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Answered 2012-10-09 08:41:50

Relocating to France: Governmental Differences Between France and America

When relocating to France from the United States, it is important for a transferee to understand the differences in government found in both places.

While the United States has a presidential, federal republic, France is a semi-presidential republic.

The simple structures of the two governments are vastly different. Since many people often look at heads of state as the representation of government (especially in the United States), it is important understand the differences in the country's presidents. Though both have presidents as heads of state, they serve very different functions.

President in America

  • Elected every 4 years by the electoral college (which is in turn elected by the popular vote based on state population)
  • Can sign bills into law
  • Can veto bills
  • Is commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces
  • Nominates judges for the Supreme Court
  • Responsible for many Executive Branch Appointments
  • Can grant pardons

President in France

  • Elected every 5 years by popular voted (used to have an electoral college, but that has since been dissolved)
  • Announces new laws, but does not create or sign them into law
  • Can dissolve French National Assembly
  • Is commander-in-chief of the Armies
  • Appoints the Prime Minister (but cannot dismiss him)
  • Appoints most officials
  • Can grant pardons
  • The differences between the governments do not stop simply with the heads of state. Both have extremely different basic structures.

American Government Structure

The American government is split into three branches: The Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches. They are set up in a system of checks and balances, a structure created to ensure that no one branch is given too much power.

The Executive Branch was discussed above.

The Legislative Branch is split into two bodies: The House of Representative and the Senate. The House of Representatives gives each state a certain number of congressmen based on state population while the Senate gives two senators to each state. The main purpose of the legislative branch is to write bills which can be turned into laws after either being signed by the President of the United States (POTUS) or, if vetoed, having a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers. Other powers include overseeing impeachment trials and declaring war.

The Judicial Branch is made up of a number of court systems, the highest being the Supreme Court. Every state has its own supreme court, but the national Supreme Court holds the most power. It enforces laws and sets precedents concerning future laws. It has the power to deem laws unconstitutional, even if those bills have already been signed into law by both Congress and POTUS.

French Government Structure

The French government is split into the same three branches as the United States: executive, legislative and judicial branches.

The Executive Branch was discussed above, but the executive power is split between the President and a Prime Minister who is appointed by the President of France, but the National Assembly, which is the lower branch of congress, can revoke the appointment. Most times, if the National Assembly has a majority from a different political party than the President, the Prime Minister will be of the National Assembly's party.

The Legislative Branch is made up of two bodies: The National Assembly and the Senate. As with the government of the United States, the Senate is the higher body. These bodies write and pass the laws of France. Instead of the constitutionality being checked by a supreme court, the Constitutional Council checks it, which is part of the judicial branch.

The Judicial Branch is where one of the bigger discrepancies between American and French governments appears. Instead of answering to any other branch, the judicial branch in France is completely independent. It is made up of two bodies: the judicial branch and the administrative branch, each with its own supreme court. France is based on the civil law system, which comes from the older Napoleonic codes. Louisiana is the only state in America that follows this system.

The differences between the governments are far vaster and would require a veritable textbook of information to fully flesh out. There is always more learning to be done, and Cosmopolitan Services Unlimited can help a transferee understand more.

Nonetheless these are the important basics to know for anyone who is planning

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