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Amazon Rapids Fun stories for kids on the go. ComiXology Thousands of Digital Comics. In a sense, countering a military coup with constitutional revision was a clear demonstration of the utter ineffectiveness of the government. Late in the night of Monday the 26th, de Gaulle and Pflimlin met to discuss the situation. De Gaulle could do no more without either supporting the coup or abandoning his strategic and symbolic advantage by rallying to the defence of the republic he detested. The government seemed to have confirmed both its own powerlessness and his centrality.
He too, however, had run out of his own invented time, and therefore would soon face the choice of becoming a Fourth Republic politician or a putschist. What he did, once again, was to perform an act of discourse that, once again, had no base at all in the reality of power, but mercifully for him, did in the perceptions of all the other actors involved. He simply publicly pretended, after having left his stalemate meeting with Pflimlin, that he was in complete political command, whereas he was not in command of anything at all except perhaps via some of his wilder conspirator lieutenants such as Delbeque a potentially catastrophic coup attempt.
He pretended the opposite: that he commanded republican legitimacy. This symbolic self-depiction would become a national perception once his own self-legitimizing had been transferred to the level of the whole polity. This was all the more impressive given that he had no power in either camp. Once again, the politicians reacted against de Gaulle. The socialists voted a motion of to three against him. Such reactions again increased not his immediate legitimacy but his symbolic presence. All the left wing organizations followed suit, and on the next day, Wednesday, a rally of between a quarter and half a million marched in Paris against the putschists.
For some, though not all, it was also a demonstration against de Gaulle. And the vacation of power was increased on the same day as the demonstration against the putschists because Pflimlin resigned along with his whole government. De Gaulle met in secret, this time with the Presidents of the Assembly and Senate but, as with Pflimlin, there was no outcome. He decided to call de Gaulle himself to be appointed as Prime Minister and form a government.
He threatened to resign if this did not happen. De Gaulle of course accepted, and proceeded in an utterly Fourth Republic manner to meet all the party leaders except the communists and establish a government that included all the party bigwigs, appointing Mollet, Pinay, Pflimlin and others, and not appointing Soustelle at this point — and when he did, not for long. To have turned an almost totally hostile political class into a largely sympathetic one in the space of a week was astonishing. And over the next three days with three more majority votes, de Gaulle got everything he had ever wanted: special powers to deal with the Algerian crisis, the right to rule by decree on all but the most fundamental rights and liberties and electoral law for a period of six months, and the right to draw up a new constitution.
How had all this been possible? If we can answer that question it will help us understand the nature of the republic that was coming into being. Understanding the new republic France in was a rapidly changing society. Based upon an economic boom that had been going on for over ten years and would continue for nearly another 20, although it is true that was not without economic difficulties ,17 the late s were witness to rapid social and economic change.
This socially, culturally and economically rich context was the paradoxical setting for a government in paralysis and under threat of a military coup, and even civil war. Even if the government had had more grip on itself and on political power, it was extremely uncertain whether it would have the support of the police, 22 Political Leadership in France gendarmerie, and CRS, if the situation exploded, let alone the army, which was threatening to invade its own mainland.
It was as if everyone understood the language but had different interpretations of the specific gestures and utterances. The Algiers events seemed immediately readable — once again, force was being used to move against a weak regime. The nearest parallel seemed to be 6 February In this case of course, the Mediterranean would have to be crossed, although this too almost happened.
And the Rousseauist notion of an all-embracing General Will underpins French republicanism — distinguishing it from other forms of democracy. In many ways, this is where legitimacy lies The Gaullist Settlement and French Politics 23 in the French political imagination, and this in all ideologies; and if one bears this in mind, we can see that a great deal of the manoeuvring, the claims, the mises en garde, the reassurances, and so on made by each and all between 13 May and 1 June are actually about unity as opposed to division, or rather claims to legitimacy in the name of unity.
This was the aim: that effective politics was to be the expression of an all embracing mythical national unity. Parisian political legitimacy. The representatives of the former were almost illegal but not quite totally; the latter almost incapable of action and without authority. De Gaulle was therefore not a republican in the classic or received sense, but was no less committed to the republic for that, in that republicanism, the overwhelming choice of the French at this moment of history, was necessary to his being on the side of unity.
And it is this personally envisioned notion of unity that would inform the republic henceforth and become the essential condition of its strength. We can add that this is an extraordinary political phenomenon — a person who, in a crisis, refuses to condemn or endorse either side almost an imperative in crises and who posits himself as the transcendent site of legitimacy. This will become the true source of legitimacy of the new republic. In the almost empty space opened up to symbolic politics in May , rhetoric became crucially important, and then a major feature of the new republic.
It is the discourse and rhetoric of individuals, echoing, interpolating, bringing onto the scene, the mythologies of unity, greatness, strength, happiness, extraordinary and exemplary leadership, and so on, in dramatic and arresting ways, that become, in part, the currency of the new republic. It is essential to our understanding to recognize that these were all discursive gambles de Gaulle made, and depended upon the shared mythological grammar in the first instance, and upon people reacting to them, in the second.
It is not to speculate fruitlessly to mention but a few things that could have happened or not happened; and this not to know what might have happened but in order to underscore the contingency of what did happen. What each of these semicounterfactuals shares is that each involved nodal actions by individuals.
And it was the myriad individual actions which were so consequential. Let us look at these three crucial discursive acts again, for a moment. They have generally been recognized in the literature as crucial. The alternative, however, would have been his irrelevance. It is also the case that the ire was, in large part, from those who wanted him to denounce the rebellion, but by demanding that he do so, legitimated him, ascribing to him power over the rebellion, and a potential republican legitimacy.
We have to understand it as a performance. These made up the context. The performance itself brought the question of perceived character decisively into the beginnings of the Fifth Republic; for de Gaulle was not at all as people expected him to be: he was relaxed, urbane, generous, spirited, funny, and responsive, and this was the persona that the French and the political class, and the military, and the national and the international media20 saw and heard on newsreels, on radio and in papers and in magazines, and through personal exchanges and hearsay.
It was this new aspect of character, this new persona, that accompanied, replaced, vied with, complemented as it were, the highminded aloof character that would have himself the incarnation of France itself. The ambivalence associated with character and with discourse, and the performance of persona, brought so consequentially into the mainframe of politics, would play a central role here, in the aftermath, and then throughout the Fifth Republic.
All of these questions are necessary and their answers informative of the nature of and the republic although none of them has ever been answered with clarity.
Ambivalence feeds into the political process at the founding moment and then at every moment. Ambivalence and ambiguity do not just lie in the actor or spectator, they lie in the language itself: this is in part why de Gaulle could be all things to all people; and the register he used quite naturally involves striking, yet ambivalent, concepts: France, greatness, the nation, and so on, but even apparently more straightforward terms such as Republic are rich in ambiguity.
Add to this the desire on the part of a listener, member of the public, party leader, putschist etc that he say something they wish to hear, and ambiguity, paradoxically, is increased. The ambivalence or polyvalence of intention, accident, of language itself, and of listener reception, are all made more consequential by the emphasis that was put, during the drama of , upon what individuals said, should have said or did not say. The second observation is that de Gaulle could only have succeeded in a polity and political culture in which he and the things he believed in were recognized and understood as existing by others — or these latter could at least be persuaded of the existence of these things, whether they be in the military, the political class, or the general population: that is to say, a polity that subscribes to the notion that the state needs to be united to be strong, that exceptional individuals exist and can change history, that the notions of Gaullism had a currency in French political culture.
Two related phenomena must be taken into consideration in any appraisal, and seen as significantly informative: a relative social stability and economic expansion, on the one hand, and the role of opinion on the other. This is not wrong, but to compare the socio-economic and the political in this way explains very little.
What this wrong view does, however, is provide us with a very interesting question, namely, what was the relationship between de Gaulle and his context? We can say that social stability and economic expansion do in fact set a stage for de Gaulle. Unlike other regime changes in France, there had been no economic collapse, no war, no massive dislocation, no famine etc.
This aspect of the Fifth Republic has continued up to the present day. For example, as we have noted, commentators often refer to public opinion as late as January assuming de Gaulle would never return to power. How are we to appraise the value of public opinion if it can change so rapidly? What does it mean for our understanding of opinion if it can go from near ignorance to devotional followership in a few months? What should we think? The overall result of this was to alter the nature of political legitimacy in the closing months of the Fourth Republic and the opening months of the Fifth Republic.
In a great deal of literature on — and this becomes the standard for analysis of the Fifth Republic from then onwards — there is great emphasis upon understanding the juxta- The Gaullist Settlement and French Politics 29 position of the parliamentary and the presidential, and on a wider scale, republicanism and personalism or personal leadership. These preoccupations have often masked the truly interesting point about the events of and their aftermath, namely the evolving nature of French political legitimacy. It remains within republicanism generally, but its modalities are fundamentally altered.
The dramatically heightened level at which political relationships are imagined and enacted through symbolic politics is carried into the new republic. We shall analyse the reasons for this below, but can say that procedurally also the constitution was part of a dynamic and dramatic process. On 2 June de Gaulle had the special powers voted since to the Prime Minister to try to deal with the Algerian crisis, new full powers for six months, and the go-ahead for a government-led constitutional law to be ratified by referendum.
De Gaulle maintained an enigmatic distance from his own constitution. It is equally the case that his distance from everything was an imperative. This is not to say that there was no input from others, particularly Mollet, but the true significance of all this lies elsewhere. The point of wider significance, however, is that republicanism as a doctrine could not really fault de Gaulle at this point. If a doctrine parliamentary republicanism does not understand that it — and its rivals, here Gaullism — is a discourse as well as a doctrine, that is, has potentially far wider connotations and implications than its formal elaboration, it is vulnerable to discourse itself.
This means that the question: will you maintain a parliamentary regime? The far more consequential question: will you by your complex comportment introduce what we might call romanticized mythical leadership into the centre of the new institutional configuration and its practice? From its June beginnings, the constitution was drafted, debated, modified, submitted to referendum and became law within three months.
De Gaulle was called to give evidence to the consultative committee, chaired by Paul Reynaud. On this last point, of The Gaullist Settlement and French Politics 31 course, the constitution would — in true republican fashion — be submitted to referendum, for sanction by the people.
- Rejoindre Macron, c'est trahir De Gaulle - Causeur?
- George: A Gentleman of the Road.
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More, in fact, than a plebiscite: an act of anointing by the people. Subscription to doctrine precludes discursive attention to the wider symbolic implications of a political act, and the new space given to persona meant it would now influence greatly what was actually meant by republicanism itself. For de Gaulle, such a charge probably meant just about everything excluding concern for the price of artichokes. Few identified the ambiguity in the language then, and in relation to which meaning is elaborated.
Upon a de Gaulle, that is to say a leader who is allowed to establish a particular kind of political authority based upon a mythical relation with several entities France, people, nation, state, destiny , the words of a constitution bestow magical powers. Authority to act is conferred not only upon the office of the presidency but also upon the persona of the President. There was further ambivalence in the public presentation of this constitution. In many ways, the event was what all observers said it was: a republican spectacle, of a kind not seen since the late nineteenth century.
The date was the anniversary of the Third Republic 4 September. Observers stressed how carefully republican all this was. The symbolism, however, is all this and more. In fact, film and photographs of the event do not seem republican at all to the Anglo-Saxon eye, but, rather disconcertingly, darkly imperial, as do the towering podium and the, as if, praetorian guard.
Over and above this spectacular symbolism, moreover, we need to stress that this was the public celebration not just of a constitution but of personal leadership.
Fifty years of constitutional evolution in France: The amendments and beyond
The two would be difficult to counter because in part, recovered memory of de Gaulle was now that of a man who through courage, fortitude, and lonely certainty, was now, at last, celebrating his mystical union with France as public spectacle. Over and above this, de Gaulle used this occasion as a very personal plea, a warning that for him, and France, and the republic, this referendum on the constitution had to win. De Gaulle made this, like most of his ceremonial moments, one in which emotion was fired, but with a sense not only of the magnificence but also the fragility of his envisioned France and the necessary centrality of himself.
Opinion polls at the time suggested that 50 per cent of the French — as with most texts of this kind — had not even looked at the draft constitution they would vote upon, and only 15 per cent claimed to have properly read it at all. Cast in this way, except for the PCF and minimal intellectual opposition , it became a text that almost could not be voted against.
On what grounds? And of course the political parties had themselves helped make this constitution, even though, in reality, they were almost all split over it and the events surrounding it. Not for the last time in fact, not for the last time by any means, would either opposing or supporting de Gaulle really only benefit de Gaulle himself. Little good fortune would it bring them. It was as if the surges of opinion were now right in the centre of politics, aggravating the stresses the parties were under and in some cases, tearing them asunder.
Reduced to virtual electoral annihilation, many little groups, the PSA, UGS, and so on, and a myriad of individuals would criss-cross one another through political clubs and little think tanks, and small political parties, and become the seeds albeit at this time without seedbeds of doctrinal renewal of the left, of left Catholicism, of the trade unions, and of the right, and the extreme right, in the post-de Gaulle Fifth Republic.
Many of the brightest, most modernizing and forward thinking political actors were against the now apparently unstoppable tide of political renewal.
Naissance de la radio- et télédiffusion
From the referendum triumph, the political process then moved immediately into its next phase, one that would tie the non-Gaullist political parties even further into the contradictory situation they found themselves in. We should add that his apparent distance was only apparent. He was now synonymous with the new republic. His will, his intentions, however, were ambivalent.
The party had, therefore, to become a party that had no views of its own, because even his anticipated views could not be depended upon. The first casualty was his greatest supporter, Jacques Soustelle. Soustelle would happily have taken the presidency of the party, but de Gaulle himself imposed an administrative secretary general Roger Frey. And it was Frey and his entourage who chose the candidates for the forthcoming legislative elections as would Malraux, another utter devotee, four years later.
The voting system chosen during the course of the summer and therefore very hurriedly put in place resembled that of the Third Republic. Any of the many forms of proportional representation was excluded because it might reproduce the Fourth Republic and favour the PCF. The two round, single-member constituency system with a run-off one week later and usually leading to standings down and therefore run-offs between two candidates, had strange but very formative effects on the Fifth Republic.
It is arguable that de Gaulle himself was unaware of the effects it would have. It gave him his highly successful Gaullist party, and would establish the party political basis of a bi-polar, and potentially bi-partisan and stable political regime in which the political parties would play a role that was far more positive than de Gaulle could have imagined. Such local fiefdoms, and local politics generally, became the breeding ground for a new breed of personalized politicians, even though at this time they gained their seats solely through association with de Gaulle.
The newly formed Gaullists were the real winners. Their success was amplified dramatically by the two round system; and the Gaullists controlled most of the state machinery for distributing publicity, commandeering the airwaves, and had the means to finance their campaign. And the UNR stood unequivocally for the new republic. The other parties who had stood for the constitution now had to campaign as if against it. On the first round of 23 November, the PCF vote as in the referendum fell by one third to just above 19 per cent. The The Gaullist Settlement and French Politics 35 socialists and the MRP held on to their vote of just over 15 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
Ahead of all three came the UNR, only two months old, with over 20 per cent. The abstention rate was One week later on 30 November , in round two the PCF was decimated. In , it had seats. With the electoral loss we have indicated, one might assume therefore a fall from to By the same or similar token, the socialists and MRP who as we have seen remained steady in round one compared to , lost respectively, 50 and 30 they held, respectively, 44 and 57 seats.
He took office with A year earlier he had himself assumed he would never return to power. On 8 January power was formally handed over to him by the outgoing President Coty, whose decision the previous May had helped bring de Gaulle to power. It had, of course, and 36 Political Leadership in France de Gaulle can only be properly understood with reference to it. Several more events marked the end of the sequence. The socialists soon moved into opposition.
A shift would begin however that would eventually push all but the Gaullists and their close supporters out of the nest, some of them for a decade, some of them forever. In the case of the army and public opinion, he went from having particular elements support him for one set of reasons to others supporting him for a different set of reasons, arguably the opposite ones. By , he had almost got to the other side, as it were. By , all of them were now against him for a range of reasons, and this is still crucial.
It is worth pausing here to note that the bitterness felt by some bordered on the heartbreak of those who had been the most devoted. The emotional intensity of allegiance to de Gaulle by many cannot be overstated. Many of them were the most intelligent, theoretically informed and intellectually interesting exponents of Gaullism. The left of the party, however, never really developed into a significant force, perhaps because of a fundamental contradiction between a left wing philosophy and the focus on an individual, but mainly because by the nature of the UNR had already been defined.
The most loyal became the least ideological and the most politically practical, acting unconditionally for de Gaulle, and efficiently on his behalf. Against the UNR were the communists who, although reduced to ten seats in , remained a mass party and in clear opposition to de Gaulle. Having said this we need to recognize that at various moments they lost swathes of their voters to de Gaulle — up to 30 per cent in the referendum as well as in later referenda. And even they — against the putschists in — came out in support of him. He had also worked reasonably well with the PCF in the closing stages of the war; and immediately after the war had communist ministers in his government, and was on reasonable to good terms with the leaders of the Soviet Union and was respected by them, and was — increasingly after — identified by many Third World states and independence movements as non-aligned.
Even within their own ranks, therefore, the communists were never able to rid themselves of a reluctant respect for their arch-enemy. Nevertheless, the PCF was able to survive and prosper as the clearest anti-de Gaulle movement. It did this by portraying him as the new figurehead of a brutal capitalism, which in France, given the uneven- — The Consolidation and Evolution of the Fifth Republic 39 ness of the spread of much of the prosperity in the s and s was true in part.
Politically and electorally it was insignificant in terms of the political drama unfolding in They represented a France that at the national level was about to be overtaken by a rapidly changing society and polity. It was only from early , therefore, that the SFIO could really move against his government; and one had the sense that when they did move against him they did so precipitously, and without proper reflection upon strategy, and even less upon the nature of the republic they found themselves in. On top of this, on many issues, the UNR and MRP who had wanted de Gaulle to lead them in , and some of whom were with de Gaulle in the Resistance were in broad agreement, and in terms of electorate were in fairly direct competition with one another.
Moreover, as in the CNIP, Algeria had created serious stress within the MRP, and several of its ministers were in government in and in 40 Political Leadership in France disagreement with parts of their own party. Any gestures of anti-Europeanism from de Gaulle would throw the party into further disarray. By , it was clear that the Algerian drama was almost over.
De Gaulle had been returned to power to solve Algeria, but had done the opposite of what had been anticipated. As his strategy moved towards accepting Algerian independence he took the French population with him, strengthening his support over the divided political parties through two referendums, the first in January on the question of Algerian self-determination over 75 per cent yes , the second in April on independence over 90 per cent yes. As French opinion followed him, the parties also followed with varying degrees of enthusiasm. His shifts in policy involved endless speeches, ambivalence, silences, ambiguities, and then action.
As the pieds-noirs and elements of the army saw their own stars waning, they reacted, first with a week of rioting January , then a military putsch April , then with an OAS terrorist campaign of increasing brutality and nihilism. With the April referendum, the drama was over. Algeria gained its independence.
1969–74: Gaullism Without de Gaulle
Nearly all of the European Algerians returned heartbroken and bitter to France. De Gaulle then turned immediately to the political challenges facing his authority, legitimacy and political capital. And the test was about to take place.
Here is one of scores of examples of how de Gaulle used his press conferences as political performances to consequential political effect. To move away from some forms of support, to move towards new policy positions, de Gaulle used himself. The six MRP ministers in his government immediately resigned. He had his own plan for future collaboration with the UNR, and he refused.
Nevertheless, the new Pompidou government was now essentially a UNR government. On 8 June , this time in a television broadcast, de Gaulle alluded to the idea of a constitutional reform regarding the mode of election of the President at the next presidential election. On 22 August, there was another assassination attempt there had been a previous one on 8 September Such a dramatic event and his own calm response came at the perfect moment.
He repeated this in a message to Parliament on 2 October This time, all the political parties except the UNR opposed it. Paul Reynaud, for example, spoke stirringly in favour of the spirit of republicanism. Instead of replacing Pompidou with a new Prime Minister who could create a new majority more reflective of the prevailing majority, the President maintained Pompidou in post and dissolved the National Assembly.
The new elections to the National Assembly would fall immediately after the referendum that had provoked the motion of no confidence in the government in the first place 18 and 25 November, the referendum being set for 28 October. There was no basis in his own constitution for what he was doing; what he was doing was asserting the centrality of his own action.
The two factors that had helped bring him to power, fear of the army and despair over Algeria, were, by , no longer issues. In several of his broadcasts at this time, de Gaulle stated that if he lost or even if his majority was an unimpressive one he would resign and return to his self-imposed internal exile. Most observers remarked at the time and later upon the kind of blackmail such declarations exercise; that they amounted to frightening an electorate and almost threatening it. In fact, what they also did was to focus upon the true object target and prize of the election, himself.
With all sectors of political society against him and the threat of a coup or war now passed, and the fact that this really was a leap into the unknown for the republic, if de Gaulle were to win, it would be a stunning victory against the odds. And he won. There was the usual quarter of abstentions This was his lowest referendum achievement. Nevertheless, nearly 62 per cent, given the opposition and the audacity of his undertaking, was a breathtaking victory for his new style republic.
With every element except the UNR of the political elite against him, he had won with the help of the mass of the French, dramatically demon- — The Consolidation and Evolution of the Fifth Republic 43 strating that the republic was based upon an unmediated relationship between the leader and the people. In he had set up the republic in a kind of alliance with the political elites. In , the people confirmed through their vote that the republic truly belonged to him. And just as in , the dramatic referendum was immediately followed by legislative elections.
The abstention rate for the first round of the election on 18 November , rose to 31 per cent. Between and , largely because of the highly personalized referendums, all elections and participation in them was seen as an indication of support for de Gaulle. No party in the history of French electoral politics had ever crossed the 30 per cent barrier. All the other parties, except the PCF who increased their vote slightly on because of the understanding with the SFIO, either 44 Political Leadership in France just about held on to their poor score or did worse, in some cases far worse.
We should remember that over a third of the —62 National Assembly majority had been made up of the now hostile CNIP. This non-Gaullist right almost disappeared, with in total a disparate 55 seats, hundreds of seats down from its former glory. It was as if in de Gaulle had thumped down through the National Assembly and devastated the left, and now in had thumped again and devastated the right.
Let us look at the post period under three consequentially interrelated headings: Gaullism and the Gaullists; de Gaulle on the world stage; the Left opposition. The paradox is that a condition of drama is that it cannot, by definition, be continuous.
Dramatic moments, particularly if they end in triumph, are followed by calm, if not bathos. Those left minding the shop seemed consequently rather dull. Such a phenomenon has political consequences, for negotiating drama as we have seen in both and and the pauses between it; creating it, responding to it, being ready for it, knowing how to profit from it or its absence, all these become part of understanding a now very complex political process. This inter- — The Consolidation and Evolution of the Fifth Republic 45 relationship between drama and calm would have formative political influence throughout the next 50 years.
And for the present, bathos descended upon political life. In one sense it was deliberate. Pompidou represented, particularly after the November elections, the acquiescence of parliamentary politics in presidential politics, in a form of personality politics that saw the effacing of all personalities bar one.
Gaullism and the Gaullists One of the striking things about the government and the UNR, given their single purpose, was how distinct from one another they were. They were distinct phenomena that were often not that compatible. The new Prime Minister, Georges Pompidou, was not even a member of the party at this time. But the relationship was not a capricious one. Pompidou remained Prime Minister from until after the elections. The nature of power and authority in the new regime, however, was defined by de Gaulle. His press conference of 1 January was unequivocal in its stress upon the undisputed supremacy of the President.
He also chaired the all-important Conseil des ministres Cabinet throughout his presidency. Nevertheless, no government after was overturned, and the government had a rock solid parliamentary presidential majority. The UNR itself, however, faced difficult times, and behind the smooth public face, had very difficult beginnings. It too saw no less than seven general secretaries in the 11 year period from — First of all was the question of its own identity. It had 86, members in its early days, an impressive figure that grew from none. It was a mass party, but one that would group sufficient cadres for the tens of thousands of elected posts nationally available to the new party.
Nor did the UNR replace the ideologies it lost — its left wing version never took hold. This is an extremely problematic issue for a political party, — The Consolidation and Evolution of the Fifth Republic 47 and it replaced ideology with the pursuit of power itself.
In many ways the UNR became the political ideology of those who wanted to modernize the French economy, open France up to international trade, and modernize business and industry. For the moment, and of necessity therefore, Gaullism, the philosophy of the most passionate and dramatic of political actors, lost its passion and its drama. The colonizing of the state machinery, of industry, of all walks of life by the UNR, turned UDR in , would lead to the accusation, indeed the generalized perception, that there was, by the s, a UDR-state.
In spite of his triumphs, the inevitable negotiation with the prevailing political forces both domestically and internationally meant that even de Gaulle was in a perpetual state of political advance, concession, advantage, and retreat. The Fourth Republic had structured social conflict along classical lines of political sociology, expressing if not resolving, the myriad conflicts of interests and class that haunted France as it entered a very rapid period of 48 Political Leadership in France modernization and social change after World War Two.
The French experience with the Constitution of , however, allows us to focus on an aspect of constitutionalism that is equally, if not more, important in the long run: the entrenchment of constitutionalism in a nation that lacked that tradition, and was even hostile to it,  through the peaceful evolution of institutional structures and the expansion and judicial enforcement of protected values. The dynamics of this constitutional evolution, occurring as it did through a combination of constitutional amendment, constitutional jurisprudence, and the practice of established institutions allows us to observe the process of legal adaptation to new political, economic, and social perspectives and realities that is often so troublesome for political societies.
The establishment of a particular constitutional order does not mark the end of history, politics both within the established order and challenges to it , or economic, social, demographic, ideological, or cultural change. This is so important because the replacement of one constitutional regime with another usually occurs after a period of instability, often accompanied by violence, during which the established order is unable to adapt to or to accommodate change.
In response to these changes and the perceived inability of existing political structures to accommodate them, many people called for the adoption of a new Constitution and the establishment of a Sixth Republic. In July , the Constitution was substantially amended to take account of these new developments, needs, ideas, and values.
The principal thrusts of the July amendments were to better define and control the power of the executive, to increase the powers of Parliament, and to better assure the protection of fundamental rights. The American and French experiences provide excellent examples of how different constitutional systems react to change. For the most part, the American system has been successful in containing change within established structures. Contending forces contest their interests and views within the legislative and judicial chambers of government, rather than in the streets or on the barricades.
This is so largely because of the role played by the United States Supreme Court in interpreting the Constitution. The most notable failure of the American constitutional system to accommodate contending forces within established structures was the crisis which ultimately led to the Civil War.
The constitutional system that emerged from the crucible of the Civil War, with the addition of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, and the enactment of numerous Reconstruction laws, fundamentally altered the American social contract and in fact might—if the United States shared the French propensity for rupture and numeration rather than seeking to preserve the appearance of continuity —very well be called the Second Republic.
Until the establishment of the Fifth Republic in , and really not until the famous Freedom of Association decision of the Constitutional Council in  and the equally crucial constitutional amendment that allowed opposition legislators to refer a parliamentary enactment to the Council,  France did not have an effective system for the judicial application and modification of its Constitution through interpretation. Throughout its post-revolutionary history prior to the adoption of the Constitution of , constitutional change was effected either by legislative amendment or by the adoption of a new constitution.
It is hard to speak of a true constitutional order if the constitution can be altered by ordinary law; in such case, the constitution is continually subject to the vicissitudes of the political process. Moreover, if the constitution cannot be interpreted to accommodate change, it ceases to be a useful framework for political life.
It is thus no accident that since the Revolution, France has had so many different constitutions. In almost all cases, the adoption of a new constitution was accompanied by significant political and social disorder, and often by violence. In effect, the winners impose a constitutional order on the losers. Since constitution-making is not regarded as a one-time enterprise, the losers can look forward to other chances in the future.
Why, then, give one's allegiance to the particular constitution that has been adopted? After all, it represents the triumph of the political opposition. The European Union EU provides an example of a constitutional system that has responded to change by a combination of judicial and political means. Constitutional developments in France since have taken a somewhat analogous course, with constitutional change and accommodation occurring through a combination of legal constitutional jurisprudence and political constitutional revision mechanisms.
Another important modality of adaptation has been institutional practice. The French Constitution of strikes a good balance between rigidity and flexibility. Three constitutional amendments prior to the major revisions of July brought about significant changes in the structure and operation of French political institutions. The original Constitution provided for the indirect election of the president by an electoral college composed of about 80, elected officials—deputies and senators, members of departmental and municipal councils, and mayors.
In the Constitution was amended to provide for the direct election of the president by universal suffrage. The constitutional amendment of was approved by a presidentially initiated referendum, in apparent violation of article 89 of the Constitution. In the Constitution was amended to allow sixty deputies or sixty senators to refer a recently enacted law to the Constitutional Council for review of its constitutionality prior to its promulgation by the president of the Republic. This amendment accorded considerably more influence to the minority opposition party in the legislature, as it could now challenge the constitutionality of laws before their promulgation.
It also greatly enhanced the role of the Constitutional Council, since now it was able to review almost all important parliamentary enactments for their constitutionality. In the Constitution was amended to reduce the term of the president from seven years to five years. This near simultaneity of presidential and legislative elections greatly reduces the chance that different political parties would control the presidency and the National Assembly, and hence the possibility of cohabitation.
The power of the president has thus been significantly enhanced at the expense of Parliament. According to the Constitution, if the Constitutional Council decides that an international engagement would violate the Constitution, France cannot undertake that international engagement without a prior modification of the Constitution. In July the Constitution underwent major revisions, the purpose of which was to better define the relationship between the institutions of government, to enhance democracy by according more power to the Parliament, and to facilitate the vindication of rights by citizens through the judicial process.
One of the principal vices of the Fourth Republic in the eyes of General de Gaulle and his allies was the power of Parliament to interfere with the proper functioning of the executive branch, leading to incoherence in governmental policy and sapping the French state of the ability to effectively confront domestic and foreign challenges. To remedy this defect, the Constitution of did several things. First, it accorded to the Government an autonomous regulatory sphere in which it had legislative-type power to enact rules and also the power to implement the rules established by Parliament.
Finally, the Government possessed a powerful device to have its legislation enacted, by, in effect, challenging the National Assembly to either accept a Government bill or to overturn its own Government by a vote of no-confidence. In spite of the original purposes for which the Constitutional Council was established, and which it fulfilled from on,  the Council soon undertook the more significant and controversial function of reviewing just-enacted legislation but before its promulgation by the president of the Republic for its conformity to the substantive provisions of the Constitution.
In its most important decision to date, the Freedom of Association decision of July 16, ,  the Council struck down a parliamentary enactment on the ground that it violated a substantive principle of constitutional status. Since , the Constitutional Council has played a major role in the legislative process,  interpreting and applying the Constitution and other principles with constitutional status valeur constitutionnelle to just-enacted legislation.
Now that minority deputies and senators can refer laws to the Council, almost all important legislative enactments receive its scrutiny for their constitutionality. In conducting this review, the Council, of necessity, interprets and develops the Constitution—both in its decisions that have separation of powers implications and those affecting matters of substantive law. Here are some examples.
Although originally established to assure that Parliament did not interfere with the executive power, the Council has often interpreted the Constitution to enlarge parliamentary competence. For example, in its R. According to the Constitution, however, fines for misdemeanors contraventions fall clearly within the domain of the regulatory power of the Government. When the Council regarded legislative power as overreaching or inappropriately exercised, it interpreted the Constitution to impose significant limitations.
Also, the Council has not been hesitant to construe its jurisdiction broadly in order to preserve the constitutional separation of powers scheme. For example, in a decision, the Council held that it could review an ordinance for its constitutionality even through Parliament had not enacted a law to approve the ordinance. As such they are not subject to review by the Constitutional Council, but may be reviewed by the Council of State.
Ordinances which have been ratified by Parliament may be reviewed by the Constitutional Council for their constitutionality if the ratifying statute is referred to the Council. In its decision, the Constitutional Council extended its jurisdiction to review ordinances that had not been ratified by Parliament if a subsequent statute presupposing the validity of the ordinance is referred to the Council.
But expansive, facilitative interpretation has its limits. Where the Constitution is clear, in spite of political consensus and contemporary needs and values to the contrary, the Council enforces the constitutional scheme. In its Gender Quotas I decision of and Gender Quotas II decision of , the Council also found laws to advance gender equality to violate the constitutional principle of equality. The jurisprudence of the Council demonstrates that the Constitution can be adapted to changing needs and values, but only up to a point.
Then, constitutional change must occur through the political process, i. Perhaps it is the vagueness of the Constitution regarding the relationship between president and prime minister that has allowed successive presidents and prime ministers to tailor their relationship to suit the political environment of the time. The Constitution as applied by the Constitutional Council has had little relevance in defining the relationship between president and prime minister during periods of cohabitation. The president is elected by the people and is responsible to them.
One thing is certain, however: article 5 clearly rejects a ceremonial or passive conception of the presidency and instead expresses a dynamic, active conception of the presidential office. The legislative elections of March resulted in a small majority for the parties of the Right in the National Assembly. This was the first time since the inception of the Fifth Republic in that the president and the prime minister were from opposing parties.
This cohabitation was particularly tense and difficult for two principal reasons: first, the incoming Government of the Right wanted to make significant changes in some of the policies of the preceding Governments of the Left most importantly, to privatize large sectors of the economy that had recently been nationalized ; and second, President Mitterrand intended to seek reelection in , and Prime Minister Chirac was almost certainly going to be the opposing candidate.
A potential constitutional crisis arose early in the Mitterrand-Chirac cohabitation. On March 20, , Prime Minister Chirac announced that he intended to submit two laws to Parliament authorizing the Government to legislate by ordinances. In particular, in order to accomplish with the least delay the recovery of the country and to make our institutions more effective, two authorization laws will be submitted to Parliament authorizing the Government to legislate by ordinances So I think that ordinances, which The Constitutional Council approved both laws, subject to certain interpretive reservations.
Or may he exercise his discretion in deciding whether to sign the ordinance or not?