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Living in the Languedoc:    Central Government:    The Legislature

The Legislature, Parliament, is formed of two assemblies or chambers: the National Assembly and the Senate.
the National Assembly. 577 Members, called deputies, are elected by direct universal suffrage for a five-year term. The electoral method, similar to that used for presidential elections, produces effective majorities.  Each of the 557 deputies is elected in one constituency through a two-ballot majority (first-past-the-post) polling system. This system encorages political forces to band together and forge alliances.  In practice this results in two broad coalitions.  The voters are effectively limited to a choice of two parties, as in most western democracies.  An advantage of this system is that parliamentary elections generally produce a clear winner and a clear loser.  The majority party exercises legislative power and supports the government.  The opposition, though lacking any formal status has come to enjoy some rights, providing checks and balances to the governing party.  For more information, in a new window, visit a French Government website dedicated to the Assemblée nationale
the Senate. 321 members, called Senators, are elected to the second chamber for a nine-year term by indirect universal suffrage.  One third of the Senate comes up for re-election every three years.  The Senate cannot be dissolved, and conversely, the Senate has no mechanism to bring down a Government.  While the deputies represent the people, Senators represent France's local authorities, both in metropolitan France and overseas, as well as French nationals residing abroad.  In practice the Senate serves as a stronghold of conservative forces.  For more information, in a new window, visit a French Government website dedicated to the Sénat
In addition to providing a check on the Government, the two assemblies draw up and pass legislation.  In the exercise of legislative power, The Senate has the same powers as the Assembly, but if a disagreement persists between the two chambers, the Government can ask the deputies to make a definitive ruling.  In other words the Assembly has the last word (except in the case of an amendment to the Constitution, or an institutional Act of concern to the Senate). 
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