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Comparison of French and US Electoral Systems

by Suleman

A Comparison of the French Constitutional Reforms with the Proposals to End the Political Gridlock in American Politics Especially Since the 2010 Elections 

The 5th Republic instituted several constitutional reforms in France upon ending the 4th Republican political gridlock. The changes ranged from a renewal of the party system to victory for feminism, where minor parties and women were allowed to contest every elective post. Consequently, women made up 19% of the legislature.

In comparison, courts have intervened in the political process in the US, in particular since 2010. For instance, the 2010 Supreme Court’s ruling on the citizens united and disgraced the political equality that Americans enjoyed for many years. This ruling ensured that independent billionaires and the political clout in Washington had their day at the expense of many disgruntled voters. Politicians could still reach out to corporate organizations for campaign funds.

A History of Democracy as a Way of Life in America

“Inequality has a direct effect on a democratic process by granting a small group more resources to wield undue control on who is nominated and elected. The influence can also lobby governmental decision-making bodies, which in turn allow them to generate even more wealth for themselves (Schneirov and Fernandez 210)”. Despite this blow to democracy, the 2010 US Affordable healthcare act had a plus for the democratization process by enabling all Americans to access health care.

A Comparison of US and French Electoral Systems and Bipartisanship amongst Their Parties

The Fifth Republic in France provides an example of the majority of two votes. In this system, there is a need for a majority in the first ballot/round election. More than 50 percent of the votes cast are registered with an absolute majority. If there is no 50+1% in the first round, there is a rerun where the winner, in this case, regardless of the percentage of votes, is one who has most votes. Like the US system, the weakest candidates are usually pressured to withdraw. On the other hand, the US system has obstacles such as minimum thresholds for voting sharing. These procedures obstruct small parties from winning voter representation.

Members of an electoral college in the USA determine the winner in case of a close race. In both countries, the party that holds the majority in the legislature tends to encourage polarization and hyper-partisanship amongst parties. For instance, the lack of suggestions for dramatic change, less charismatic leaders, cohabitation, and scandals have reduced France’s presidential powers. “After 1994, Republicans were able to keep their House under control, largely because elections were seldom contested and because major campaign contributors were more likely to donate to likely winners. (Schneirov and Fernandez 239)”

A Comparison of the Role of the Legislatures in Decision Making In France and Britain

The French parliament is more powerful than the British parliament. This is because Britain has a parliamentary system where there is an essential unity between the executive and legislative branches. Consequently, parliament in Britain plays a very negligible decision making role. Apart from that, the party with the majority in parliament names the cabinet from its members. This means that the legislature cannot go against the executive, given that its members are in the ruling party. Contrastingly, France has a hybrid system where two principals govern the country: the President and the Prime minister on a power-sharing agreement. Since the government’s running is the prerogative of the Prime minister and a cabinet appointed by the President, parliament has more power over the executive. However, the President can unanimously introduce a referendum; hence, bypassing the legislating role of parliament if the masses pass the bill. In the 1950s, most French governments lasted for about nine months because the lawmakers introduced a vote of no confidence. A new government was elected if their motion sailed through by the absolute majority.

A Comparison of the State’s Role in France and the US As Far As Their Economic and Societal Outcomes Are Concerned

In France, there are high rates of unemployment in comparison to the USA. Consequently, voters want to elect a socialist regime because they believe that it will stop the high inequality rates and the decline in job security that has been typical of the country since the 1970s. However, the US case is quite different: “Since 2008, the country has moved in a progressive economic direction for middle and low-income Americans. The Affordable Care Act of 2010 provides for a significant improvement in the medical and financial security for a large number of Americans, especially for the bottom half of the income distribution (Schneirov and Fernandez 269).”

Works Cited
  • Schneider Richard, and Fernandez Gaston A.
  • Democracy as a Way of Life in America: A History. Routledge: New York. (2012): 210-270.Print.

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