Prime Minister of France

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The Prime Minister of France (Premier ministre de la France) is the functional head of the Cabinet of France.

The current Prime Minister of France is Dominique de Villepin, who was appointed on May 31, 2005 following the resignation of Jean-Pierre Raffarin. He resigned after the French rejected the EU Constitution in a referendum.

The official residence of the Prime Minister is the Hôtel Matignon.


The Prime Minister is the only authority vested with the power to issue primary regulation through decrees (décrets); that is, measures of a general character, either issued in support of statutes, or issued autonomously, depending on the area. See a discussion of statute law vs regulation in France. Other ministers may only issue secondary regulations in the form of decisions (arrêtés).

Decrees and decisions of the Prime Minister, as almost all executive decisions, are subject to the oversight of the administrative court system (see Conseil d'État). Some decrees may only be taken after advice from the Conseil.

Understandably, each minister tends to defend the programs of his or her ministry, yet budgetary choices must be made. The Prime Minister is normally the final arbiter of such choices, though, in times when the President is of the same political stance, the President's choice may be preponderant.

Because the Prime Minister is ultimately responsible for governmental policy, he is generally blamed for the government's failings. As a consequence, the popularity of a prime minister, which may start high, then generally follows a descending slope. While some consider the position of Prime Minister as establishing political stature for a presidential bid, it is also arguably a very dangerous position because of the possibilities of unpopularity.


The Prime Minister is named by the President of the Republic. Since the National Assembly can, by a vote of censure, force the resignation of the government, the choice of prime minister must reflect the majority in the Assembly. When the President and the majority of the Assembly have opposite political leanings, this yields a situation known as cohabitation, where the executive is headed by a president and a prime minister of different opinion.

The Prime Minister proposes the list of other ministers to the President.

Relationship with the President

In the Fifth Republic the chief political figure in France is the President of the Republic with the Prime Minister having secondary importance. However when there is cohabitation (i.e., when the President is of one party while another party controls the National Assembly) the Prime Minister's importance is enhanced, since the president has little power to be exercised by himself alone.

When the President and the Prime Minister are of the same party, the Prime Minister often plays the role of a "fuse": that is, citizens lay the blame of the failures of governmental policy on him, and when the Prime Minister is unpopular, he resigns in order to protect the President. This was demonstrated, for instance, by Jean-Pierre Raffarin's resignation on May 31, 2005, following from the negative answer to the referendum on the proposed European Constitution.

Prior to the constitution of the Fifth Republic in 1959, the Prime Minister was usually the most important political figure. However, at that time there was no official position entitled "Prime Minister" in the French government. Rather, one of the government ministers held the semi-official title of President of the Council of Ministers (Président du Conseil des Ministres, short Président du Conseil), and was unofficially known as the prime minister (premier ministre). Even this was something of a misnomer, as it was the President of France who actually presided over the Council of Ministers.

See also: List of Prime Ministers of France

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