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Chapter 14 - France Representation and Participation 1 What...

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France: Representation and Participation 1. What powers does the French President have over the National Assembly? The President can dissolve the National Assembly (limited to once a year.) He can issue legally binding regulations and decrees without parliamentary approval due to article 34 of the constitution outlining what parliament can legislate on rather than what it cannot legislate on. Why might voters return a parliament dominated by the President’s party after dissolution? Why might they not do so? 2. What powers are contained in Articles 44 and 49? Article 44 maintains the government can call for a single vote on all or a portion of a bill, including any amendments they want to add. This limits debate and discussion and gives more power to the PM or President. Article 49 stipulates the government can call for a confidence vote on policies in general or specific legislation (if the latter and no vote occurs, the legislation passes.) When a confidence vote is declared, the National Assembly must pass a censure motion within 24 hours or the confidence vote is approved. For a censure motion to pass, an absolute majority is needed. If a deputy is absent or abstains they are considered to support the government. What impact do these powers have and under what conditions would the PM be more likely to use them? These two powers are used if the issue is controversial and not likely to pass through the National Assembly or if the government wants to restrict debate on an issue (article 44). Both these powers put more power in the hands of the executive in a way to circumvent parliament. The government would use these measures not only to control the opposition but also to keep it’s own coalition members in line. The government uses Article 49 to get their own coalition to vote on a bill rather than let their PM fall because it looks bad for the party (and voters may choose to vote for someone else because of it) and if the National Assembly is dissolved they may lose their positions. An example is the headscarf issue. 3. How is the National Assembly elected? The deputies of the National Assembly are elected for five-year terms in single member districts using a two-ballot election procedure. To be elected on the first ballot, a candidate must receive an absolute majority! (unlike in the British system where a candidate is elected with a “first past the post system,” as long as they have the most votes they win even if it’s not a majority.) It is unusual in France for a candidate to win in the first round, so a run-off election is held a week later. To participate in the run-off, a candidate only needs 12.5% of the
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votes. However, the run-off is held usually between a candidate from the left and the right because alliances are forged (sometimes prior to the election) between parties.
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