French Fifth Republic

Last updated

French Republic
République française (French)
Motto: "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" (French)
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
Anthem: "La Marseillaise"
Great Seal:
Great Seal of France.svg Great Seal of France (reverse).svg
and largest city
48°51.4′N2°21.05′E / 48.8567°N 2.35083°E / 48.8567; 2.35083
Official language
and national language
French [upper-roman 3]
Government Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
Emmanuel Macron
Élisabeth Borne
Legislature Parliament
National Assembly
4 October 1958 (64 years)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Calling code +33 [upper-roman 4]
ISO 3166 code FR
Internet TLD .fr [upper-roman 5]
Preceded by
Flag of France (1794-1815, 1830-1958).svg French Fourth Republic

The Fifth Republic (French : Cinquième République) is France's current republican system of government. It was established on 4 October 1958 by Charles de Gaulle under the Constitution of the Fifth Republic. [5] The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the Fourth Republic, replacing the former parliamentary republic with a semi-presidential (or dual-executive) system [6] that split powers between a president as head of state and a prime minister as head of government. [7] De Gaulle, who was the first French president elected under the Fifth Republic in December 1958, believed in a strong head of state, which he described as embodying l'esprit de la nation ("the spirit of the nation"). [8]

The Fifth Republic is France's third-longest-lasting political regime, after the hereditary and feudal monarchies of the Ancien Régime (Late Middle Ages – 1792) and the parliamentary Third Republic (1870–1940). The Fifth Republic will overtake the Third Republic as the second-longest-lasting regime and the longest-lasting French republic on 11 August 2028 if it remains in place.


The trigger for the collapse of the Fourth French Republic was the Algiers crisis of 1958. France was still a colonial power, although conflict and revolt had begun the process of decolonization. French West Africa, French Indochina, and French Algeria still sent representatives to the French parliament under systems of limited suffrage in the French Union. Algeria in particular, despite being the colony with the largest French population, saw rising pressure for separation from Metropolitan France. The situation was complicated by those in Algeria, such as European settlers, native Jews, and Harkis (native Muslims who were loyal to France) who wanted to maintain the union with France. The Algerian War was not just a separatist movement but had elements of a civil war. Further complications came when a section of the French Army rebelled and openly backed the Algérie française movement to defeat separation. [9] [ page needed ] Charles de Gaulle, who had retired from politics a decade before, placed himself in the midst of the crisis, calling on the nation to suspend the government and create a new constitutional system. De Gaulle was carried to power by the inability of the parliament to choose a government, popular protest, and the last parliament of the Fourth Republic voting for their dissolution and the convening of a constitutional convention. [10]

The Fourth Republic suffered from a lack of political consensus, a weak executive, and governments forming and falling in quick succession since 1946. With no party or coalition able to sustain a parliamentary majority, prime ministers found themselves unable to risk their political position with unpopular reforms. [11] [ page needed ]

De Gaulle and his supporters proposed a system of strong presidents elected for seven-year terms. The president, under the proposed constitution, would have executive powers to run the country in consultation with a prime minister whom he would appoint. On 1 June 1958, Charles de Gaulle was appointed head of the government; [12] on 3 June 1958, a constitutional law empowered the new government to draft a new constitution of France, [5] and another law granted Charles de Gaulle and his cabinet the power to rule by decree for up to six months, except on certain matters related to the basic rights of citizens (criminal law, etc.[ vague ]). [13] These plans were approved by more than 80% of those who voted in the referendum of 28 September 1958. [14] The new constitution was signed into law on 4 October 1958. [15] Since each new constitution established a new republic, France moved from the Fourth to the Fifth Republic.

The new constitution contained transitional clauses (articles 90–92) extending the period of rule by decree until the new institutions were operating. René Coty remained president of the Republic until the new president was proclaimed. On 21 December 1958, Charles de Gaulle was elected president of France by an electoral college. [16] The provisional constitutional commission, acting in lieu of the constitutional council, proclaimed the results of the election on 9 January 1959. The new president began his office on that date, appointing Michel Debré as prime minister.

The 1958 constitution also replaced the French Union with the French Community, which allowed fourteen member territories (excluding Algeria) to assert their independence. [17] 1960 became known as the "Year of Africa" because of this wave of newly independent states. [18] Algeria became independent on 5 July 1962.


The president was initially elected by an electoral college but in 1962 de Gaulle proposed that the president be directly elected by the citizens and held a referendum on the change. Although the method and intent of de Gaulle in that referendum were contested by most political groups except for the Gaullists, the change was approved by the French electorate. [19] The Constitutional Council declined to rule on the constitutionality of the referendum. [20]

The president is now elected every five years, changed from seven by a constitutional referendum in 2000, to reduce the probability of cohabitation due to former differences in the length of terms for the National Assembly and presidency. The president is elected in one or two rounds of voting: if one candidate gets a majority of votes in the first round that person is president-elect; if no one gets a majority in the first round, the two candidates with the greatest number of votes go to a second round.

Two major changes occurred in the 1970s regarding constitutional checks and balances. [21] Traditionally, France operated according to parliamentary supremacy: no authority was empowered to rule on whether statutes passed by Parliament respected the constitutional rights of the citizens. [22] In 1971, however, the Constitutional Council, arguing that the preamble of the constitution referenced the rights defined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen and the preamble of the 1946 constitution, concluded that statutes must respect these rights and so declared partially unconstitutional a statute because it violated freedom of association. [23] Only the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, or the president of either house of Parliament could ask for a constitutional review before a statute was signed into law—which greatly reduces the likelihood of such a review if all these officeholders happened to be from the same side of politics, which was the case at the time. Then in 1974, a constitutional amendment widened this prerogative to 60 members of the National Assembly or 60 members of the senate. [24] From that date, the opposition has been able to have controversial new statutes examined for constitutionality. [25]

Presidents of the Fifth Republic

  Socialist (PS)  Centrist (CD)  Centrist (REM)  Republican (UDF)   Gaullist (UDR; RPR)  Neo-Gaullist (UMP)

1 Charles de Gaulle 1890–19708 January 195928 April 1969 (resigned) Independent
Alain Poher 1909–199628 April 196915 June 1969 (interim) CD
2 Georges Pompidou 1911–197415 June 19692 April 1974 (died in office) UDR
Alain Poher 1909–19962 April 197419 May 1974 (interim) CD
3 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing 1926–202019 May 197421 May 1981 UDF
4 François Mitterrand 1916–199621 May 198117 May 1995 Socialist
5 Jacques Chirac 1932–201917 May 199516 May 2007 RPR then UMP
6 Nicolas Sarkozy b. 195516 May 200715 May 2012 UMP
7 François Hollande b. 195415 May 201214 May 2017 Socialist
8 Emmanuel Macron b. 197714 May 2017Incumbent REM

Source: "Les présidents de la République depuis 1848" [Presidents of the Republic Since 1848] (in French). Présidence de la République française.

Prime Ministers of the Fifth Republic

Current prime minister, Elisabeth Borne of La Republique En Marche! Informal meeting of energy and transport ministers (TTE). Arrivals, transport ministers Elisabeth Borne (37190062412) (cropped).jpg
Current prime minister, Élisabeth Borne of La République En Marche!

  Socialist (PS)  Centrist (REM)  Republican (UDF)   Gaullist (UNR; UDR; RPR)  Neo-Gaullist (UMP; LR)

NameTerm startTerm endPolitical partyPresident
Michel Debré 8 January 195914 April 1962 UNR Charles de Gaulle
Georges Pompidou 14 April 196210 July 1968 UNR then UDR
Maurice Couve de Murville 10 July 196820 June 1969 UDR
Jacques Chaban-Delmas 20 June 19696 July 1972 UDR Georges Pompidou
Pierre Messmer 6 July 197227 May 1974 UDR
Jacques Chirac (1st term)27 May 197426 August 1976 UDR Valéry Giscard d'Estaing
Raymond Barre 26 August 197621 May 1981 Independent
Pierre Mauroy 21 May 198117 July 1984 Socialist François Mitterrand
Laurent Fabius 17 July 198420 March 1986 Socialist
Jacques Chirac (2nd term)20 March 198610 May 1988 RPR
Michel Rocard 10 May 198815 May 1991 Socialist
Édith Cresson 15 May 19912 April 1992 Socialist
Pierre Bérégovoy 2 April 199229 March 1993 Socialist
Édouard Balladur 29 March 199318 May 1995 RPR
Alain Juppé 18 May 19953 June 1997 RPR Jacques Chirac
Lionel Jospin 3 June 19976 May 2002 Socialist
Jean-Pierre Raffarin 6 May 200231 May 2005 UMP
Dominique de Villepin 31 May 200517 May 2007 UMP
François Fillon 17 May 200715 May 2012 UMP Nicolas Sarkozy
Jean-Marc Ayrault 15 May 201231 March 2014 Socialist François Hollande
Manuel Valls 31 March 20146 December 2016 Socialist
Bernard Cazeneuve 6 December 201610 May 2017 Socialist
Édouard Philippe 15 May 20173 July 2020 LR then
Emmanuel Macron
(since 2017)
Jean Castex 3 July 202016 May 2022 REM
Élisabeth Borne 16 May 2022Incumbent REM

Source: "Former Prime Ministers of the Fifth Republic". Government of France.

Institutions of the Fifth Republic

Institutions of the Fifth Republic Institutions of the Fifth Republic.svg
Institutions of the Fifth Republic

See also


  1. The current Constitution of France does not specify a national emblem. [1] This emblem is used by the President, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, [2] and is on the cover of French passports. For other symbols, see National symbols of France.
  2. The current Constitution of France does not specify a national emblem. [3] This emblem is used by the President, Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs, [4] and is on the cover of French passports. For other symbols, see National symbols of France.
  3. For information about regional languages see Languages of France.
  4. The overseas regions and collectivities form part of the French telephone numbering plan, but have their own country calling codes: Guadeloupe +590; Martinique +596; French Guiana +594, Réunion and Mayotte +262; Saint Pierre and Miquelon +508. The overseas territories are not part of the French telephone numbering plan; their country calling codes are: New Caledonia +687, French Polynesia +689; Wallis and Futuna +681.
  5. In addition to .fr, several other Internet TLDs are used in French overseas départements and territories: .re, .mq, .gp, .tf, .nc, .pf, .wf, .pm, .gf and .yt. France also uses .eu, shared with other members of the European Union. The .cat domain is used in Catalan-speaking territories.

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Political history of France</span>

France is characterised by numerous political trends. This article provides an overview of some of them.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gaullism</span> French political stance combining republican values and pragmatism with a strong presidency

Gaullism is a French political stance based on the thought and action of World War II French Resistance leader Charles de Gaulle, who would become the founding President of the Fifth French Republic. De Gaulle withdrew French forces from the NATO Command structure, forced the removal of Allied bases from France, and initiated France's own independent nuclear deterrent programme. His actions were predicated on the view that France would not be subordinate to other nations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">French Fourth Republic</span> 1946–1958 government of France

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Constitution of France</span> Principles, institutions and law of political governance in France

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Union of Democrats for the Republic</span> Defunct political party in France

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Constitutional Council (France)</span> National constitutional ruling body of the French Republic

The Constitutional Council is the highest constitutional authority in France. It was established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958 to ensure that constitutional principles and rules are upheld. It is housed in the Palais-Royal, Paris. Its main activity is to rule on whether proposed statutes conform with the Constitution, after they have been voted by Parliament and before they are signed into law by the President of the Republic.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">French Community</span> 1958–1995 international organisation of former French colonies

The French Community was an association of former French colonies, most of which were in French Africa. In 1958 it replaced the French Union, which had itself succeeded the French colonial empire in 1946. While the Community remained formally in existence until 1995, when the French Parliament officially abolished it, it had effectively ceased to exist and function by the end of 1960, by which time all the African members had declared their independence and left it.

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">1958 French legislative election</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">1962 French presidential election referendum</span>

A referendum on the method of the election of the president was held in France on 28 October 1962. The question was whether to have the President of the French Republic elected by direct popular vote, rather than by an electoral college. It was approved by 62.3% of voters with a 77.0% turnout. The reform was controversial because it strengthened the executive at the expense of Parliament, and because of the disputed constitutionality of the procedure used.

The May 1958 crisis, also known as the Algiers putsch or the coup of 13 May, was a political crisis in France during the turmoil of the Algerian War of Independence (1954–1962) which led to the collapse of the Fourth Republic and its replacement by the Fifth Republic led by Charles de Gaulle who returned to power after a twelve-year absence. It started as a political uprising in Algiers on 13 May 1958 and then became a military coup d'état led by a coalition headed by Algiers deputy and reserve airborne officer Pierre Lagaillarde, French Generals Raoul Salan, Edmond Jouhaud, Jean Gracieux, and Jacques Massu, and by Admiral Philippe Auboyneau, commander of the Mediterranean fleet. The coup was supported by former Algerian Governor General Jacques Soustelle and his activist allies.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Article 49 of the French Constitution</span>

Article 49 of the French Constitution is an article of the French Constitution, the fundamental law of the Fifth French Republic. It sets out the political responsibility of the government towards the parliament. It is part of Title V: "On relations between the parliament and the government". It structures the political responsibility of the current administration of the executive branch towards the French legislative branch. This section of the French constitution outlines how the legislative system tries to maintain the stability of the executive branch by providing the branch with alternatives outside the parliament. This was included in the constitution so as to counter the faults of the Fourth Republic[2], such as successive rapid government takeovers, by providing the government with the ability to pass bills without the approbation of the parliament, possible through subsection 3 of Article 49.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">National Centre of Independents and Peasants</span> Political party in France

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Constitutional amendments under the French Fifth Republic</span>

In France, the French constitution of 4 October 1958 was revised many times in its early years. Changes in this fundamental law have become more frequent since the 1990s. This has had two major causes: the desire to modernize public institutions on one hand, and adapting to the European Union and to international law on the other.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Referendums in France</span>

In France there are two types of referendum:

There have been eleven presidential elections in France since the establishment of the Fifth Republic in 1958.


  1. Article II of the Constitution of France  (1958)
  2. "The lictor's fasces". 20 November 2012.
  3. Article II of the Constitution of France  (1958)
  4. "The lictor's fasces". 20 November 2012.
  5. 1 2 Loi constitutionnelle du 3 juin 1957 portant dérogation transitoire aux dispositions de l'article 90 de la Constitution (in French).
  6. Lessig, Lawrence (1993). "The Path of the Presidency". East European Constitutional Review. Fall 1993 / Winter 1994 (2/3): 104 via Chicago Unbound, University of Chicago Law School.
  7. Richburg, Keith B. (25 September 2000). "French President's Term Cut to Five Years". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  8. Kubicek, Paul (2015). European Politics. Routledge. pp. 154–56, 163. ISBN   978-1-317-34853-5.
  9. John E. Talbott, The War Without a Name: France in Algeria, 1954–1962 (1980).
  10. Jonathan Fenby, The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved (2010) pp 375–408.
  11. Philip M. Williams, Crisis and Compromise: Politics in the Fourth Republic (1958)
  12. "Fac-similé JO du 02/06/1958, page 05279 – Legifrance".
  13. Loi no 58–520 du 3 juin 1958 relative aux pleins pouvoirs (in French).
  14. Proclamation des résultats des votes émis par le peuple français à l'occasion de sa consultation par voie de référendum, le 28 septembre 1958
  15. Constitution , Journal Officiel de la République Française, 5 October 1958
  16. "Fac-similé JO du 09/01/1959, page 00673 – Legifrance".
  17. Cooper, Frederick (July 2008). "Possibility and Constraint: African Independence in Historical Perspective". Journal of African History. 49 (2): 167–196. doi:10.1017/S0021853708003915. S2CID   145273499.
  18. Abayomi Azikiwe, "50th Anniversary of the 'Year of Africa' 1960", Pan-African News Wire, 21 April 2010.
  19. Constitutional Council, Proclamation Archived 21 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine of the results of the 28 October 1962 referendum on the bill related to the election of the President of the Republic by universal suffrage
  20. Constitutional Council, Decision 62-20 DC Archived 10 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine of 6 November 1962
  21. F. L. Morton, Judicial Review in France: A Comparative Analysis, The American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 36, No. 1 (Winter, 1988), pp. 89–110
  22. M. Letourneur, R. Drago, The Rule of Law as Understood in France , The American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Spring, 1958), pp. 147–177
  23. Constitutional Council, Decision 71-44 DC Archived 10 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine of 16 July 1971
  24. Loi constitutionnelle no 74-904 du 29 octobre 1974 portant révision de l'article 61 de la Constitution (in French).
  25. Alain Lancelot, La réforme de 1974, avancée libéral ou progrès de la démocratie ?

Further reading

In French