The Fifth Republic gives the President extensive executive powers in France. The Chief of state is popularly elected to a five-year term and holds the highest office in the country. To date in 2015, François Hollande is the 7th president of the Fifth Republic in office. Here are our top 10 curious facts about the function of a French president…
A historic residence
The President of France officially resides in the Palais de l’Élysée (Élysée Palace) 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 and was then known as Hôtel d’Évreux. The estate was bought by Louis XV to host his mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour. During the Napoleonic Era, the town-hall was used a private residence by the Emperor. The palace has been the official residence of the President of the French Republic since 1848.
Great residences for the 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 and where foreign official guests usually stay.
- the Souzy-la-Briche Domain. The estate has not been used since 2007, and is available for lease.
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.
He can dissolve the French National Assembly and he promulgates laws.
He enjoys great authority in the fields of national security and foreign policy: he is the Commander-in-Chief of the French Armed Forces and may order the use of nuclear weapons.
A few curious titles
The President of France is by virtue of office the Co-Prince of Andorra, the other co-prince being 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, and the proto-canon of the Notre-Dame cathedral of Embrun.
Not bad for the Head of a secular state!
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% and the second one is the ‘indemnité de fonction’ of 25%.
His salary and the residence stipend are taxable for income tax.
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
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. 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 to adult citizens. His mandate lasts 5 years (7 years before 2002) and unlike America, 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. In the event of a parliament elected with a majority that is not the President’s, the later 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 has been seven presidents elected by universal suffrage (none of them are women):
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
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 1995. Political party: Left
5. Jacques Chirac (born 29/11/1932). In office from 1995 to 2007. Political party: Right
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
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!)
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!) – 24/01/2008 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.”