The United Kingdom has a unique political culture, described as being a differential civic culture since it is affected by factors such as class religion and the history of the nation. In the UK, a prime mister heads the government through a parliamentary system of the government. The UK operates a parliamentary constitutional monarchy, which is one of the oldest forms of government. The queen is the head of state, while the prime minister heads the government. The elected parliamentarians in the country can pass legislation that affects the way governmental issues are done. One of the peculiar points about the UK is that it does not have a written constitution. The constitution is comprised of statute laws, common laws, and conventions that are prone to changes through an act of the parliament having passed by a supermajority. The parliament in the UK is bicameral. The upper house comprised of the House of Lords while the lower chamber is the House of Commons. The prime minister and the cabinet lead the executive arm of the government. Besides that, the UK encourages the building of strong parties, and the executive is inseparable from the legislature since it is the strongest party that produces the prime minister.
France is more of a republic since it has a popularly elected president who enjoys executive powers. Unlike the UK, where the prime minister is the leader of the party which wins a majority of seats in the election, in France, the president appoints the prime minister. The prime minister then names the cabinet members who will assist in running of government affairs (Lijphart 88). The prime minister and the cabinet are directly involved in directing domestic policies. The French system of government has some level of separation of power. Even though the president appoints the prime minister who later names the cabinet, they are answerable to the parliament. However, the French president is not accountable to the parliament. In this way, the political culture in the UK is mainly based on stability moderation and justice while France has been evolving having adopted a partial presidential system that offers semi-autonomy to the levels of government.
Political culture of the UK and France
The UK has a constitutional monarchy where the prime minister who is the head of the political party with the majority of the seats in the parliament becomes the leader of the government. The country holds an election every five years, and everyone who is an adult has a right to vote for universal suffrage. The unwritten constitution of the country allows the position of the queen who becomes the head of state. Notably, the UK monarchy has developed over a thousand years in the history of the United Kingdom. The sovereign power remains with the queen; at the same time, the elected parliamentarians are responsible for making and passing legislation. The bicameral parliamentary system of the country allows the House of Lords, which is the upper chamber, to comprise of 667 life peers, 88 hereditary ones, and 24 bishops (Ben-David 67). The House of Commons, being the lower chamber in the UK, has 650 members who are directly elected by the electorate. The prime minister is entirely dependent on the parliament in the UK since he or she is the leader of the party which gunners the majority of the seats in a general election. The UK has placed considerable powers and concentration to the building of strong political parties with a national outlook.
France is comprised of a hybrid presidential and parliamentary system of government. Thus, the president is widely elected by universal suffrage after every five years unlike in the UK where the leader of the government is the prime minister. Once the majority of citizens in the country elect the president, he or she becomes the head of the state and assumes executive powers. The president is then at liberty to appoint a prime minister after the assumption of power. Further, the prime minister is the one who appoints the cabinet, which then works closely with the president as a part of the executive level of the government. It can be observed that the prime minister in the UK parliamentary constitutional monarchy is not appointed unlike in France. Markedly, parties in the UK play a critical role in forming a government (“British Politics” par 3). In fact, there is little autonomy on the part of the executive in the UK since the legislature and the leader of the government are the same. However, France has been able to create a partial separation of power between the executive and the legislature. Although the prime minister and the cabinet members are from the executive arm of government, they are under scrutiny by the legislature since they are answerable to it. Both France and the UK conduct general elections after every five years. However, the UK may hold an early election through a motion by supermajority votes of two-thirds in the House of Commons (Fourcade 76). In both countries, every eligible voter should have attained the age of 18, above, and on the electoral register. The national elections are done in a free fair and transparent manner, which allows the citizens to exercise their democratic rights to choose their preferred candidates in various positions.
The French and UK Constitutions
The UK is one of many countries including Israel and New Zealand that do not have a written constitution. A constitution is considered to be an essential document that governs a nation and protects freedoms and fundamental rights of citizens in democratic countries. It acts as a guide to every foreseeable process in a country. However, the UK has never bothered to have a written constitution because it has been stable for quite a long time. Other European nations such as Germany and France have been forced to draft a constitution to govern their affairs due to the political instability. The laws in the UK depend on Acts of Parliament, which may be changed following a supermajority decision (Schleiter and Edward 504). Besides, the UK uses conventions, statute and common laws as well as European legislation. The constitution is written in the hearts of every British citizen, and the stability of the country has enabled the UK to stay without a written constitution hitherto. At the same time, a written constitution is considered vital since it protects and guarantees the rights of citizens in case an oppressive leadership takes over power. Regarding this issue, many political scholars in the country have argued that a written constitution is crucial for the UK and it should be created as soon as possible. Opponents of a written constitution think the current status quo existing in the state should not be tampered with because it has served the people well for many centuries.
France has a constitution that governs the way the country is supposed to be run and affirms the fundamental rights and freedoms of the citizens. The state adopted its current constitution in 1958 (Pitts 56). The document provides that the president and parliament have to be elected through a general election. France has set a firm jurisprudence on the way people should ascend to power, and the constitution has guaranteed the citizens certain fundamental rights and freedoms. The parliament is allowed to set its independent agendas, which are not influenced by the executive. The original constitution underwent about 17 constitutional amendments with the latest being in 2003, which resulted in it being referred to as the constitution of the fifth republic.
Roles of the Prime Minister and President in France and UK
France is a considered a republic even though it has gone through a period of difficulties in gaining political stability. In many cases, the partial presidential system of government as stipulated in their constitution has resulted in authoritarian rulers. The president is an executive one who is independent of parliament and can make decisions since the citizens directly elect him or her, having their full mandate. The president in France is the head of state according to its constitution; he or she is in control of foreign policies as well as defense. It is the obligation of the president to appoint the prime minister in France after the approval of the parliament. Just like in the UK, the prime minister, in most cases, comes from the party with the majority in the chambers because of the approvals required. The prime minister in France serves as the head of government together with the cabinet members who are proposed by the prime minister and recommended by the president. The French president has authority to bypass the parliament and engage the people directly through a referendum. What is more, the president must sign some of the essential decrees and preside over the appointment of top civil servants as well as judges. In France, the constitution is silent on whether the president can fire ministers and judges after appointing them.
To compare, the UK does not have a presidential system, but a prime minister becomes the head of government while the queen remains the head of state. The role of the prime minister in France is entrenched in the constitution. He or she is the determinant of policies on behalf of the government and has control over armed forces and civil service (Esser 412). The working relationship concerning the president and the prime minister has not been set out in the past and has been a source of constant conflict in the executive. On the other side, the UK prime minister is not in conflict with any of the different levels of the government. The prime minister is the head of state and is usually the leader of the majority party who is an active member of the House of Commons. Indeed, the position of the prime minister is crucial in the British government compared to the French one. In the UK, the person assigned to this position is responsible for making decisions and policies for the British government; he or she is in charge of the cabinet and sits on several cabinet committees. The prime minister is considered the representative of the UK wherever the politician goes for international visits. Also, the person acts as a bridge between the monarch and the government by ensuring the monarch is aware of government initiatives and operations.
The Role of the Queen in the UK
The queen is the head of state in the UK and serves as a symbol of unity and national pride for the people of the country. The queen does not concern herself with politics of either of the sides of political divide. Meanwhile, she opens parliamentary sessions and approves state orders. The monarch also has the authority to appoint prime ministers just like Queen Elizabeth did by appointing David Cameron in the elections of 2010 (Gould 54). The queen in the UK is in a constant contact with the prime since she has to be furnished with the new development of the government. It is probably because of the essential role of the queen in acting as a symbol of the national unity in the monarchy that the UK has not had a written constitution. The queen is also the Commander in Chief of the British Armed Forces. However, the meaningful role of the queen has continued to diminish as more powers are vested in elected members of both houses. Her role has remained mostly ceremonial with the most critical part to play is a symbol of national unity.
The Role of Parliament in the UK and France
The UK has a bicameral legislature with a complete parliamentary system of governance. The French parliament is also bicameral with the Senate and the National Assembly. The Senate is considered the upper house while the National Assembly is considered the lower house. In France, both houses have to agree on a new legislation before it is passed and becomes a law. The parliament in the UK keeps the government on the check through the two houses, challenges laws, debate vital issues, and approve or reject government budgets for expenditure. What is more, the ministers are answerable to the parliament, and they are questioned to ensure they are accountable. Both houses in the UK debate on proposed new laws and budgetary allocations for various projects. The parliament is the supreme legal authority in the UK, and it is an essential part of the politics. It is also capable of creating and ending a law; hence, it is a central part of the UK governance.
Comparatively, France also brags of a bicameral parliament with a semi-presidential system of governance. The National Assembly, which is the lower house, consists of about 577 seats. Members of the legislative assemblies can vote to pass the new bill or push for amendments to the existing laws. The National Assembly, in the same way its counterpart in the UK, makes the checks of the government. It is responsible for over sighting the national government and ensuring that the ministers are conducting their duties properly. Ministers are required to appear before special select committees to be questioned about their duties. Since the ministers are working on behalf of the government, the legislatures take that opportunity to examine the executive and track progress of various projects initiated by the government.
Similarities Between the Two Governments
The UK and French governments enjoy some striking similarities in the way they run their political affairs. The noticeable difference between the two countries is that one is a monarch with a purely parliamentary system while the other is a presidential system. However, the two countries share striking similarities such as the bicameral parliament comprising of the upper and lower houses. Members of parliament in both countries are responsible for controlling the government by checking what they are doing through questioning ministers. They are also responsible for passing laws, which come before them in both houses or amending it according to the laws available (Goetz and Jan-Hinrik 68). Notably, the political culture of the country influences the forms of the government formed, and, in turn, the political culture of a country is entirely dependent on its political history. In this regard, the two countries have shown that a history has a significant influence on a country’s culture. Both the UK and the French government have the position of the prime minister who forms a part of the executive and heads government. National elections are conducted after every five years in both countries. However, parliamentary and presidential polls held at different times in France. The two countries have a long history dating back from the French revolution. Most of the decisions made by the two assemblies are binding and are adopted as law.
The French and UK government have had interesting political ideologies that have resulted in what the two countries are experiencing today. The UK has attached strong values on parties, and the Queen is observed as a symbol of unity for all the citizens. The ideology has made the country experience along political stability. In fact, the UK is among a few countries, which do not have a written constitution due to the political stability. France differs from the UK on fundamental issues such as the parliamentary and presidential forms of government. France elects a president while a prime minister who has much influence on the leading political party leads the UK. Both countries have bicameral parliaments, which pass laws and check the government. The political culture of the two countries has a high dependence on their history and present political influences.
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