The French Parliament of the Fifth Republic is bicameral: it consists of the National Assembly and the Senate.
Bicameralism has long been regarded in the French constitutional history is as an appeal against the excesses of single assemblies, or as a factor strengthening the executive by splitting the legislature. The Constitution of the Fifth Republic establishes thus a bicameral system in which coexist a National Assembly, elected by direct universal suffrage and representing the citizens, and a Senate, elected by indirect universal suffrage representing the local authorities of the Republic.
As in most other parliaments composed of two chambers (with the notable exception of the Italian Parliament), French bicameralism is not egalitarian, the National Assembly disposing of wider powers than the Senate:
- it alone can challenge the Government by refusing confidence towards it, or by passing a motion of censure (in the same logic, the National Assembly may be dissolved by the President of the Republic);
- in case of disagreement with the Senate, the Government may decide to give the National Assembly the "last word" in the legislative process (except for constitutional laws and laws related to the Senate);
- the Constitution confers on the National Assembly a preponderant place in the consideration of the draft budget law and the draft law on financing of social security, resulting, on the one hand, in the requirement for a first reading in the Assembly and, on the other, in the granting of longer review times in the Assembly.
In almost all other areas, both houses have the same powers.