The first aspect worth analyzing is to what extent France meets Duverger’s first criteria: a president elected by universal suffrage. In 1962, the then French president Charles de Gaulle passed a constitutional amendment altering the presidential election from parliamentary to universal suffrage (Curtis 2004). This meant that the president of the republic would be elected by the population, and therefore had to become a strong and appealing individual leader. At the time, this benefited De Gaulle since he epitomized charismatic leadership and desired a system were the president wielded the majority of government power and responsibility. Universal suffrage gave constitutional power to the president, as he, by virtue of being elected by majority vote, now possessed similar legitimacy to that of a majority in the Assembly. Thus, 1962 marked the beginning of a shift of power from the Assembly to the President, and is even considered by Robert Elgie to be the point that established the Fifth Republic as a semi-presidential regime.
The second criteria of Duverger’s definition of semi-presidential regime is that “(2) he possesses quite considerable powers” (Duverger, 1980:166 cited in Elgie:2009). Scholars such as Robert Elgie criticized Duverger for being too vague in his definition of semi-presidential regimes. For instance, Duverger underscores the fact that the president must possess considerable powers, but never expounds on this idea in order to establish what is deemed to be considerable. Reading further on Duverger’s other work such as A NEW POLITICAL SYSTEM MODEL: SEMI-PRESIDENTIAL GOVERNMENT (1980), Duverger defined the considerable powers saying that French Fifth Republic as “A country with an all-powerful presidency” (Duverger 1980:170). He justified this proposition by citing Article 16 which states