The Fifth Republic gives the French President extensive executive powers in France. The Chief of the state is popularly elected to a five-year term and holds the highest office in the country. To date in 2022, Emmanuel Macron is the 8th president of the Fifth Republic in office. Here are our top 10 curious facts about the function of a French President…
The historic residence of the French President
The President of France officially resides in the Palais de l’Élysée (Élysée Palace). This is where he has his office. The exact address is number 55 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Honoré in the 8th arrondissement of Paris.
The palace was completed in 1722. It was then known as Hôtel d’Évreux. King Louis XV bought the estate to host his mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour. During the Napoleonic Era, the Emperor used it as a private residence. The palace has been the official residence of the President of the French Republic since 1848.
Great residences for the French President’s vacation
Apart from the Élysée Palace, the French President enjoys a wide range of holiday residences to choose from for his next holidays:
- the Brégançon Fort, in the French Riviera between Toulon and Saint-Tropez.
- the Hôtel de Marigny, which is located next to the Élysée Palace. It houses foreign official guests on their stay.
- the Souzy-la-Briche Domain. The estate has not been used since 2007. It is available for lease.
However, in 2009, the Marly National Domain and the Rambouillet Castle were entrusted to the Ministry of Culture. Now open to visitors, the sites are rarely used for official meetings.
A powerful President
The French President enjoys powerful attributes and holds a significant influence in the nation. He outranks all politicians in France and can choose the Prime minister.
In fact, the President can dissolve the French National Assembly. In addition, he promulgates laws (and has a suspensive veto).
He enjoys great authority in the fields of national security and foreign policy. He is indeed the Commander-in-Chief of the French Armed Forces. The President may order the use of nuclear weapons.
The French president may grant a pardon (but not an amnesty) to convicted criminals.
The French President and the World
Most importantly the French president represents France in Europe and internationally. He is invited to the major meetings of heads of states: the European Council, the G8…
The French President: a few curious titles
The President of France is by virtue of office the Co-Prince of Andorra. The other co-prince is the bishop of Urgell in Spain.
He is also the honorary canon of the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome and of the Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne cathedral. The President is the proto-canon of the Notre-Dame cathedral of Embrun.
Not bad for the Head of a secular state!
And what about the First Lady of France?
In France, the President’s spouse or partner does not possess any official title. They often play a protocol role at the Elysée Palace and during official visits.
The current First Lady of France is Brigitte Macron, wife of Emmanuel Macron (born in 1953).
A not-so-big salary
In 2015, the monthly net salary of the President of the French Republic is €14,910.
He also enjoys a couple of stipends on top of his salary.
- The first one is called ‘indemnité de résidence’ of 3%.
- The second is the ‘indemnité de fonction’ of 25%.
His salary and the residence stipend are taxable for income tax.
However, compared to the salaries of French CEOs and other heads of state, the French presidential annual wages are rather low:
- Maurice Lévy, Publicis: $25,4 millions
- Barack Obama, US President: $400.000
- Angela Merkel, German Chancellor: $280.000
- François Hollande, French President: $200,000.
Sources: Fortune, Proxinvest
The presidential cars of the French Presidents
Therefore, each French president uses a different official state car.
- Charles de Gaulle had a Citroën DS,
- Georges Pompidou a Citroën SM,
- Valéry Giscard d’Estaing a Peugeot 604,
- François Mitterrand a Renault (30, 25, Renault Safrane),
- Jacques Chirac a Renault Safrane, a Peugeot 607 and a Citroën C6,
- Nicolas Sarkozy a Peugeot 607, a Citroën C6, and a Renault Vel Satis, and
- François Hollande a Citroën DS5 Hybrid4.
- Emmanuel Macron an armoured Renault Espace V and a Peugeot 5008 II.
Note that they are all French makes!
A President chosen by the French citizens since 1958
The President of France is directly elected by universal suffrage, that is the right to vote for adult citizens.
His mandate lasts 5 years (7 years before 2002). Unlike in the United States, there is no limit on the number of terms.
The President who served the longest was François Mitterrand (14 years from 1981 to 1995, 2 terms).
Bummer! Here comes the opposition
Since the introduction of the Fifth Republic, the President usually works in a system of government whose members are from the same political party.
The Prime minister is chosen from the majority of members elected in the National Assembly.
Then what happens if a parliament is elected with a majority that is not for the President?
The latter is forced to choose a Prime minister of that party. This situation is called ‘cohabitation‘ in French.
The system of Cohabitation occurred three times during the Fifth Republic:
- 1986-1988 (President: François Mitterrand [left] with Jacques Chirac as Prime minister [right]),
- 1993-1995 (President: François Mitterrand [left] with Edouard Balladur as Prime minister [right]), and
- 1997-2002 (President: Jacques Chirac [right] with Lionel Jospin as Prime minister [left]).
Seven Presidents in the Fifth Republic so far
Since the creation of the Fifth Republic in 1958, there have been eight presidents elected by universal suffrage. None of them is woman.
As in September 2019 there are three living former French presidents: Valéry-Giscard d’Estaing, Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande.
1. Charles de Gaulle
- Born 22/11/1890 – died 09/11/1970.
- In-office from 1959 to 1969.
- Political party: Right.
2. Georges Pompidou
- Born 05/07/1911 – died 02/04/1974.
- In-office from 1969 to 1974.
- Political party: Right.
- He is the only President of the 5th Republic to have died in office.
- Cultural Legacy: Centre-Pompidou (Paris)
3. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing – also known as VGE
- Born 02/02/1926.
- In-office from 1974 to 1981.
- Political party: Centre-Right.
4. François Mitterrand
- Born 26/10/1916 – died 08/01/1996.
- In-office from 1981 to 1988 (1st term) and from 1988 to 1995 (2nd term).
- Political party: Parti Socialiste (Left).
- Cultural Legacy: the Grands Projets. They include 8 sites in Paris. The Louvre Pyramid, Orsay Museum, Parc de la Villette, Arab World Institute, Opéra Bastille, Grande Arche de La Défense, Ministry of Finance in Bercy and the National Library of France.
5. Jacques Chirac
- Born 29/11/1932 – died 26/09/2019.
- In-office from 1995 to 2007.
- Political party: Right.
- Cultural Legacy: Musée du Quai Branly (Paris)
6. Nicolas Sarkozy
- Born 28/01/1955.
- In-office from 2007 to 2012.
- Political party: Right.
7. François Hollande
- Born 12/08/1954.
- In-office from 2012 to 2017.
- Political party: Left.
8. Emmanuel Macron
- Born 21/12/1977.
- In-office from 2017 to 2022 (1st term) and from 2022 to 2027 (2nd term).
- Political party: La République En Marche (LREM).
Famous quotes by French Presidents
The words of French Presidents can be remembered as history-making, provocative or controversial. Here are a few examples…
Charles de Gaulle: “I have come to the conclusion that politics are too serious a matter to be left to the politicians.”
Charles de Gaulle: “Vive le Québec libre !” (Long live a sovereign Quebec!)
Charles de Gaulle: “How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?”
Georges Pompidou: “My fate is to be President of the Republic – or leader of the opposition”
Valéry Giscard d’Estaing: “Vous n’avez pas, M. Mitterrand, le monopole du cœur.” (You do not have, Mr Mitterrand, the monopoly of heart).
Jacques Chirac: “Never make up with extremism, racism, antisemitism or rejecting whoever is different.”
Nicolas Sarkozy: “Casse toi alors, pauvre con !” (Sod off then, asshole!). On the 24th of January 2008 at the Salon de l’Agriculture. A famous insult to someone who had refused to shake the president’s hand because he did not want to be dirtied.
Nicolas Sarkozy: “Canadians are friends and Quebecers are my family.”
François Hollande: “I am attached to the French language. I will defend the ubiquitous use of French.”
Emmanuel Macron: “We need people who dream impossible things, who maybe fail, sometimes succeed, but in any case who have that ambition.”
Emmanuel Macron: “Eh bien, là, les non-vaccinés, j’ai très envie de les emmerder. Et donc, on va continuer de le faire, jusqu’au bout. C’est ça, la stratégie.” (Well, now, the non-vaccinated, I really want to piss them off. And so we’re going to continue to do it, right to the end. That’s the strategy). A very controversial quote from the 4th of January 2022 when the country faced an electric atmosphere on the vaccine mandate.