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The France Page

France regional political structure


France has many tiers of regional governance. Much of the structure dates back to Napoleon.


Mainland France has 22 regions, including Corsica.

They have delegates from the departments and major urban areas within the region.

Strictly, regions do not have authority to pass legislation or issue regulations. However, they levy local taxes and receive funds from central government. They have significant budgets that are applied to regional projects including education, job creation, tourism, and transport.


Mainland France has approximately 100 departments : Corsica is subject to different regulations.

Departments are managed by a general council who are elected by the local citizens every 6 years.

The national government is represented by the Prefect, who is appointed by the national executive.

Arrondissements & Cantons

Each department is subdivided into arrondissements which have a sous prefect and sous prefecture. There are 341 in mainland France.

Arrondissements are divided into Cantons. Cantons are a grouping of communes used as the base for regional elections. The Cantons date back to the French revolution. There are 4032 in mainland France.


A 19thC structure allowing co-operation between communes with a common interest. They are typically composed of communes surrounding a large town, sharing a river valley or other facilities.

Some are fairly informal, and communes contribute to the shared costs. However, others, are able to raise their own taxes through the tax professionelle of residents.

Those raising taxes are community of communes (normally rural), community of agglomeration (medium sized cities) and urbain communities (large cities and suburbs).

There are 2573 such communities in mainland France. A commune can belong to more than one intercommunality.


There are 36568 communes in France varying from villages with a population of a handful of people to city communes with over 1 million. The number represents those communes recognised at the time of the revolution augmented by new communes.

French communes have a town hall, mayor and a group of councillors. Elections are held every 6 years.

Municipal arrondissements

The communes of Paris, Lyon and Marseille are further subdivided into municipal arrondissements. Each arrondissement has its own town hall, mayor and administration. The commune itself retains its own town hall, mayor and administration. There are 45 municipal arrondissements in France.





Peter Hornby Management Consultancy