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Thursday, 27 June, 2002, 17:40 GMT 18:40 UK
A different kind of president
French President Jacques Chirac (l) with US President George W Bush
France and the US elect their leaders
At first sight, some of the powers that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf intends to award himself are similar to those enjoyed by presidents in such countries as the United States and France.

Yet in those countries the president is elected by direct universal suffrage, giving these figures the legitimacy to speak for, and to, the nation.

Both US President George W Bush and French President Jacques Chirac are commanders-in-chief of their respective countries' armed forces.

But this takes on a different significance in a state where the military enjoy much greater powers.

US model

The American president is heralded as the most powerful person in the world, yet the American constitution is designed to avoid an excessive concentration of power in one place.

Power is separated between the US president, US Congress and the US Supreme Court.

US Congress in session
US Congress, not the US president, has the sole power to declare war

The US president takes on the role of chief executive, chief diplomat and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

He has now also assumed the role of chief legislator.

Previously only responsible for executing the will of Congress, the US president now produces a legislative agenda for Congress to pass.

However, in contrast to General Musharraf's proposals, he does not have the power to dissolve Congress or call elections.

As commander-in-chief of the US Armed Forces, the president can assume wartime powers, but it is Congress that has the sole responsibility for declaring war.

In practice, however, presidents have sent troops abroad more than 100 times, but Congress has only declared war five times, most recently in World War II.

French precedent

The French president enjoys a much more influential role than the figurehead presidents of many other European countries.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
Pakistan will have to determine the relationship between its president and prime minister

This is largely due to General Charles de Gaulle, who beefed up the role to give the president full control in times of national emergency.

As in General Musharraf's proposal, the French president appoints the prime minister who will usually, but not necessarily, be the leader of the largest party after the general election.

The president can also dismiss the prime minister, but only when the prime minister himself has tendered his resignation.

The president is also responsible for dissolving the National Assembly, and President Chirac famously dismissed the assembly too early in 1997, ushering in the opposition.

Parliamentary control

The relationship between the prime minister and president is what really sets the French system apart from others and is something that will have to be determined in Pakistan.

While the French prime minister is responsible for the determination of governmental policy, major portfolios like foreign affairs are usually assumed by the president.

The extent of the president's powers is largely determined by the colour of the government of the day.

Until the general election earlier this year, President Chirac's influence was significantly curtailed with a Socialist government.

Now, with a huge majority centre-right government he is the most powerful French president for decades.

See also:

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