The Jurisdictions & Roles of French Local Government

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Crown: The Monarchy of Spain's History, Succession & Regency

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:07 French Local Government
  • 0:44 Current Structure
  • 2:22 History
  • 3:58 Example
  • 5:02 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the regional and local governmental structures of France, their governing roles, and their relationships with the central government in Paris.

French Local Government

There is perhaps no category of government administration more diverse than local government. This is because 'local' can mean so many different things for different people and different regions. 'Local' for some might mean their metropolitan city of five million, while 'local' for others might mean their entire rural county of only 500. In the United States, local governments were born relatively organically in order to accommodate these diverse possibilities, but in France, local government is run a bit differently. In this lesson, we'll explore the changing role of local government in France and the forms it often takes.

Current Structure

In France, the central government is far more powerful than it is in the United States. The U.S., after all, is a federal institution; the central government in Washington has the final say in any legal matters it wishes to legislate upon, but a large amount of power is delegated to state and local authorities. Indeed, the U.S. Constitution has even devolved certain powers to state and local authorities that the federal government cannot touch.

In France, there are virtually no powers that local governments have that cannot be touched by the central government. Most of the regional and local governments' authorities consist of implementing the policy decisions and directives of the central government. Indeed, the breakdown of French government into regional and local authorities is largely for administrative purposes than it is for any real local policy making.

France proper is divided into 21 different regions, with Corsica also being considered its own region. Each region has a regional council directly elected by citizens in the region and a president who is elected by members of the council. Those regions are further divided into 96 local departments, which are governed by an elected regional council and its own council president.

The smallest level of local government is the commune of which there are roughly 36,000 across France. The commune is governed by a municipal or local council that is often popularly elected. Outside of the central government, it is the most important and most utilized government apparatus in France. These local councils are often charged with implementing the central government's policies throughout France, and for many Frenchmen and women, it's the only contact they may ever have with government officials.

History

For centuries in France, local government was merely an administrative instrument of the central government; for example, many of the councils and presidencies discussed above were appointed rather than popularly elected. However, this has changed in recent decades, and a significant amount of power has devolved from the central government to local authorities. In 1981, the Socialist Party of France, led by Francois Mitterand, won the presidential election and began its plans to decentralize power in France. This resulted in a series of laws and acts that devolved some power to local and regional authorities and increased the importance of regional government and the departmental governments.

The first of these measures in 1982 created the regional governments that had previously not existed. It also transferred the executive power in departments and municipalities from a government-appointed 'prefect' to the presidency of the regional council. Later, the Defferre laws organized the government of France's regions and departments into popularly elected councils and determined many of the rules and regulations by which these levels of government operate.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Free 5-day trial

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 160 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support