This Day in History — France Forms 4th Republic

degaulle_bidault.gifOn October 13, 1946 France adopted its 4th Constitution following the destabilizing episodes that daunted the country during World War II. While attempts were made to hedge the volatility of parliamentary coalitions and decrease cabinet turnover, France fell victim to 26 government changes during the 12 years of the 4th Republic.

During this period of unstable government, France was also daunted by diffulties in their colonial adminstration as Algeria was vying for independence. The government’s failure to support the French Army as it struggled against pesky Algiers forces nearly lead to a military junta against the parliament’s three party coalition. Gaullists within the French Army, including General Jacques Massu threatened an invasion of France if Charles De Gaulle wasn’t placed in charge as head of government. Their wishes came true. De Gaulle returned to power in 1958, centralizing and increasing the authority of executive power as the first President under France’s 5th Republic.

One potential downfall of the power arrangement of the 5th republic are periods of executive paralysis brought about from cohabitation of the nation’s two executives. With a Prime Minister accountable to parliament and a President elected through universal suffrage, the designation of a governmental head from the opposite party possesses the propensity of wavering uncertainy and confusion of the elecotorate to who should be held responsible for the political consequences of bad governance.   

With Nicolas Sarkozy rapidly making political and social reforms, will the dual executive finally meet its an end? Institut d’études politiques professor Raphaël Hadas-Lebel says no. But look for Sarkozy to make the necessary reforms within the 5th Republic to fit his compelling agenda. 

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2 Responses

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