Great Britain and France democracies

The United Kingdom and France: A Comparison of Democracies

The United Kingdom and France are among the countries with the oldest democracies in Europe and the world. Political advancements and revolutions in the two countries have occurred at various times. These distinctions have substantially aided their revolutions and rises in social and economic standing. The focus of this study will be on the key distinctions between these countries' democracies.

Monarchy vs Republic

The first distinction is that France is a republic, whereas Britain is a monarchy. There is a queen in the United Kingdom. The queen lacks the authority to exercise authority and hence functions only ceremonially. She is a symbol of the United Kingdom. France operates on a semi-presidential democracy manner. This means that a president is elected by popular vote who in turns appoints a prime minister. The president in France has a major role in government as opposed to the queen in England. In Britain however, the power of legislation is held by the legislature. The legislature is a bicameral system with two houses- house of lords and house of commons. The British legislative council has three other auxiliary councils which are the National Assembly for Wales, Northern Ireland Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. France too has a parliament with two houses.

Constitution and Laws

The second difference is the fact that since 1869, France has had sixteen constitutions, two empires and five different republics. The fifth republic, created in 1958 by Gaulle, is now in office. The Great Britain, on the other hand, has no written constitution. The role of making laws in the Great Britain lies with the parliament. The laws made by parliament are referred to as Acts of Parliament. In France, the president has major powers but there are limits stipulated in the constitution. For instance, the president can collaborate with the prime minister and dissolve the entire parliament. The President can also exercise his limited power by teaming up with the government or the parliament and make a new law through a referendum.

Lawmaking Process

Another democratic difference between these two countries is the fact that in France, the parliament has the ability to enact laws. These laws, however, have limits in terms of the territories they operate in. The main lawmarking body in France is the executive. In Great Britain, the laws are enacted by the executive. In Britain, the prime minister is part of the legislature but is also a member of the executive in an officially nominated capacity.

Governance Changes over the Years

Another difference between the two countries lies in the way their governance has changed over the years. Britain has changed their governance is a slow evolutionary process. The changes are, however, not as drastic as those in France. Their monarchical system, for example, has lived through many years. The throne, however, has been stripped of most of its power to the point where it is now a ceremonial organ of government. France has had drastic changes in their governance evident in the high number of republics they have had over the years. The republics have been as follows: First (1879) under Napoleon, second (1848-1851) removed by the coup of Louis Napoleon, third republic (1871-1940), fourth republic (1946-1958), and fifth republic (1958 to date).

Political Parties

Political parties are another major difference between the two countries. In Britain, there are two political parties while in France there are four major political parties. In Britain, the Labour and Conservative parties have taken center stage in governance. The Labour Party in the initial stages was the party for manual laborers with 67% of them preferring it to any other party. Over the years, trends have changed and the party has had its lows. The party has suffered divisions from the differences among the trade unionists. In 1990, the party rebranded itself as the New Labour Party. The other major political party in Great Britain is the Conservative Party. This party in the past was associated with those people who believed in the old core traditional values of Britain. Great organization and pragmatism have made this party more successful than its counterpart.

In France, there are four political parties: UMP, UDF, PS, NF. The Union of Popular Movement (UMP) is in power currently and is a descendant of the Gaullist party. This party was preferred by the working mid-level class and is a center-right political party. The other party is the Union of French Democracy (UDF). This party is preferred by people who wanted to counter the Gaullist influence. The third party is the Socialist Party (PS). This is a center-left party that was mainly for the conservatives and did not succeed in absorbing other people, especially the radicals in the middle-class society. The fourth party is a far-right conservative party called the National Front (NF). Working-class voters from big towns are the main supporters of this party. NF is against Muslim immigration to France. It is also xenophobic and anti-Semitic.


This higher number of political parties in France than Britain is an indicator of how much the evolution of France governance has come. The Great Britain has retained most of its core leadership values from the past.

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