The Fifth French Republic

The Fifth French Republic

The Fifth French Republic

The Fifth French Republic

Excerpt

The Constitution of 4th October 1958 does not merely break a great deal of new ground. It does so in ways that are exceedingly complex and difficult for the non-specialist to follow. Whatever may be said about its merits and demerits, it is certainly the most confused and obscure of France's many Constitutions since 1791. It is also, in a special sense, a pièce de circonstance. It was produced in the stress of a national emergency, when France had narrowly avoided a violent revolution, and under the inspiration of General de Gaulle who became the first President of the Fifth Republic. In the opinion of many of the critics of the new régime, it is unlikely to outlive his Presidency. But since it has already survived for more than a year and even on relatively pessimistic hypotheses may do so several more, it seemed justifiable and perhaps useful to try to describe what its purposes were and how far they are being achieved, even though it has been in existence for too short a time to make any final judgement possible.

The account is brief and has two main aims. They are, first, to try to place this Constitution in its political context and to make clear why and where it was a subject of controversy before it was voted; and second, to describe as simply as possible the institutions that it provides for, including the essential provisions of the numerous Ordonnances and organic laws which filled in some of the gaps during the six months following the promulgation of the Constitution itself. This second task has involved a certain amount of repetition, in the interests of clarity, owing to the complexity of the provisions . . .

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