The Constitution of the French Fifth Republic and the Implications for the 2017 Presidential Elections

David S Bell
Publication date: 
Wed, 15 Mar 2017

In this Policy Brief, Professor of French Government and Politics David S Bell analyses the French presidential election and the constitution of the French Fifth Republic. He charts the extraordinary fall from grace of Republican presidential candidate Francois Fillon, following the scandal known as 'Penelopegate', in which he allegedly paid his wife hundreds of thousands of euros of public money for little or no work. 

Professor Bell argues that the rise of populist movements in the form of the far right Marine Le Pen's Front national party is seen as the
primary threat to stability in France and in Europe.

The policy brief assesses the prospects not only of the respective presidential candidates, but also the balance of power between the president and the National Assembly, the latter of which is the ultimate source of authority according to the constitution.

Consequently, Professor Bell forecasts that the constitution may become a contested issue in the months to come, and that, whichever candidate wins the election, they are likely to face a divided Assembly, which could in turn lead to a dissolution of the Assembly and a snap general election. In any event, the presidential elections on 23rd April are likely to be just the beginning of a long process of political and constitutional contestation.