France Democracy and Rights

Democracy and rights

Abbreviated as FRA by Abbreviationfinder, France is a well-functioning democracy and a rule of law. There is a long tradition of freedom of the press. After the country has suffered severe acts of terrorism since 2015, anti-terrorism legislation has been tightened. It has increased the authorities’ opportunities for monitoring and control of citizens, something that has been raised as a problem by human rights organizations.

The importance of protecting individuals’ rights and freedoms was recognized in France as early as the French Revolution of 1789, when the country was the first in the world to adopt a Declaration of Human Rights. This has been of great importance for the international human rights acquis that has subsequently emerged.

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France’s political system is built on democratic principles with general, free and fair elections to the presidential post and parliament (see also Political system).

Political parties can operate freely and this also applies to trade unions which are an important force in French society. There are a large number of individual organizations that work actively on various issues.

Terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016 (see Modern History) led the government to increase its efforts to fight terrorism and protect the country from new attacks. An emergency permit was introduced after the attacks in Paris in November 2015 and it was then extended in installments. During the two years when the state of emergency prevailed in the country, 2015-2017, the authorities were able, among other things, to limit the freedom of demonstration at the same time as the security service and the police had increased opportunities for surveillance and to carry out operations against suspected terrorists.

After the state of emergency was lifted, new anti-terrorism legislation was introduced, which means that the police and security services still have the power to tighten surveillance and control of suspects, including through house searches and house remnants. The legislation has been controversial and has, among other things, been criticized by human rights organizations for the fact that decisions on house arrest are sometimes issued on vague grounds.

Policy makers strive to strengthen the role of women in politics and in society at large. There is no legislation that prevents any group in society, whether ethnic and religious minority or LGBTQ person, from participating in political life. But right-wing ideologies have become more prevalent in society in recent years, which has led to a growing hostility to immigration and also that especially Muslim groups, immigrants from North Africa and Roma feel that they are being discriminated against in society and in politics. There are problems with hate crimes against both Jews and Muslims.

Freedom of expression and media

Freedom of speech is inscribed in the Declaration on the Rights of Man and Citizen from 1789. At the same time, there are restrictions on freedom of speech. Expressing opinions that are racist, anti-Semitic or advocating terrorism is prohibited and that incitement to hatred against ethnic groups and sexual minorities is punishable.

Freedom of the press has been guaranteed by law since 1881 and it is also highly respected in practice. The media represents a large number of political opinions, have an independent position and can operate relatively freely (see the Press Freedom Organization Reporters Without Borders list here) The strict legislation against slander has led journalists to be prosecuted on several occasions.
It is a problem that the ownership of the media has become increasingly concentrated to a few companies. In recent years, several cases have been noted where owners have tried to exert pressure on employed journalists in their reporting. In the mid-2010s, Parliament passed a new media law that strengthened the protection of journalists against pressures, among other things.

French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo ended up in blustery weather when it published the so-called Muhammad cartoons in 2006. The editor-in-chief was sued but released in court. Freedom of expression in relation to respect for different religious orientations was intensively debated on the basis of the satirical drawings of the Prophet Muhammad. The debate flared up again in 2012, when Charlie Hebdo again had satirical pictures of the Prophet. Three years later, in January 2015, two perpetrators linked to Islamist terrorism shot dead twelve people, eight of whom were journalists or cartoonists. Following the act, a new law was passed that gave the authorities greater opportunities for monitoring the use of mobiles and the Internet. The law raised concerns among journalists that it would make their work more difficult.

During the late 2010s, journalists were increasingly threatened and physically attacked in connection with demonstrations and street protests.
There are no restrictions on freedom of expression on the internet and no censorship exists.


Corruption occurs in society and in politics, but there is no widespread problem. During the end of the 2010 France was ranked 21-21 by 180 countries in Transparency International’s annual corruption index (see here).

Former Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac, however, have been investigated for corruption. Chirac was given a conditional verdict for corruption in 2011 when he was mayor of Paris in the 1990s, while Sarkozy has been subject to corruption investigations in the end of the 2010s in connection with the 2007 and 2012
elections. elected. Politicians have been accused of hiring high-paying family members, such as the presidential candidates in the 2017 election, François Fillon and Marine Le Pen.

In 2017, a new anti-corruption law was introduced, which, among other things, prohibits politicians with trust assignments and public employees from employing family members.

Judicial system and legal security

The independence of the judiciary in France is protected by the Constitution and legal certainty is guaranteed. However, there are problems with long waiting times before trials can be held against suspects, which means that some suspects may be forced to spend long periods in legal custody, something criticized by human rights organizations and raised by international human rights bodies.

The death penalty in peacetime was abolished in 1981, and also in war in 2002. Prisons are overcrowded and often in poor condition, and the suicide rate in French prisons is high.

France Crime Rate & Statistics



Investigation against Jacques Chirac

The former president is suspected of embezzlement during his mayoral tenure in Paris. Chirac lost his immunity from prosecution when he left the presidential post (see also Modern History).

Extensive demonstrations

Public sector employees and employees in the transport and energy sectors demonstrate against Sarkozy’s plans for deterioration in pensions, employment benefits and salaries. The protests have major repercussions on public service.


Decides on stricter rules on family immigration;

Decides on stricter rules on family immigration;


Arms exports to Libya

France signs a controversial arms deal to Libya for around € 300 million.


The right becomes the biggest in the parliamentary elections

June 10th

In the election to the National Assembly, the right-wing so-called presidential majority takes 345 seats, against 227 seats for the left-wing bloc. Five seats fall outside the blocks. François Fillon remains as prime minister.


Sarkozy wins in the second round

May 6

He gets 53 percent versus 47 percent for Royal. Sarkozy appoints Socialist Bernard Kouchner (Co-Founder of Doctors Without Borders) as Foreign Minister, after which Kouchner is excluded from the Socialist Party. The number of ministries is halved to 15, and seven of the ministers are women.


First round of presidential elections

April 22

Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy from the UMP government party receives 31.2 percent of the vote, compared to 26.7 percent for the former Minister of Education Ségolène Royal from the Socialist Party. In third place comes the center party UDF’s François Bayrou with 18.6 percent, followed by National Front’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, who gets about 10.4 percent.