Since the Revolution of 1789, France has had an extremely uniform and centralized administration, although constitutional changes in 2003 now permit greater autonomy to the nation's regions and departments. The country is governed under the 1958 constitution (as amended), which established the Fifth French Republic and reflected the views of Charles de Gaulle. It provides for a strong president, directly elected for a five-year term; an individual is limited to two terms as president. A premier and cabinet, appointed by the president, are responsible to the National Assembly, but they are subordinate to the president. The bicameral legislature consists of the National Assembly and the Senate. Deputies to the 577-seat National Assembly are elected for five-year terms from single-member districts. The 348 senators are elected for six-year terms from each department by an electoral college composed of the deputies, district council members, and municipal council members from the department, with one half of the Senate elected every 3 years.
France's 22 administrative regions (see above under Land ) each have a directly elected regional council, primarily responsible for stimulating economic and social activity. The regions are further divided into 96 departments (not including the four overseas departments), which are governed by a locally elected general council, with one councilor per canton. Further subdivisions are districts ( arrondisements ), cantons, and communes. The districts and cantons have little power. The communes, however, are more powerful because they are responsible for municipal services and are represented in the national government by the mayor.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.