Before the 5th Republic, France was politically unstable. How was stability achieved? What does this experience tell us about the potential impact of codified constitutions and presidents on political systems?


First talk about instability during the 4th Republic:


4th republic: 1946-1958


-just after WW2


-great ministerial instabilities: from 1947 to 1951 (in 4years) no less than 10 successive governments!


For example:


-the ministerial crisis in 1947


-the fear of the French people regarding the rise in power of the communists in 1948


-De Gaulle’s demand to redo the Constitution to face communism.


-the fierce oppositions between the three dominant parties: the communists, the Gaullists and finally the alliance between socialists, radicals and moderates (called the Third Force)


On top of all this France has colonial problems:


-the war in Indochina


-the war for the independence in North Africa (1956 for Morocco and Tunisia, 1962 for Algeria)


-Describe the 1946 Constitution and compare it to the Constitution of the 5th Republic


(each time there’s a new Constitution there’s a new republic)


The 1946 Constitution (4th Republic):


-Assemblee Nationale (National Assembly=part of the parliament) has a huge importance:


-it votes the laws and the budget


-the deputies play an important part in the election of the president


-controls the government


-can dissolve the government


-The other powers are very small:


-The president chooses the President Du Conseil (Chief of government)


-Chief of government can only give advice, and does not take decisions.


-He can dissolve the Parliament, but the conditions are very strict and it is quite hard for him to do so if he wishes to.


The 5th Republic (1958-today):


-General Charles De Gaulle returns to power in 1958 and asks for a new Constitution to be elaborated. It is approved by 80% of the French population.


-We can say that it is then end of the political instabilities in France.


-His plan is to split the three political powers and to reinforce the executive power


-The Constitution of the 5th Republic:


-The Executive Power:


-The president of the Republic is directly elected by the French people.


His powers are very important: he can dissolve the Parliament and make a referendum (ask what the population thinks about a law or an idea – De Gaulle will use this very frequently with high success rates). He can even take control of all powers if France is in serious danger.


-The Prime Minister: chooses his ministers with the approval of the President. The Government dictates the general political decisions of the State.


-The Legislative Power:


-The Parliament is divided in two assemblies, the National Assembly and the Senate (but the NA has much more power: it discusses and votes laws and the State Budget, and can control the Executive Power with censorship)


-The Constitutional Council:


9 members named for 9 years. Insure laws are not infringing the constitution in any way.


We can say that apart from the external problems France had during the 4th Republic (North Africa and Indochina), political instability was caused by a Constitution giving too much power to the National Assembly, and a Government changing too frequently. De Gaulle’s changes to the Constitution (and in particular the reinforcement of the power of the President and other executive powers) were crucial for the stabilization of the French political system.