How can an unpopular French president be replaced before the next election?


Macron's recent popularity has fallen to a record low.

However, France is a so-named "presidential democracy", which essentially means that most of the power is in the hands of the president and not in the Parliament. The president can replace the members of the government (incl. the prime minister). Thus, his position seems quite strong, despite that the overwhelming majority of the people won't see him in his position any more.

Typically, in most parliamentary democracies, there is no way to call back an unpopular prime minister (by the people), but his/her party can replace him, if the situation nears critical.

How does it work in France? How can he be fired?

Gray Sheep

Posted 2018-11-11T17:44:31.513

Reputation: 755

3Presumably you're looking for methods other than the standard "wait until the next election and vote for somebody else"? – origimbo – 2018-11-11T18:18:22.437

@origimbo Yes. I know the parlamentarian system better, there the prime minister is on the top of the power pyramide. He is elected by the Parlament, typically on its first session, thus the prime minister is typically the leader of the winning party, thus he can have the majority on the election. If the ruling party wants to fire the prime minister, they can simply start a new election, where that prime minister won't have the majority any more, because his own party votes against him. And then they elect a new PM. In practice, the PM typically resigns before that to save his face. – Gray Sheep – 2018-11-11T19:49:04.490

@origimbo In the U.S., as far I know, there is no way to fire a President only because his unpopularity, but if the majority of both houses wants to fire him, they could in theory impeach him for anything. In practice, the only case where it could have happened (Nixon), the president resigned before that. The question is, what is the case in France? Probably most leaders in his party aren't satisfied with his work, could they initiate something to fire him? – Gray Sheep – 2018-11-11T19:53:02.113

Regarding the current president, there are no “leaders” that could be dissatisfied with his work, his party is an empty shell he created in a few weeks to fill the national assembly once he won the presidential election. – Relaxed – 2018-11-11T22:32:57.913

2Macron's recent popularity has fallen to a record low. It's nothing compared to his predecessor, whose popularity fell to signgle-digit % number. (Ironically he failed to make unemployement fell to single digit % number, which is a source of jokes here) – Bregalad – 2018-11-12T07:17:36.197

3Well, it being France a revolution is almost de rigueur – None – 2018-11-12T12:54:34.143

@Bregalad: a record low for his own popularity, and maybe a record low for the popularity of a French president after a one and half year of presidency. – Taladris – 2018-11-19T08:09:45.937



Actually, whether the president actually has the power to replace the prime minister or other members of the government isn't all that clear from the constitutional text. What happens in practice if that prime ministers always submit their resignation whenever the president wants them gone (except during periods of divided government).

Conversely, the parliament does have a range of powers similar to those you would find in parliamentary democracies. In particular it certainly can force the government to resign through a vote of no confidence. A few such votes did happen but they have never been successful since the president is elected directly (1962). Even when they seemed a bit unruly, presidents have always been able to reign in their parties.

But to answer your question directly, there is no practical means to hasten the end of the term of an unpopular president. There is however a kind of impeachment mechanism through the Haute Cour. That remains entirely theoretical and limited to blatant abuse or treason, not something that politicians openly talk about as they do in the US.


Posted 2018-11-11T17:44:31.513

Reputation: 24 058

The current Constitution having been written by de Gaulle (precisely, written by Debre for de Gaulle), it is no surprise there is no simple way to end the term of the President. – Taladris – 2018-11-19T08:05:36.917


The Article 68 of the French Constitution describes the steps required to destitute a president.

Article 68

Original text of the law:

"« Le Président de la République n'est responsable des actes accomplis dans l'exercice de ses fonctions qu'en cas de haute trahison. Il ne peut être mis en accusation que par les deux assemblées statuant par un vote identique en scrutin public et à la majorité absolue des membres les composant; il est jugé par la Haute Cour de justice."

Modified text (2007):

"« Le Président de la République ne peut être destitué qu'en cas de manquement à ses devoirs manifestement incompatible avec l'exercice de son mandat. La destitution est prononcée par le Parlement constitué en Haute Cour."

I short, if it there was enough evidence that the President did something treasonous, then the French Parliament could start the destitution procedure and that will ask the High Court to start the process of the impeachment of the President.

Personally, and I would imagine that according to the French Law, being unpopular is not a reason to start the impeachment process; if that was the case, Presidents would be impeached daily in France.


Posted 2018-11-11T17:44:31.513

Reputation: 1 502

1I think that in this case "impeach" is a fair translation of "destitute" (which is a word very rarely used in that sense in English). Google translates the 2007 version as " The President of the Republic may be dismissed only in the event of a breach of his duties manifestly incompatible with the exercise of his mandate. The dismissal is pronounced by the Parliament constituted in High Court." – ohwilleke – 2018-11-14T00:24:05.827

What is the President suffered from an incapacity or disability short of death? For example, what if the President of France were in a car accident and was in a coma for a month with no certainty as to whether he would recover or not. Is there a process for that in the French Constitution? – ohwilleke – 2018-11-14T00:26:04.387

Also, to be clear "High Court" is the Parliamentary committee conducting its affairs as a quasi-judicial body, in much like the U.S. Senate conducting a trial of an impeachment. It is not an ordinary court with that jurisdiction. – ohwilleke – 2018-11-14T00:29:26.420

1@ohwilleke Article 7 provides that the cabinet can ask the constitutional court (conseil constitutionnel) to confirm that the president is unable to discharge his duties. If a majority of the court's members agree, the president of the senate becomes president ad interim. If and when the incapacity is deemed permanent by the court, elections must be organised between 20 and 35 days later. This has happened twice, after De Gaulle's resignation and after Pompidou's death. In both case, Alain Poher assumed the president's duties. – Relaxed – 2021-02-08T22:39:05.110