France and Great Birtain's Political Systems

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France and Great Birtain's Political Systems


I chose these two systems, which interest me for different reasons. The British system is one that has evolved over many centuries, with both small and large adjustments along the way to keep in on course. In contrast to this, the French model has changed dramatically on several occasions, and can rarely have been described as stable. However, in 1958 Charles de Gaulle made some brave changes to the constitution, which after being approved by the French public, set the scene for the classic semi-presidential system that we see today.

Despite these opposing histories, there are many similarities between the two systems, which I intend to discuss.


The United Kingdom is a democratic constitutional monarchy, with a system of government often known as the Westminster Model. It has been used as a model of governance in many countries, and undoubtedly indirectly inspired many more.

Somewhat unusually, the constitution is unwritten, consisting of conventions along with statutory law and common law, which are collectively referred to as British constitutional law.

The head of state and theoretical source of executive and legislative power in the UK is the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II. In theory, the British sovereign can dissolve Parliament whenever they desire. They can in theory choose any British citizen to be Prime Minister, even if they are not a member of the House of Commons or House of Lords. Theoretically, the Sovereign possesses the ability to refrain from granting Royal Assent to a Bill from Parliament, in addition to being able to declare war and appoint ministers.

In practice, the head of state is a largely ceremonial role, with powers restricted by convention. However, the monarch holds three essential rights, the right to be consulted, the right to advise and the right to warn. Also, as the position of head of state tends to be held for a longer period of time than that of Prime Minister, the monarch builds up lots of experience and wisdom which is at the disposal of the government.

Thus the political head of the UK is the Prime Minister(PM), who must be supported by the House of Commons.

The executive branch of the UK system is the Government (or more formally, Her Majesty’s Government). The monarch appoints (or in reality, approves) ...

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This is another area that comparison to the UK bears fruit. Both countries are highly regionalised, with distinct languages and cultures differing from the main national identity. However, Britain has made great strides to offer representation to its regions, whereas France has traditionally been very highly centralised, with each of France's departments headed by a prefect appointed by the central government.

The process of decentralisation in France is making progress, although very slowly.

In 1982, the national government granted a wide range of administrative and fiscal powers to local elected officials. In March 1986, regional councils were directly elected for the first time. In March 2003, a constitutional revision has changed very significantly the legal framework and could lead to more decentralisation in the coming years.


Contemporary France: An Introduction to French Politics and Society ~Catherine Fieschi, et al

France Since 1945 ~Robert Gildea

The Globalization of World Politics ~John Baylis (Editor), Steve Smith (Editor)

How Parliament Works ~Paul Silk, et al Longman

Political Institutions in Europe ~ Mény, Y et al
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