Fourth and Fifth Republic of France

Question 1 - Describe the Constitutional Arrangements of France's Fourth Republic

The France's Fourth Republic existed from 1946-1958 which was under the 4th republican constitution. It had decentralized government with weak but better than that of Third Republic. This government came up after elections which were done immediately after World War II. The Constitution was established as a parliamentary form of government. The members of parliament elected by the citizens and the Assembly would elect the president plus the cabinet. The fourth republic promulgated a new constitution in 1946. The laws limited the powers of the president and strengthen the powers of the national assembly (ceremonial role, support from politics and political parties). Since it was a coalition of government, some dissenting views led to the election of a Premier Minister in1947. 

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What were the short-term and long-term factors which undermined the Fourth Republic?

Fourth Republic: Short term factors for decline 

  • Existence of many political parties coupled with coalitions which made up the government. This led to constant changes in the policies which angered French people since the country was stable by constant calling of new elections every time and again.
  • During the crisis in Algeria where French were being attacked and government felt they were going to be defeated, hence resort in tactics to reverse the situation. This made the unstable government to give different orders to the military which was stationed in French. The contradictory orders given to generals made to be unhappy with their government, thus resulting to planning a coup.

Fourth Republic: Long term factors for decline

  • The government of France during that time kept making wrong decisions ranging from political, social to economics. Bad decisions started when the government did not oppose the Hilter occupying Rhineland and invasion in Czechoslovakia. When these happened and the government could not act caused public outcry since civilian government became a failure. Also sending a weak and coward general to invade Germany. This made Germany to defeat them which in the long run really brought crisis in the country.
  • The weak civilian government exposed French to many attacks due to their inability to defend themselves from the Germany and being accused by other European countries for affecting their economy.
  • The creation of new constitution where many French adopted. Due to this the old system of civilian government became weak and ineffective resulting to the fall of the 4th Republic.

Briefly discuss how the Fifth Republic's constitution was designed to address these weaknesses

The fifths republic constitution had a presidential and parliamentary system with both being powerful. The government formed was stable without coalitions thus making it not to be faced with many conflicts. 

The electoral system was reformed such that the citizens themselves elect the president, and presidents elected could be accepted by the majority of voters thus enhancing unity. The number of political parties reduced or merged to decrease the political temperatures that contributed to the collapse of the Fourth Republic. In addition to political temperatures, the majority of the French hated politicians and could not be swayed by their actions because they wanted a stable and a united France.

Question 2 - Describe the constitutional arrangements of France's Fifth Republic

The constitution formulated during the fifth republic had a very unique system in including presidential and premier system. The president elected was the head of the nation; prime minister became presidential appointee, cabinet, and the parliament. The prime minister was under the premier system. The prime minister was in charge of selecting the members of the Council of Ministers by consulting the president; cabinet was in charge of running the government, and National Assembly was for legislation.  The government consisted of the legislature and the executive where the executive was divided into two; the president and the government.

On the electoral system, the president is directly elected by universal suffrage. Voting is done in two stages where all parties participate in the first round and the second round comes in when no candidates have obtained threshold regarding the required number of votes. The best candidates will be subjected to the runoff election, and the better candidate declared the winner. The National Assembly had powers of initiating votes of no confidence on the presidents and prime minister but the guidelines were strict such the procedures could be long. It was deliberately done to show sign of immunity to the president, hence, making him/her a powerful person in the state.

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In which branch (es) of government does political power reside?

The government had branches with varied powers. The branches included legislature, cabinet, and judiciary. The president as the leader of the state is not allowed to engage in politics and act as a source of unity. The power resides overwhelmingly in the executive where the head is the president. The president has all the powers bestowed under him within the constitution. The president appoints the premier and cabinet, because of this he delegates duties to the members of the cabinet. Under the 5th Republic which was an improvement from the 4th Republic decided to president powers to have the fallout and president to have full control of the nation plus its government. The powers included the following: the president could dissolve the National Assembly and call for new elections in case the political nature of the nation is not favorable; the president had powers for dismissing the government in that the actions taken which were not in the line with the will of the nation, then he had right of not supporting it; the foreign policy could only be presided by the president such that forming economic block with other countries could be decision on him/her. The president had right of deploying the military in consultation with other cabinet members for a peace mission in other countries.

How does your answer to this question change during periods of cohabitation?

The periods of cohabitation refers to the times when the president comes from one political party and the national assembly is also from the other party. In the above situation, there is lack of constitutional provision to decide who should be given the power. In most countries around the world, the political power resides from the wing of the presidents and becomes a big challenge when the members of the National Assembly from the party of presidents are less than members of the opposition. During this period, the appointed government official consisted of majority from one political party. Their main roles were to handle the domestic issues that surround the public affairs. The president still had the powers to manage foreign policies and other international issues related directly to the state.

During cohabitation, the political powers were given to parties with the majority of members of the National Assembly irrespective to which side the president is a member. In the constitution of France when the president party becomes minority in the National Assembly and opposition forms majority then the post of Prime Minister is given to the opposition.


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