Here’s an interesting question—and one I’m not certain about myself. It seems the French government has “collapsed.” Meaning, the prime minister & his cabinet have resigned. This happens frequently in parliamentary systems, where ceremonial heads of state (constitutional monarchs) exercise little real power, and government bureaucracies simply go in a holding pattern.
But France, of course, is a semi-presidential system. So Sarkozy, the French president, has not resigned. And he was popularly elected, giving him a legitimate democratic mandate.
So. What will Sarkozy do in the interim? As we have seen in a previous Economist chart, this can be a long time. The Belgian king does very little while his country’s parliament struggles to create a new government. But what does the French president do?
[Of course, this is also just the way France’s hybrid form of semi-presidentialism handles cabinet shakeups. But it’s an interesting theoretical question: If the legislature rebuffed him entirely, just how far could the French president go, before submitting to a period of “cohabitation” (when the president & prime minister are from different parties)?]