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ULIP students visit l'Assemblée Nationale


Written by
Lydia Richardson

Last week, a number of ULIP students and staff joined a group from the University of Sussex’s School of Law, Politics and Sociology to visit l'Assemblée Nationale, the French National Assembly, located around the corner from the ULIP building. Lydia, who is in the final year of the BA in French Studies with International Relations programme, shares her thoughts on the visit.

Photo of a hall at the French National Assembly by Lydia Richardson

Living in Paris has opened up a whole new world of opportunities to me, whether they be linguistic, artistic, or in this case, political. Visiting l’Assemblée Nationale was a huge privilege as many times after classes at ULIP (which is a 5 minute walk away), I have wandered past this impressive building, longing to step inside. So when the opportunity to visit arose, I was quick to respond 'oui.'

The visit began with a short video to explain the workings of the French political system, before we were shown into the magnificent ballroom or 'salle des fêtes' that connects l'Hôtel de Lassay to le Palais Bourbon.

We then continued by entering l’Hémicycle which was, perhaps, the most interesting part of the visit. This is where all the debates take place and decisions are made. The members sit according to their political leaning, from left to right, creating a semi-circle spectrum of political views. Each of the deputés (there are 577 in total) has their own numbered seat. This is a big contrast to the UK House of Commons where the governing party and the opposition are placed on opposing sides of the room, face to face and there is not even enough space on the benches for all the Members of Parliament (MPs), only for around two-thirds! In front of each place in l’Hémicycle, there are three buttons for the deputés to vote 'oui', 'non' or abstain. This seems a lot less complicated than the UK system where MPs are required to walk through the lobby doors to vote!

We were later shown the beautiful library which dates from the 18th century and houses around 700 000 books. We were then led through several more impressive rooms. We walked by the press offices, before heading across to another building for a meeting with a député.

The visit ended with a discussion with Alexandre Holroyd who is part of Renaissance party (formerly known as La République en Marche ! ). He represents the French people who live overseas. It was a great opportunity to be able to ask him questions about his work and get an insider’s perspective.

Overall, I really enjoyed the visit and I hope to return soon to watch some of the debates play out in l’Hemicycle. I am so glad that I had this opportunity as it helped further my knowledge of the French political system which is sure to help me in my future essays!