chamber Lower chamber Other chamber Joint sitting Single chamber
1791 French Constitution of 1791 Assemblée législative
1793 French Constitution of 1793 Assemblée Nationale
1795–1799 Constitution of the Year III Conseil des Anciens Conseil des Cinq-Cents
1799–1802 Constitution of the Year VIII Sénat conservateur Corps législatif Tribunat
1802–1804 Constitution of the Year X Sénat conservateur Corps législatif Tribunat
1804–1814 Constitution of the Year XII Sénat conservateur Corps législatif Tribunat[Note 1]
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

Election of representatives[edit]

The current Parliament is composed of two chambers: the upper Senate (French: le Sénat) and the lower National Assembly, which have 349 and 577 members respectively.

Deputies, who sit in the National Assembly, are elected by first past the post voting in two rounds for a term of five years, notwithstanding a dissolution of the Assembly. Each constituency has around 100,000 residents, though some variance of size exists between rural and urban constituencies. For example, the Val-d'Oise constituency has 188,000 electors, while Lozère has just 34,000.[1]

Senators are elected by indirect universal suffrage by the grands électeurs, who consist of deputies, regional councillors, departmental councillors and representatives of municipal councillors. The latter constitute 95% of the electoral body.

Organization and powers[edit]

Normally, the parliament meets for a single nine-month session each year but under special circumstances the President of France can call an additional session. Parliamentary power was limited after the establishment of the Fifth Republic; however, the National Assembly can still cause a government to fall if an absolute majority of the legislators votes for a motion of no confidence. As a result, the government usually consists of members from the political party that dominates the Assembly and must be supported by a majority there to prevent a vote of no-confidence.

The Prime Minister and other government Ministers are appointed by the President, who is under no constitutional or other mandatory obligation to make governmental appointments from the ranks of the majority party in parliament. This is a safeguard that was introduced by the founder of the Fifth Republic, Charles de Gaulle, to attempt to prevent the disarray and horse-trading seen in the parliamentary regimes of the Third and Fourth Republics; however, in practice the prime minister and other ministers usually do belong to the majority party. A notable exception to this custom occurred during Nicolas Sarkozy's premiership when he appointed socialist ministers and Secretary of State-level junior ministers to his government. The rare periods during which the president is not from the same political party as the prime minister are usually known as cohabitation. The Cabinet of Ministers is led by the President rather than the Prime Minister.

The government (or, when it sits in session every Wednesday, the cabinet) exerts considerable influence on the agenda of Parliament. The government can link its term to a legislative text which it proposes, and unless a motion of censure is introduced within 24 hours of 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 was limited by a 2008 constitutional amendment. Legislative initiative rests with the National Assembly.

Legislators enjoy parliamentary immunity.[2] Both assemblies have committees that write reports on a variety of topics. If necessary, they can establish parliamentary commissions of inquiry with broad investigative power. However, this is almost never exercised because the majority can reject a proposition by the opposition to create an investigatory commission. Also, such a commission may only be created if it does not interfere with a judicial investigation, meaning that in order to cancel its creation, one just needs to press charges on the topic concerned by the investigatory commission. Since 2008, the opposition may impose the creation of an investigative commission once a year, even against the wishes of the majority. However, they still cannot lead investigations if there is a judicial case in process already (or that starts after the commission is formed).


See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Tribunate was abolished by a decree of the Senate in 1807, with its remaining functions and members absorbed into the Corps législatif.


  1. ^ Source in French: Stéphane Mandard (2007) Un rapport préconisait le remodelage des circonscriptions avant les législatives de 2007, Le Monde. 7 juin 2007.
  2. ^ In France, for nearly a century, article 121 of the Penal Code punished with civic degradation all police officers, all prosecutors and all judges if they had caused, issued or signed a judgment, an order or a warrant, tending to a personal process or an accusation against a member of the Senate or of the legislative body, without the authorization prescribed by the Constitutions: Buonomo, Giampiero (2014). "Immunità parlamentari: Why not?". L'Ago e Il Filo. Archived from the original on 11 December 2019. Retrieved 12 April 2016.

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. JSTOR: 440044
  • 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]