The de Gaulle Republic: Quest for Unity

The de Gaulle Republic: Quest for Unity

The de Gaulle Republic: Quest for Unity

The de Gaulle Republic: Quest for Unity

Excerpt

the fifth republic has come in the wake of a political upheaval that involved a temporary collapse of the regular process of government. As in all previous cases, the new constitution —the sixteenth the country has had since the revolution of 1789— performs the traditional, one may say the ritualistic, function of reasserting the unity and the continuity of a political society that remains profoundly divided. Why so many constitutions? Why so many sharp divisions about the nature of the ultimate form of the body politic? Why so much disagreement upon the fundamental bond of a society which in many other systems—both Anglo-Saxon and European—is taken for granted?

These questions cannot be answered merely by analyzing the articles of previous constitutions and pointing to institutional deficiencies. It is true, for instance, that the Constitution of the Fourth Republic consecrated the ascendancy of the Assembly: Dissolution was hamstrung in many ways, the Council of the Republic attempted to assume some of the powers together with the name of its formidable predecessor, the legislative process and even budget making underwrote the supremacy of the Assembly and its committees, and the executive became again a "captive." This is all incontestable. But under different conditions the same constitution could have led to a cabinet system in which the supremacy of the executive and the prime minister would have been assured. In fact, as was the case with the Third Republic through the device of the décrets-lois, the Fourth Republic had concentrated through a number of similar devices enormous powers in the hands of the prime minister and the cabinet. Many of these powers antedated the Algerian rebellion. The executive could by simple decree control . . .

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