There are quite a number of similarities and differences between the political institutions of the United States, United Kingdom and France. It is vital to note that these political institutions are also part and parcel of the political systems that drive aspects of governance in these countries. While these countries seem to have borrowed a lot in their political systems, it is still apparent that the political institutions that have been put in place are run uniquely in each country. This essay compares and contrasts the political institutions of the US, UK and France. The paper also identifies the most fascinating political system among the three countries.
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To begin with, the US makes use of a written constitution. The latter is the supreme law of the land and no other piece of legislation can override it. In the case of the United Kingdom, acts of parliament are used as governing laws and as such, there is no constitutional document in place (O’Neil, 2009). France is also ruled by a constitution that was adopted from the Fifth Republic (Elgie, 2003). Unlike in the United Kingdom, both the US and France constitutional documents have been amended severally.
The United States makes use of a presidential system of governance whereby a president is elected through a popular vote in a democratic system. In UK, the prime minister is elected into office through the house of the commons. He or she is the head of government. In France, the president is voted into office through universal suffrage. He is the head of both the executive and state. The prime minister is appointed by the president. The prime minister is then supposed to craft a government. Even though the prime minister appoints the ministers who are supposed to form the government, it is merely theoretical because the final approval must come from the president. Even the cabinet meetings are usually presided over by the sitting president. Therefore, the prime minister in France is a ceremonial figure who cannot exercise powers of his own.
The transition period before a new president takes over office in the United States is two and half months. However, the prime minister in UK is usually sworn into office almost immediately after being elected. In France, the president also takes over office shortly being elected.
Both the House of Representatives and the senate are elected into the legislature in the United States (O’Neil, 2009). On the other hand, members of the House of Lords in the United Kingdom are hand-picked by the queen while those in the House of Commons must be elected by a majority vote. The legislative branch in France has two houses namely the lower chamber and the principle chamber. The senate is the upper chamber while the national assembly is the lower chamber (Rhodes, Binder & Rockman, 2008). General elections are held after every five years to elect members of parliament while some local representatives known as the ‘grand electors’ are charged with the duty of electing senators. Additionally, the parliamentary elections in France are usually carried out in two rounds especially when there is a tie between two leading candidates.
The Supreme Court in the United States is a highly politicized institution. The president appoints its members. On the other hand, the supreme court in the UK is a non-political institution since it is restricted from making political decisions that affect parliament and political parties. In France, the justice system is headed by the minister for justice (Elgie, 2003). The justice system is also co-run by public prosecutors. Unlike in the US whereby the Supreme Court composition and decisions are politically affected, the judicial system in France is independent of the state machineries.
In conclusion, France is the most interesting system of government due to its ceremonial prime minister and does not have a supreme court. Additionally, the constitution adopted from the Fifth republic has been revised the most number of times compared to the case of UK and US.
Elgie, R. (2003). Political Institutions in Contemporary France. Oxford: oxford University Press.
O’Neil, H.P. (2009). Essentials of Comparative Politics (Third Edition). New York: W. W. Norton & Company.
Rhodes, R.A.W., Binder, S.A. & Rockman, B.A. (2008). The Oxford Handbook of Political Institutions. New York: Oxford University Press.