Why don’t French people have a Vice-President?

(asked by Emlyn from Liège, Belgium)

That’s quite simple really.

Most democracies have one of the following:

-A President and a Vice-President.
-A King and a Prime Minister.
-A Chancellor and a President who is just a joke (barely the equivalent of a Speaker of the House)

Let’s not talk about the latter because we don’t care about it (sorry about that Germany).

We are now left with choosing between a King and Prime Minister or a President and Vice- President.

Thing is that, back then, France was not a democracy and had a King and a Prime Minister, so when we killed our King (well, the one we killed was not the very last one, but that’s beside the point), it was time to decide what to do. The logical choice was to have a President and a Vice-President…

But one event in particular prevented that to happen:
The US just got their independence and decided to have a President and a VP.

And one thing you need to know about the French is that they have a vital need to do things their own way. They hate being followers. In their mind they are the one that enlighten the world with new things (and in that case it worked as several other countries chose the French model when they became democracies, Romania for instance).

So a decision had to be made and the vice-president was its collateral damage and since that day we’ve had a President and a Prime Minister.

It was the logical choice since -with the way the French system works- the President has more of a role of an elected monarch rather than the real chief of the executive, role which is the one of the Prime Minister.

Also, you need to know that things might change soon as I type these lines. Our new President is not content with that role and has already taken over the role of Prime Minister (everybody is currently wondering what the real one is for) as well as several other ministers’ to the point that France will soon have a one man government. But if France will still be called a democracy in that near future still remains to be seen.

Frenchman Written by:

9 Comments

  1. Marie Reed
    September 24, 2008
    Reply

    You’re writing style is fun and captivating.

  2. the Korean
    January 26, 2010
    Reply

    David, this is embarrassing but I will admit it now — I have not been reading your blog very often. And by "very often", I mean "at all". But I am starting now, and it's better late than never, right?

    At any rate, Korea is actually President and the Prime Minister. But no one is really sure what the PM is supposed to do — kinda like VP in America.

  3. David "a Frenchman"
    January 27, 2010
    Reply

    Yeah, no problem. Better late than never, indeed.
    And that even allows me to re-read my old posts. Man, I was much less serious in those first ones, maybe I should go back to that more.
    Yeah, I had no idea about the Korean Prime Minister, it's true that he's never ever mentioned in French or US news.

  4. phildange
    August 29, 2010
    Reply

    In the third and fourth Republics, France had a Président who was a sort of Queen of England, and a Président du Conseil who was the real boss like the Premier in England. Then de Gaulle came and his fellow Debré created the fifth Republic Constitution, the least democratic one of the western world, giving all the power to the executive, and denounced in its time by everybody ( like Mitterrand in his book " Le coup d'état permanent " ). This kind of constitution is called "Bonapartist " , is like an elective monarchy indeed, and it's a shame and a major obstacle to democracy .

  5. Frenchman
    August 29, 2010
    Reply

    Didn't the Presidents in the Third Republic had way more power than the ones in the Fourth?
    I mean, I can name a bunch of Presidents from the 3rd, I don't think I know a single one from the 4th (except for René Coty, but he was Président du Conseil, wasn't he?)

    Concerning whether the 5th Republic is democratic or not, it depends what your definition of "democracy" is, as nowadays people tend to give that term many definitions according to what fits their ideologies and agendas.
    "Democracy" means a political system in which the people gets to decide to will lead them, no more, no less. The amount of power that this person has is not really part of the definition as long as he doesn't have all of them.

  6. phildange
    August 30, 2010
    Reply

    Democracy is a system in which people delegate some of them with a mandate to do something wanted by the majority . It's not who will lead, but what for . I'll add that, in a true democracy, if the delegated don't do what they have been mandated for, they are dismissed immediately . This was the case in the purest form of democracy led on this planet, the Commune of Paris , in which the deputies'salary was the average workers' one. This extraordinary achievement of French revolutionary genius was highly praised by Marx and Lenin, and – no wonder – was litterally slaughtered by the bourgeoisie ( to do so, the recent Prussian winners allowed Thiers'government to move French defeated troops from far away to Paris ) . The whole European dominant classes had been really frightened by this example of a real democracy given to the world, and enemies from just yesterday allied quickly to stop a possible contamination .
    We can say all "democracies" are sinister jokes because the elected ones never respect their "mandate" and can't be dismissed before several years. When the poor Americans elected Obama to have a healthcare and stop the war, to improve their third world life conditions and get nothing it's not democracy . When the French working class elected the so-called Socialists in 81 and got a "rigueur" politics in return, with an incredible boom of speculation, it's not democracy .
    This said, the Gaullist constitution is called bonapartist because the executive can dissolve the assembly of people's delegates at any time, because any real debate is made impossible in the parliament by the use of article 49-3, because the executive can send troops without any agreement from the legislative ( French actions in Afghanistan have never been discussed in the Assemblée for example ), etc etc…
    I cannot omit the extraordinary scandal, from a democratic point of view, that occurred in a violent silence when, after " le Peuple Français" had voted No in the referendum about European "Constitution", the "democratically elected delegates" just sat on the "Peuple Souverain" choice and ratified the thing .
    If this had happened in a time when French people were still French, the Revolution would have followed . Just imagine what would have happened if De Gaulle had not respected the victory of the No in his 1969 referendum !
    Well, all of that makes me sad, and more than anything the fact that the victims are not even aware that bourgeois parliamentarism is a swindle .

  7. Frenchman
    August 30, 2010
    Reply

    As previously mentioned I think you're putting too much of your ideology in the word "democracy". (and don't get me wrong, my ideology is not that different from yours).

  8. phildange
    August 30, 2010
    Reply

    OK man, thanks for publishing it anyway .
    When all sources of information belong to the same class, when any pretending opposition never fights the dominant system at its roots, when private property of public life is never questioned any more, when Socialist parties have given up the meaning itself of socialism, i.e social property, surely a complete different point of view can seem ideological in this brainwashed time . But coming back to democracy, all major decisions are now taken by Bruxelles Commission, whose members are not elected by anybody but work directly with the lobbies who share the same buildings . Our European Governments have to obey to Bruxelles decisions . The people we elect don't obey to us but to people not elected . If ever for once they dare asking a straight question to the nation, they don't respect the vote, neither in France nor in Ireland .
    And in France they want now to destroy the last piece of representative democracy which the communes are, the last place where people delegate somebody they know and can see when they want to. Funny, because without the action of the communes, even the first Revolution wouldn't have been very far ( I read many books on the subject ), not to mention the glorious 1871 one .
    This last piece of direct democracy is too much for them, just like France's social conquests that are now eradicated one by one to satisfied the Market . Who is the Market exactly ?

  9. Frenchman
    August 30, 2010
    Reply

    I still agree with you, but you're getting way off topic here… 🙂

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