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Encyclopedia > Cohabitation (government)

Cohabitation in government occurs in semi-presidential systems, such as France's system, when the President and the Prime Minister come from different political parties. Adherents say that it prevents the stagnation of "split majorities" that can occur in presidential systems, a concern especially relevant to the French in light of the instability and political paralysis of previous French Republics. Critics argue that it can also result in massive political tension in times of crisis, as seen in Sri Lanka during the later months of 2003. States with semi-presidential systems are shown in yellow The semi-presidential system is a system of government that features both a prime minister and a president who are active participants in the day to day functioning of government. ... The President of France, known officially as the President of the Republic (Président de la République in French), is Frances elected Head of State. ... Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. ... A political party is a political organization subscribing to a certain ideology or formed around very special issues. ... States with presidential systems are shown in blue A presidential system, or a congressional system, is a system of government of a republic where the executive branch is elected separately from the legislative. ...

Contents


Cohabitation in practice

France

History

Cohabitation was a product of the French Fifth Republic. This constitution brought together a potent President position with manifold executive powers, and a strong parliament with a Prime Minister. The president's task was primarily to end deadlock and act decisively to avoid the stagnation prevalent under the French Fourth Republic; the Prime Minister, similarly, was to "direct the work of government", providing a strong leadership to the legislative branch and to help overcome partisan squabbles. The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, which was introduced on October 5, 1958. ... For the pop band, see Presidents of the United States of America. ... Sir Robert Walpole, the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. ... The Fourth Republic existed in France between 1946 and 1958. ...


Since 1962, Presidents are selected by popular vote, replacing an electoral college. This switch gave Presidents, when they are not cohabiting, more power than they might have had under the original constitution, as they are seen as the figurehead of the nation and a unifying agent. Of course, the majority party of the Assembly has power as well, but conflict arose between the two when they were of opposing factions. The Prime Minister is not popularly elected; instead, he is appointed by the President, although the Assembly retains the right of censure over his choice. 1962 (MCMLXII) was a common year starting on Monday (the link is to a full 1962 calendar). ... An electoral college is a set of electors who are empowered as a deliberative body to elect someone to a particular office. ...


As of 2004, when the Presidential elections were increased in frequency from every seven years to every five years, cohabitation will probably much rarer, as "split ticket" voting over the course of two years, whilst rare, is projected to be very uncommon when the elections take place in the same year. (Data indicates that split ticket voting in the past often takes the form of a protest vote; for obvious reasons voters will very seldom vote for a President and then vote against his interests on the same day by electing Assembly members who will not appoint his choice of Prime Minister.) 2004 is a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar. ...


Cohabitation in practice

There have been only a few periods of cohabitation, but each is notable for illustrating the oscillation of powers between the President and Prime Minister.


When General de Gaulle founded the French Fifth Republic, he never envisaged that the people would elect two leaders from different political backgrounds to run the country at the same time. Despite being previously thought of as ‘improbable’, the constitutional possibility of cohabitation became reality in 1986, when the right won the legislative elections, the socialist François Mitterand being President of the Republic. Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle (  listen?) (November 22, 1890 – November 9, 1970), in France commonly referred to as le général de Gaulle, was a French military leader and statesman. ... The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, which was introduced on October 5, 1958. ... François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand (October 26, 1916 – January 8, 1996;   pronunciation?) was a French politician and President of France from May 1981, re-elected in 1988, until 1995. ...


He was forced to nominate as a Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, the leader of the winning party. This lasted for 2 years until 1988 when the newly-reelected François Mitterrand called for new legislative elections that were won by a left majority. Jacques René Chirac (born November 29, 1932), French politician, is President of the French Republic. ...


For the next five years, the French government and assembly were from the same political background until 1993 when President Mitterand was forced to appoint his opposition leader Edouard Balladur to the post of Prime Minister. Balladur maintained this post through the cohabitation until May, 18, 1995. Categories: Stub | 1929 births | Prime ministers of France | Alumni of Sciences Po ...


At this time, right leader Jacques Chirac from the RPR succeeded Mitterand as President and since the majority in the National assembly was from his side, he was able to appoint his fellow RPR member Alain Juppé as his Prime Minster. Alain Marie Juppé (born August 15, 1945) is a French politician; among other positions, he was Prime Minister of France from 1995 to 1997. ...


Cohendet (2005, p.4) explains that In both cases, the cohabitation took place during the last two years of the Presidential mandate.


After both the 1981 and 1988 elections, the newly-elected President dissolved Parliament in order to secure a friendly parliamentary majority. In both cases, the citizens elected members of Parliament of the same political side as the President.


In 1997 however, Chirac’s decision to dissolve parliament for an early legislative election backfired and socialist Lionel Jospin became Prime Minister. This third term of cohabitation lasted five years until 2002. Jacques (René) Chirac (born 29 November French politician. ... Lionel Robert Jospin (born July 12, 1937 in Meudon, a suburb of Paris) is a French statesman who served as Prime Minister of France from 1997-2002. ...


The theory of cohabitation is not limited to France, as a coexistence between the head of state and its parliamentary majority is possible in any country, for example between the Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Prime Minister. As the PM is elected by the people, it is their right to run the country as a democracy allows this, but differing opinions between the two leaders is possible.


In France, there is an imbalance of power between the President and the Assembly. A President can dissolve the Assembly at any time, but the assembly can not touch the President. Even if the assembly throws the government out of office, the President remains in place (as in 1962).


The French Fifth Republic usually operates under a Presidential system, but when in cohabitation, this changes to a Parliamentary system, giving more power to the Prime Minister, and limiting the President to the control of foreign policy and defence. The Fifth Republic is the fifth and current republican constitution of France, which was introduced on October 5, 1958. ... States with presidential systems are shown in blue A presidential system, or a congressional system, is a system of government of a republic where the executive branch is elected separately from the legislative. ... States currently utilizing parliamentary systems are denoted in red and orange—the former being constitutional monarchies and the latter being republics A parliamentary system, also known as parliamentarianism (and parliamentarism in U.S. English), is distinguished by the executive branch of government being dependent on the direct or indirect support...


Throughout the cohabitation between Mitterand and Chirac, the President focused on his foreign duties and allowed Chirac to control internal affairs. Since Mitterand was distanced from these policies, Chirac began to reverse many of Mitterand’s reforms by lowering taxes and privatising many national enterprises. During this time, Chirac set out to ridicule Mitterand in his master plan to win the next Presidential election. François Maurice Adrien Marie Mitterrand (October 26, 1916 – January 8, 1996;   pronunciation?) was a French politician and President of France from May 1981, re-elected in 1988, until 1995. ... Jacques (René) Chirac (born 29 November French politician. ...


This is a common problem during cohabitation, where each leader wants their own policies to be carried out so that the public are positive towards their strategies and will be elected when the time comes.


Because each party is in competition, there is little room for progression since the friction between both sides hold each other back. Chirac called this a state of ‘Paralysis’, and found it particularly difficult to arrange campaign activities for the National Assembly.


Whilst leaders of the same political spectrum help each other in decision making when in power simultaneously, cohabitation leads to a decline in national authority and fighting makes the country look insecure from a global perspective.


The inefficiency in Government agencies as a result of having no collaboration between government and assembly leads to a deterioration of the social order and a persistently high unemployment rate.


When Socialist leader Lionel Jospin assumed the position of Prime Minister, Chirac’s political influence was constrained and he had no say over certain major reforms being instituted by the left-wing majority. This included the 1998 legislation to shorten the working week from 39 to 35 hours, which came into effect in 2000. Lionel Robert Jospin (born July 12, 1937 in Meudon, a suburb of Paris) is a French statesman who served as Prime Minister of France from 1997-2002. ...


In campaign activities for the National Assembly, Chirac repeatedly talked about the disadvantages of power-sharing "cohabitation," saying that only by winning a definite majority in parliament could his government effectively carry through right-wing policies and realize his promises made during the presidential election campaign. (People’s Daily Online, 2002)


It has been recognised by the government that periods of cohabitation restrict the country’s economic progression and the stability of society, with the ‘left-wing government and a right-wing president virtually cancelling each other out.’ (Shiloh, T, 2002) In order to minimise the possibility of cohabitation in the future, Presidential elections were increased in 2004 from every seven years to every five years.


Although originally believed to be improbable, France has been governed under a cohabitation of leaders for almost half of the time (9 years) during the past 20 years. It is apparent that the French people would rather see two parties share the power, than one party be free to do as they like.


Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan politics for several years witnessed a bitter struggle between the President and the Prime Minister, belonging to different parties and elected separately, over the negotiations with the LTTE to resolve the longstanding ethnic conflict. This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... This article needs to be updated. ...


Bibliography

  • http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/3256649.stm
  • Raymond, G (2000) The President: Still a ‘Republican Monarch’? in Raymond, G (ed) Structures of Power in Modern France, Macmillan Press, Basingstoke
  • Sartori, G (1997) Comparative Constitutional Engineering, 2nd Ed., Macmillan Press, Basingstoke
  • Elgie, R (2003) Political Institutions in Contemporary France, OUP, Oxford
  • Knapp, A and Wright, V (2001) The Government and Politics of France, 4th Ed., Routledge, London

http://www.elysee.fr [Last accessed 16.02.06] http://www.premier-ministre.gouv.fr [Last accessed 17.02.06] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cohabitation_government 29 [Last accessed 17.02.06]


Cohendet, M. (2005) ‘The French Cohabitation, A Useful Experiment?’ CEFC:China


People’s Daily Online, (2002) ‘France Bids Farewell to Right-Left 'Cohabitation’. Monday, June 17, 2002, http://english.people.com.cn/200206/17/eng20020617_98010.shtml [Last accessed 16.02.06]


Shiloh, T. (2002) ‘Muted reaction as France heads right’. Monday, June 10, 2002, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/2036951.stm [Last accessed 15.02.06]



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Cohabitation is defined as an emotional, physical, and intellectually intimate relationship which includes a common living place and which exists without the benefit of legal, cultural, or religious sanction.
Cohabitation can be seen as a substitute for marriage without the financial and legal risks of a divorce, while still fulfilling a human need for close emotional support and social interaction otherwise found in a married life.
Acceptance of premarital cohabitation is higher in adolescents that are exposed to significant levels of parental conflict and divorce.
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