The French system of government is a semi-presidential system that sets a high value on the separation of powers, along with freedoms for citizens. The Constitution of 1958 sets most of the principles which govern the country out, with additions being added periodically to keep it current and useful. Although the French Constitution does not specifically include a Bill of Rights, the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen,” written in 1789, is mentioned in the Constitution. This document played an important role in the French revolution, spelling out rights and principles which were believed to be vital to living happily and freely. The nation's motto is liberte, egalite, fraternite, which translates as “liberty, equality, brotherhood.”
Three different branches make up the French government: the presidential branch, legislative branch, and judicial branch. The powers of the presidential branch are split between the president and a prime minister whom he or she appoints. The legislative branch is broken up into a National Assembly, voted in by the populace, and a Senate, appointed by an electoral college. The judicial branch is quite complex and extensive, with a Court of Cassation serving as the court of last resort and a Council of State to provide judicial review and interpret laws.
Multiple political parties work together with the framework of the French system of government. They often form cooperative coalitions to accomplish things that they would be unable to do individually. Two major coalitions represent parties on the left and right, and one usually controls the government at any given period of time. The diverse parties within the government allow for a greater range of ideas within the government, leading to more progressive legislation and reform.
All French citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote in elections. Convicted criminals may have their right to vote abridged under certain circumstances. In order to run for public office, a citizen must be a registered voter, and the commission of certain crimes may bar someone from running for office. The president is elected for a five year term, as are members of the National Assembly. Senators are appointed for six year terms, with one third of the Senate rotating out at a time.
The prime minister is an interesting figure in the French system of government. In order to serve, he or she must be approved by the National Assembly, which can force both the president and the prime minister out with a vote. This can sometimes lead to a situation in which the president and the prime minister are of different party beliefs, to satisfy the National Assembly. The prime minister makes a number of executive decisions, which are subject to review by other branches.