Apr 30, 2020 in Research

Democracy in France


Currently, the question of democracy is the dilemma that touches many countries and nations, as every society has its vision and principles of democracy. France is a democratic country, as it has free and fair elections. However, it is necessary to mention that it is not the only indicator of a full democracy. The history of democracy in France is full of struggles for the shift from empire to the democratic country. Thus, democracy should be regarded in the historical aspect. Consequently, this essay intends to analyze the history of democracy in France, the shift from empire to the democratic country and the advantages and disadvantages of the French Government, which is the essential force for the promotion of democracy. 

History of France

The history of France can be divided into three essential periods: Age of Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the Republic. All of them are related to the ways of democracy achievement in France. It is evident that French history is related to revolution and counter-revolution, democratization and autocracy, progress and reaction. The Age of Enlightenment was mainly characterized by the separation of three powers claimed by Montesquieu, freedom of expression and thought and Callas Affair. Thus, French legislative system is presented by the following powers: executive power, legislative power, and judiciary power. The French Revolution resulted in the creation of the Constitution as a legal paper that has the power of regulating democratic processes and the adoption of the Statement of Human Rights of the citizens. The Third Republic of France was the final stage of the movement in the direction of democracy, as it reinforced the main principles and symbols of the France as a republic. 

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Is France Democratic Country?

It is a very debatable question whether to consider France a democratic country or not. However, a truly democratic society is characterized not only by free and fair elections. Thus, France is ‘a flawed’ democracy, and there are many reasons for this. First, France has a score 7, 92 of 10 below the 25 countries for following the democratic principles. Second, France is democratic in the following aspects: political participation, civil liberties, the electoral process, and participation in lawful demonstrations, voter turnout, and the number of women MPs. However, French legislature is one of the weakest ones, as the president has huge power, and it creates difficulties in holding the Government to account and shape the legislation.

The power of the president poses a risk of a single decision-making. Another proof of France not being a fully democratic state is low trust of citizens in political parties and the Government. According to Eurobarometer survey, only 7% of French people trust their political forces, while only 14% of French population trusts the national government. Moreover, France is not characterized by the political culture, as the defeat of the mainstream parties is always full of various contradictions and conflicts. It means that the political forces struggle not for democracy but for leadership and power. 

The Shift from Empire to Democratic Country

The shift of France from empire to the democratic country did not happen immediately. However, France is the example of the country, where democracy was given birth in the constant struggles. Since 1978, France has experienced a succession of short-lived regimes: the Vichy regime, five republics, two monarchies, two empires, and a consulate. The shift from empires was the most difficult one, as it was accompanied by the revolution not only of the French society but French ideas related to the fraternity, equality, and liberty. Moreover, the revolution was the result of the Enlightenment and its ideas. First, the Enlightenment ideas have transformed the monarchy. Second, it influenced the religion and the Church that also prevented from the implementation of the democratic principles. Third, the Enlightenment ideals brought the changes in the political and social values of the society driving it to the protests and revolution. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of the French Government

As France has a semi-presidential system. Without doubts, it has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of this system of governance is that it presupposes the collaboration and cooperation of the president with the government. It means that there is a mutual dependence between the two. It is evident that the president is responsible for the effective prime minister and government. This kind of the French government also prevents from tyranny, as there is the electoral dynamic in this system. Another advantage of the French governmental system is that it produces strong party politics that presupposes the strong coalition between the president and the government. Moreover, the French president is an international spokesman, providing the national unity. 

The disadvantages of the French government are also obvious. First, too much executive power is concentrated in the hands of the president. It can lead to the absolute power and violate the principles of the democratic state. Second, there is the ambiguity in the roles of the president and prime minister. Thus, it can result in the problem of the constitutional ambiguity. Third, the extensive responsibilities and too much power of president can provoke tyranny in the country. Consequently, the government and president should be in equal conditions to provide the democratic principles. Moreover, dual leadership between the president and prime minister is another weak point of the French governance, as it can lead to the constant struggle for the authority and power. 

Suggestion and Opinion

It is evident that France has gone a long way from empire and tyranny to democracy. As a result, it should preserve it at any price. First, it is necessary to address to the past experience and painful history, as it can help to avoid similar mistakes in future. Second, it is obligatory to try to achieve the true democracy as ‘flawed’ one can lead to the tyranny and concentration of the absolute power in the hands of a single person. I think that ‘flawed’ democracy is the result of the unity and agreement in the French government. As France has a semi-detached system of governance, there should be equality and harmony in the relationships between the president, the prime minister, and government. They should not struggle for leadership. 


In conclusion, it is necessary to say that the history of France has some its way to democracy that was driven by the revolution, Enlightenment ideas, and desire of the society to remove the monarchy and absolute power concentrated in the single hands. There is no true democracy in France currently as it is ‘flawed’. It means that the government fails to fulfill its objectives in a full measure struggling for leadership, power, and authority in the community, putting the democratic principles under threat. It is evident that French democracy is in danger considering that French governance has many disadvantages that provoke distrust within the society. Thus, the shift from empire to the democratic country can result in the state violating the democratic principles and repeating the past mistakes. Consequently, the government should implement the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity to preserve the democracy achieved by the hard efforts of the ancestors.


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