French law – The Commune

Title 3 – Local and regional authorities

Chapter 3 – The Department

Chapter 4 – The commune

Section 1 – The municipal council

Election of the Municipal Council

The number of municipal councilors is proportional to the size of the commune. A mandate lasts 6 years and is renewable.

In municipalities with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants, municipal councilors are elected by a two-round majority vote with a mixture of votes.

In municipalities with more than 1,000 inhabitants, municipal councilors are elected by a two-round proportional representation system, with a bonus for the list that comes first. This means that the list that wins gets half of the seats to be filled, the remaining seats being distributed proportionally to the lists with at least 5% of the votes cast.

The law of December 31, 1982, on the administrative organization of Paris, Marseille and Lyon provides that elections are held in electoral sectors.

Litigation concerning the elections is handled by the administrative court, and the Council of State in case of appeal of the administrative court’s decision.

The role of the City Council

The City Council must meet at least once a quarter. (law of December 31, 1970)

If half of the municipal councilors request it, or upon the convocation by either the prefect or the mayor, additional meetings may be held.

These meetings, chaired by the mayor, are public and result in administrative decisions.

The Municipal Council is competent for matters that concern the municipality. The municipal council must ensure that all mandatory services, such as schools and registry offices, are functional, and must take care of additional services, as long as these services are of local interest to the municipality.

In harmonization with European legislation, local public companies are established by the law of May 28, 2010:“These companies are competent to carry out development operations within the meaning of Article L. 300-1 of the Urban Planning Code, construction operations or to operate public services of an industrial or commercial nature or any other activity of general interest.

Control of the City Council

The City Council may be dissolved by government decree. A delegation then takes over until the elections.

The administrative court can remove a councilor if he or she does not fulfill his or her role.

Finally, the prefect has a right of control over the acts of the municipal council a posteriori, although this right was reduced by the law of 2 March 1982.

Section 2 – The mayor’s office

The mayor is elected by the municipal council and not by the citizens.

The municipal councilors vote for the future mayor at the first meeting. The mayor is elected for the same term as the municipal council, i.e. 6 years.

His or her role is to:

  • As President of the City Council, to prepare the decisions of the Council and to execute them.
  • As an agent of the State, he executes the laws and regulations
  • He is the hierarchical superior of the administration of the commune.
  • He is also responsible for the municipal police.

The mayor may issue municipal by-laws to fulfill these missions.

He is surrounded by municipal deputies. These deputies are

  • Chosen within the municipal council
  • Subject to parity: as many men as women
  • Elected for 6 years, like the Mayor
  • Committed to act as the mayor’s delegate

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