The politics of France take place in a framework of a semi-presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of France is head of state and the Prime Minister of France head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the Senate and National Assembly. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
France was ruled by successive right-wing administrations until 1981. Throughout the 1960s, left-wing parties fared rather badly in national elections. The successive governments generally applied the Gaullist program of national independence.
In May 1968, a series of worker strikes and student riots rocked France. These did not, however, result in an immediate change of government, with a right-wing administration being triumphantly reelected in the snap election of June 1968. However, in 1969 following his defeat in a referendum, de Gaulle resigned.
Georges Pompidou, de Gaulle's Prime Minister, took over, remaining President until his death in 1974. Valéry Giscard d'Estaing won the subsequent election, but was to be the only Fifth Republic President not to be reelected.
In 1981, François Mitterrand, a Socialist, was elected president, on a program of far-reaching reforms. After securing a majority in parliament through a snap election, his government ran a program of social and economic reforms.
Since then, the government alternated between a left-wing coalition (composed of the French Socialist Party, the French Communist Party and more recently les Verts, the Greens) and a right-wing coalition (composed of Jacques Chirac's Rally for the Republic, later replaced by the Union for a Popular Movement, and the Union for French Democracy). These coalitions are relatively stable.
The 1980s and 1990s saw also the rise of Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front, a party which blames immigration, more particularly immigration from North African countries such as Algeria, for increased unemployment and crime. Problems in the banlieues — literally, "suburbs" — can explain Jean-Marie Le Pen's relative success in the French presidential election, 2002.