French Fifth Republic

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French Republic

République française
Motto: "Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité" (French)
"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"
Anthem: "La Marseillaise"
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]

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).

Part of a series on the
History of France
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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 and many native Jews, 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. [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]

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.

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.

The 1958 constitution also replaced the French Union with the French Community, which allowed fourteen member territories (excluding 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, 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. [20] 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. [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

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

President of France Head of state of France

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

National Assembly (France) Lower house of the French Parliament under the Fifth Republic

The National Assembly is the lower house of the bicameral French Parliament under the Fifth Republic, the upper house being the Senate. The National Assembly's legislators are known as députés.

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.

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.

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.

Michel Debré Prime Minister of France (1959–1962)

Michel Jean-Pierre Debré was the first Prime Minister of the French Fifth Republic. He is considered the "father" of the current Constitution of France. He served under President Charles de Gaulle from 1959 to 1962. In terms of political personality, he was intense and immovable, with a tendency to rhetorical extremism.

Raymond Marcellin was a French politician.

Constitutional Council (France) 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 French Republic.

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.

Provisional Government of the French Republic former country

The Provisional Government of the French Republic (PGFR; French: Gouvernement provisoire de la République française was an interim government of Free France between 1944 and 1946 following the liberation of continental France after Operations Overlord and Dragoon, and lasted until the establishment of the French Fourth Republic. Its establishment marked the official restoration and re-establishment of a provisional French Republic, assuring continuity with the defunct French Third Republic.

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 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. A provision made possible through the subsection 3 of the article.

National Centre of Independents and Peasants political party in France

The National Centre of Independents and Peasants is a liberal-conservative and conservative-liberal political party in France, founded in 1951 by the merger of the National Centre of Independents with the Peasant Party and the Republican Party of Liberty.

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 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
  17. Constitutional Council, Decision 62-20 DC Archived 10 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine 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 Archived 10 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine 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