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Fourth Republic (France)

Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


Following the liberation from German occupation in 1944, de gaulle ruled as virtual dictator while a provisional government attempted to agree a new political framework. Consensus was hard to find, and thus the constitution narrowly endorsed by referendum in October 1946 proved very similar to that of the third republic . The Fourth would feature a bicameral system in which power resided largely with the lower house. Plans for a strong presidency were rejected lest these be abused by de Gaulle, who then withdrew in disgust at what he perceived as political sectarianism. The new Republic was indeed troubled by ministerial instability, and eventually by the immobilisme that had characterized its predecessor. It would experience 25 administrations and 18 prime ministers. Even so, there was an underlying continuity (far greater, for example, than any operative on the Italian scene during these same postwar years). As in the Third Republic, a cabinet's collapse did not generally entail fresh elections. Under the Fourth many members of a ministry, frequently resistance veterans, survived into the next. Far more damaging, though, was the way in which the political parties used the system. Initially there was cooperation among the three principal groupings – the Socialists and Communists, together with the representatives of an emergent christian democracy which identified itself ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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