France’s political system presents one major difference with most other democracies: its founding principle of secularism. This means that religion is considered a private matter and never influences political life. From a historical point of view, there have been five successive Republics in France (the Fifth Republic is currently in effect) since 1789, the year that marked the French Revolution. The President of the Republic is elected directly by the people; he names a prime minister, who in turn forms a government (meaning a group of ministers). This bra
nch holds executive power; the two other branches, legislative and judicial, prevent one body from monopolizing all governing power, thus ensuring the government functions as a real democracy. The legislative branch comprises the Senate (with senators elected by indirect universal suffrage) and the National Assembly (with deputies elected by the people). This branch votes on laws, while the judicial branch (consisting of the tribunals) is in charge of executing the laws. In terms of political parties, there are traditionally two so-called parties “of government,” the left (the Socialist Party) and the right (the Republicans); these parties have passed control of the government back and forth between them since the beginnings of French democracy. That said, there are still extreme-right and extreme-left parties; these have been gaining traction since the 2008 economic crisis (especially the extreme right National Front party), and have been progressing in the polls for the upcoming 2017 presidential elections.
by Emma P.