Both the United States and France have democratic governments, meaning that political power rests in the ability of the population to vote on laws and leadership. So, there are similarities in how our governments are set up, but there are also differences. In the United States, the executive branch of the government, or the head of the government, is the president, who is elected to serve a four-year term.France also has a president. The French president traditionally did not have much power, but this has changed since the mid-20th century. The French president now has more power but still shares the executive office. You see, France also has a prime minister. The president is technically head of the state while the prime minister is the head of the government, which means that they each have separate powers. Although the president appoints the prime minister, they don’t always end up coming from the same political party, which means that cooperation is necessary.As for the legislative branch, the part of government in charge of making laws, both the USA and France have a large, elected body of representatives to do this work. In America, we call this Congress, which has two houses within it, the Senate and House of Representatives. The French legislature, known as their Parliament, also has two different houses. Theirs are the Senate, with 348 representatives who are indirectly elected by an electoral college, and the National Assembly, with 577 elected representatives.France, like the United States, also has a judicial branch of government, in charge of upholding the law. However, the French judiciary is not set up to be as separate from the other branches of government as we’re used to in the USA. The French supreme court, called the Cour de Cassation, interprets the law, but the power to challenge the constitutionality of new laws, which is known as judicial review, is actually held by an entirely different court, called the Constitutional Council. In the United States, the Supreme Court does both of these things.Democratic Process So, that’s basically what government looks like in both countries. The United States and France both have long histories of democracy, but that has meant different things for each country. You see, while the United States has had one civil war that forced some changes in how we do things, France has had several revolutions, was turned into an empire under Napoleon, and was even invaded by Nazis during World War II. So, they’ve had to re-write constitutions and reorganize their government several times. This means that, in practical terms, there are some differences in what our democracies looks like. In America, we really only have two political parties that slug it out in every election. As we’ve seen, this can make our politics pretty divided. France also has conservative and liberal parties, but they have a bunch of them. Even the minor parties tend to receive at least some representation in the federal government, partly because France can boast a very high rate of voter participation. In fact, while in the last US presidential election only about 55% of us voted, the last French presidential election had a voter turnout of almost 80%. The French are known to be very politically active. On the other hand, French politics are sometimes criticized because almost every major politician comes from the same wealthy class and actually almost all of them even graduated from the same university, the École Nationale d’Administration. This tends to give the impression that political power is controlled by only a few, and that while everyone can express their rights by voting, holding political office is reserved for the elites. But really, do we expect anyone’s political system to be perfect? What really matters is that the United States and France have some of the oldest functioning democracies in the world, and we’re both still committed to improving them. Guess you could say that we’ve both got an appetite for liberty. In France, the central government is far more powerful than it is in the United States. The U.S., after all, is a federal institution; the central government in Washington has the final say in any legal matters it wishes to legislate upon, but a large amount of power is delegated to state and local authorities. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution has even devolved certain powers to state and local authorities that the federal government cannot touch. In France, there are virtually no powers that local governments have that cannot be touched by the central government. Most of the regional and local governments’ authorities consist of implementing the policy decisions and directives of the central government. Indeed, the breakdown of French government into regional and local authorities is largely for administrative purposes than it is for any real local policy making. Local government has a far different role in France than elsewhere in the Western world. Indeed, for centuries, France was an incredibly centralized state, and only recently has that trend begun to reverse. Until recently, most levels of regional and local government were charged with administering, locally, the laws of the central government. France and the United States have two of the oldest functioning democracies in the world, and while they have their similarities, they also have their differences. While the American president is both head of state and head of government, France divides these powers between the president and prime minister. Both countries have legislatures that are composed of two houses of elected representatives to create laws, and both have judicial systems to uphold the laws. However, while America has two dominant political parties, France has several political parties. American rates of voter turnout are much lower than France’s, but French politics are dominated by a class of wealthy elites. Neither system is perfect, but both are committed to democracy and liberty. Oh, and by the way, those are originally French words, too. The election takes place every five years. Potential candidates must secure 500 signatures from elected officials, such as mayors and members of parliament, to secure a spot on the ballot. The election is then split up into two rounds. In the first round, people can vote for any of the candidates that have gathered the 500 signatures. If no candidate receives an absolute majority of votes during the first round, the two candidates who received the most votes go on to the second round of the election. No candidate in French history has ever secured a majority after just one round of voting. French people can then vote for either one of these two candidates. The candidate with the most votes is then confirmed as the new President of the Republic.