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|Prime Minister of France
Premier ministre français
Logo of the French Government
Council of State
|Reports to||President of the Republic
and to Parliament
|Appointer||President of the Republic|
|Term length||No fixed term
Remains in office while commanding the confidence of the National Assembly and the President of the Republic
|Constituting instrument||Constitution of 4 October 1958|
|Precursor||Several incarnations since the Ancien Régime|
|First holder||Michel Debré|
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
The French Prime Minister (French: Premier ministre français) in the Fifth Republic is the head of government and of the Council of Ministers of France. During the Third and Fourth Republics, the head of government position was called President of the Council of Ministers (French: Président du Conseil des Ministres), generally shortened to President of the Council (French: Président du Conseil).
The Prime Minister proposes a list of ministers to the President of the Republic. Decrees and decisions of the Prime Minister, like almost all executive decisions, are subject to the oversight of the administrative court system. Few decrees are taken after advice from the Council of State (French: Conseil d'État). All prime ministers defend the programs of their ministry, and make budgetary choices. The extent to which those decisions lie with the Prime Minister or President depends upon whether they are of the same party.
Manuel Valls was appointed to lead the government in a cabinet reshuffle in March 2014, after the ruling Socialists suffered a bruising defeat in local elections. However, he resigned on 6 December 2016, to stand in the French Socialist Party presidential primary, 2017 and Bernard Cazeneuve was appointed as Prime Minister later that day by President François Hollande.
The Prime Minister is appointed by the President of the Republic. The President can choose whomever they want. While prime ministers are usually chosen from amongst the ranks of the National Assembly, on rare occasions the President has selected a non-officeholder because of their experience in bureaucracy or foreign service, or their success in business management — Dominique de Villepin, for example, served as Prime Minister from 2005 to 2007 without ever having held an elected office.
On the other hand, because the National Assembly does have the power to force the resignation of the government, the choice of prime minister must reflect the will of the majority in the Assembly. For example, right after the legislative election of 1986, President François Mitterrand appointed Jacques Chirac prime minister. Chirac was a member of the RPR and a political opponent of Mitterrand. Despite the fact that Mitterrand's own Socialist Party was the largest party in the Assembly, it did not have an absolute majority. The RPR had an alliance with the UDF, which gave them a majority. Such a situation, where the President is forced to work with a prime minister who is an opponent, is called a cohabitation.
Aristide Briand holds the record for most nomination as Prime Minister with 11 between 1909 and 1929 with some terms as short as 26 days.
According to article 21 of the Constitution, the Prime Minister "shall direct the actions of the Government"; in addition, article 20 stipulates that the Government "shall determine and conduct the policy of the Nation". Other members of Government are appointed by the President "on the recommendation of the Prime Minister". In practice the Prime Minister acts on the impulse of the President to whom he is a subordinate, except when there is a cohabitation in which case his responsibilities are akin to those of a prime minister in a parliamentary system.
The Prime Minister can "engage the responsibility" of his or her Government before the National Assembly. This process consists of placing a bill before the Assembly, and either the Assembly overthrows the Government, or the bill is passed automatically (article 49). In addition to ensuring that the Government still has support in the House, some bills that might prove too controversial to pass through the normal Assembly rules, are able to be passed this way.
Before he is allowed to dissolve the Assembly, the President has to consult the Prime Minister and the presidents of both Houses of Parliament (article 12).
The office of the prime minister, in its current form, dates from the formation of the French Third Republic. Under the French Constitutional Laws of 1875, he was imbued with the same powers as his British counterpart. In practice, however, the prime minister was a fairly weak figure, serving as little more than the cabinet's "primus inter pares". Most notably, the legislature had the power to force the entire cabinet out of office by a vote of censure. As a result, cabinets were often toppled twice a year, and there were long stretches where France was left with only a caretaker government.
The 1958 Constitution includes several provisions intended to strengthen the prime minister's position. For instance, restrictions were placed on votes of censure.
The current Prime Minister, in office since December 2016, is Bernard Cazeneuve.