French Fifth Republic

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French Republic

République française
Motto: "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" (French)
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
Anthem: "La Marseillaise"
Location of  France  (dark green)

in the European Union  (light green)

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 1]
Government Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic
Emmanuel Macron
Édouard Philippe
Legislature Parliament
National Assembly
4 October 1958 (61 years)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Calling code +33 [upper-roman 2]
ISO 3166 code FR
Internet TLD .fr [upper-roman 3]

The Fifth Republic, France's current republican system of government, was established by Charles de Gaulle under the Constitution of the Fifth Republic on 4 October 1958. [1] The Fifth Republic emerged from the collapse of the Fourth Republic, replacing the former parliamentary republic with a semi-presidential, or dual-executive, system [2] that split powers between a prime minister as head of government and a president as head of state. [3] [4] 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"). [5]

France Republic in Europe with several non-European regions

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

A republic is a form of government in which the country is considered a "public matter", not the private concern or property of the rulers. The primary positions of power within a republic are not inherited, but are attained through democracy, oligarchy, or autocracy. It is a form of government under which the head of state is not a hereditary monarch.

Charles de Gaulle 18th President of the French Republic

Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French army officer and statesman who led the French Resistance against Nazi Germany in World War II and chaired the Provisional Government of the French Republic from 1944 to 1946 in order to reestablish democracy in France. In 1958, he came out of retirement when appointed President of the Council of Ministers by President René Coty. He was asked to rewrite the Constitution of France and founded the Fifth Republic after approval by referendum. He was elected President of France later that year, a position he was reelected to in 1965 and held until his resignation in 1969. He was the dominant figure of France during the early part of the Cold War era; his memory continues to influence French politics.


The Fifth Republic is France's third-longest political regime, after the hereditary and feudal monarchies of the Ancien Régime (Late Middle Ages – 1792) and the parliamentary Third Republic (1870–1940).

Hereditary monarchy is a form of government and succession of power in which the throne passes from one member of a royal family to another member of the same family. It represents an institutionalised form of nepotism.

Ancien Régime Monarchic, aristocratic, economical, cultural, social and political system established in the Kingdom of France from approximately the 15th century until the later 18th century

The Ancien Régime was the political and social system of the Kingdom of France from the Late Middle Ages until 1789, when hereditary monarchy and the feudal system of French nobility were abolished by the French Revolution. The Ancien Régime was ruled by the late Valois and Bourbon dynasties. The term is occasionally used to refer to the similar feudal systems of the time elsewhere in Europe. The administrative and social structures of the Ancien Régime were the result of years of state-building, legislative acts, internal conflicts, and civil wars, but they remained and the Valois Dynasty's attempts at re-establishing control over the scattered political centres of the country were hindered by the Huguenot Wars. Much of the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII and the early years of Louis XIV were focused on administrative centralization. Despite, however, the notion of "absolute monarchy" and the efforts by the kings to create a centralized state, the Kingdom of France retained its irregularities: authority regularly overlapped and nobles struggled to retain autonomy.

Late Middle Ages Period of European history between 1250 and 1500 CE

The Late Middle Ages or Late Medieval Period was the period of European history lasting from 1250 to 1500 AD. The Late Middle Ages followed the High Middle Ages and preceded the onset of the early modern period.

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History of France
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The trigger for the collapse of the French Fourth 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 the Metropole. The situation was complicated by those in Algeria, such as European settlers and many native Jews, who wanted to stay part of 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. [6] 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. [7]

French Fourth Republic government of France between 1946 and 1958

The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic that was in place from 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War to 1940 during World War II, and suffered many of the same problems. France adopted the constitution of the Fourth Republic on 13 October 1946.

Colonialism Creation, and maintenance of colonies by people from another territory

Colonialism is the policy of a nation seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of economic dominance. The colonising country seeks to benefit from the colonised country or land mass. In the process, colonisers impose their religion, economics, and medicinal practices on the natives. Colonialism is the relationship of domination of indigenous by foreign invaders where the latter rule in pursuit of their interests.

Decolonization or Decolonisation is the undoing of colonialism, the latter being the process whereby a nation establishes and maintains its domination on overseas territories. The concept particularly applies to the dismantlement, during the second half of the 20th century, of the colonial empires established prior to World War I throughout the world. Scholars focus especially on the movements in the colonies demanding independence, such as Creole nationalism.

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. [8]

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; [9] on 3 June 1958, a constitutional law empowered the new government to draft a new constitution of France, [1] 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 ]). [10] These plans were approved by more than 80% of those who voted in the referendum of 28 September 1958. [11] The new constitution was signed into law on 4 October 1958. [12] Since each new constitution established a new republic, France moved from the Fourth to the Fifth Republic.

President of France head of state of France

The President of France, officially the President of the French Republic, is the executive head of state of France in the French Fifth Republic. In French terms, the presidency is the supreme magistracy of the country.

Prime Minister of France head of government and of the Council of Ministers of France

The Prime Minister of the French Republic in the Fifth Republic is the head of government. During the Third and Fourth Republics, the head of government was formally called President of the Council of Ministers, generally shortened to President of the Council. Most non-French sources referred to the post as "prime minister" or "premier." The title "Prime Minister" became official with the founding of the Fifth Republic.

The head of government is either the highest or second highest official in the executive branch of a sovereign state, a federated state, or a self-governing colony, who often presides over a cabinet, a group of ministers or secretaries who lead executive departments. "Head of government" is often differentiated from "head of state", as they may be separate positions, individuals, or roles depending on the country.

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. [13] 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.

René Coty 17th President of the French Republic

Jules Gustave René Coty was President of France from 1954 to 1959. He was the second and last president of the Fourth French Republic.

Electoral college Set of electors who are selected to elect a candidate to a particular office

An electoral college is a set of electors who are selected to elect a candidate to a particular office. Often these represent different organizations, political parties, or entities, with each organization, political party or entity represented by a particular number of electors or with votes weighted in a particular way.

Constitutional Council (France) National constitutional ruling body of France

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.

The 1958 constitution also replaced the French Union with the French Community, which allowed fourteen member territories (these did not include Algeria) to assert their independence. [14] 1960 became known as the "Year of Africa" because of this wave of newly independent states. [15] 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. [16] The Constitutional Council declined to rule on the constitutionality of the referendum. [17]

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. [18] 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. [19] In 1971, 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 declared partially unconstitutional a statute because it violated freedom of association. [20] However, only the president of the Republic, the prime minister, and the president of each house of Parliament could ask for a constitutional review before a statute was signed into law, which greatly reduced 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. In 1974, a constitutional amendment widened this prerogative to 60 members of the National Assembly or 60 members of the senate. [21] From that date, the opposition has been able to have controversial new statutes examined for constitutionality. [22]

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 b. 192619 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, Edouard Philippe of Les Republicains Edouard Philippe MSC 2018 (cropped).jpg
Current prime minister, Édouard Philippe of Les Républicains

  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 2017Incumbent LR then
Emmanuel Macron
(since 2017)

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
Schema of the flow of power in the Fifth Republic Schema pouvoirs Ve republique France.png
Schema of the flow of power in the Fifth Republic

See also


  1. For information about regional languages see Languages of France.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Georges Pompidou 19th President of the French Republic

Georges Jean Raymond Pompidou was a French politician who served as President of France from 1969 until his death in 1974. He previously was Prime Minister of France from 1962 to 1968—the longest tenure in the position's history. He had long been a top aide to President Charles de Gaulle; as head of state, he was a moderate conservative who repaired France's relationship with the United States and maintained positive relations with the newly independent former colonies in Africa.

Gaullism French political stance based on the thought and action of World War II French Resistance leader General Charles de Gaulle

Gaullism is a French political stance based on the thought and action of World War II French Resistance leader General Charles de Gaulle, who would become the founding President of the Fifth French Republic.

Constitution of France French Constitution adopted in 1958

The current Constitution of France was adopted on 4 October 1958. It is typically called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and replaced that of the Fourth Republic, dating from 1946. Charles de Gaulle was the main driving force in introducing the new constitution and inaugurating the Fifth Republic, while the text was drafted by Michel Debré. Since then, the constitution has been amended twenty-four times, through 2008.

In France, the Gaullist Party is usually used to refer to the largest party professing to be Gaullist. Gaullism claim to transcend the left-right divide but in practice the current Gaullist party is the centre-right Republicans.

Jacques Chaban-Delmas French Gaullist politician

Jacques Chaban-Delmas was a French Gaullist politician. He served as Prime Minister under Georges Pompidou from 1969 to 1972. He was the Mayor of Bordeaux from 1947 to 1995 and a deputy for the Gironde département.

Raymond Marcellin was a French politician.

Popular Republican Movement political party

The Popular Republican Movement was a Christian-democratic political party in France during the Fourth Republic. Its base was the Catholic vote and its leaders included Georges Bidault, Robert Schuman, Paul Coste-Floret, Pierre-Henri Teitgen and Pierre Pflimlin. It played a major role in forming governing coalitions, in emphasizing compromise and the middle ground, and in protecting against a return to extremism and political violence. It played an even more central role in foreign policy, having charge of the Foreign Office for ten years and launching plans for the creation of the European Coal and Steel Community. which grew into the European Union. Its voter base gradually dwindled in the 1950s and it had little power by 1954.

1965 French presidential election

The 1965 French presidential election, held on 5 December and 19 December, was the first direct presidential election in the Fifth Republic and the first since the Second Republic in 1848. It had been widely expected that incumbent president Charles de Gaulle would be re-elected, but the election was notable for the unexpectedly strong performance of his left-wing challenger François Mitterrand.

1958 French legislative election

The French legislative elections took place on 23 and 30 November 1958 to elect the first National Assembly of the French Fifth Republic.

1962 French presidential election referendum

A referendum on the direct 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. However, the reform was controversial because it strengthened the executive at the expense of Parliament, and because of the disputed constitutionality of the procedure used.

May 1958 crisis in France

The May 1958 crisis was a political crisis in France during the turmoil of the Algerian War of Independence (1954–62) 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.

Article 49 of the French Constitution

Article 49 of the French Constitution is an article of the French Constitution, the fundamental law of the French Fifth Republic. It sets out the political responsibility of the government before the parliament. It is part of Title V: "On the relations between the parliament and the government".

Marie-France Garaud is a French politician.

Constitutional amendments under the French Fifth Republic

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.

Referendums in France

In France there are two types of referendum:

Presidential elections in France

Presidential elections in France determine who will serve as the President of France for the next several years.

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


  1. 1 2 Loi constitutionnelle du 3 juin 1958 portant dérogation transitoire aux dispositions de l'article 90 de la Constitution (in French).
  2. 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.
  3. Richburg, Keith B. (25 September 2000). "French President's Term Cut to Five Years". The Washington Post. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  4. "12 People Who Ruined France". Politico. 29 December 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  5. Kubicek, Paul (2015). European Politics. Routledge. pp. 154–56, 163. ISBN   978-1-317-34853-5.
  6. John E. Talbott, The War Without a Name: France in Algeria, 1954-1962 (1980).
  7. Jonathan Fenby, The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved (2010) pp 375-408.
  8. Philip M. Williams, Crisis and Compromise: Politics in the Fourth Republic (1958)
  9. "Fac-similé JO du 02/06/1958, page 05279 - Legifrance".
  10. Loi no 58-520 du 3 juin 1958 relative aux pleins pouvoirs (in French).
  11. Proclamation des résultats des votes émis par le peuple français à l'occasion de sa consultation par voie de référendum, le 28 septembre 1958
  12. Constitution , Journal Officiel de la République Française, 5 October 1958
  13. "Fac-similé JO du 09/01/1959, page 00673 - Legifrance".
  14. Cooper, Frederick (July 2008). "Possibility and Constraint: African Independence in Historical Perspective". Journal of African History. 49 (2): 167–196. doi:10.1017/S0021853708003915.
  15. Abayomi Azikiwe, "50th Anniversary of the 'Year of Africa' 1960", Pan-African News Wire, 21 April 2010.
  16. Constitutional Council, Proclamation 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
  17. Constitutional Council, Decision 62-20 DC of 6 November 1962
  18. 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
  19. 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
  20. Constitutional Council, Decision 71-44 DC of 16 July 1971
  21. Loi constitutionnelle no 74-904 du 29 octobre 1974 portant révision de l'article 61 de la Constitution (in French).
  22. Alain Lancelot, La réforme de 1974, avancée libéral ou progrès de la démocratie ?

Further reading

In French