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|French Presidents and
Prime Ministers learn their political
trade in local government
18 October 2017: It is almost obligatory for French presidents, prime ministers and cabinet ministers to start their political careers in local government. Since the formation of the Fifth Republic in October 1958, five of France’s eight heads of state were mayors prior to being elected to the country’s highest office. Jacque Chirac was Mayor of Paris for more than 18 years. Other former presidents such as Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterand, Nicolas Sarcozy and François Hollande all served their political apprenticeships in local government. Only the Fifth’s Republic’s first two presidents, Charles de Gaulle and Georges Pompidou and the current president Emmanuel Macron did not serve as mayors.
Of the 23 French prime ministers since 1958, some 17 also served as mayors before, during and after their appointments to the Hôtel Matignon, the official residence of French prime ministers. Among them were the Fifth Republic first prime minister Michel Debré, Jacque Chirac before he became president, Alain Juppé, the Mayor of Bordeaux, and Manuel Valls, who served as head of government from 2014 to 2016. The current French prime minister, Édouard Philippe, is also Mayor of the port city of Le Havre. The majority of French cabinet ministers during the past 60 years have also local government experience.
Under French law, prime ministers and cabinet ministers do not have to resign from any local government offices when they join the government. Upon taking office, Presidents of the French Republic, however, are obliged to step down from any other posts.
Until April 2017, parliamentarians in the French Assembly, the country’s second chamber, the Senate, and the European Parliament were also allowed to serve as mayors, and a large number did so. However, a new law, originally drafted in 2014 under President François Hollande, now prohibits mayors from serving as parliamentarians in the country’s upper and lower houses as well as the European Parliament.
Presidents and prime ministers of the
French Fifth Republic who served as mayors
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