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French Fifth Republic
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French Fifth Republic

The Fifth Republic is the period of the fifth and current republican constitution of France, which was introduced on October 5, 1958. The Fifth Republic emerged from the ashes of the French Fourth Republic, replacing a weak and factional parliamentary government with a stronger, more centralized democracy.

The impetus behind the creation of the Fifth Republic was the Algerian Crisis. Although France had since parted with many of its colonies, such as many of those in West Africa and Southeast Asia, it still retained Algeria, which had a large French population. Algeria eventually became independent on July 5, 1962.

The former general Charles de Gaulle used the crisis as an opportunity to create a new French government with a stronger office of President, which before was largely that of a figurehead. French Presidents, as in preceding constitutions, were given a very long term (7 years, now reduced to 5 years) and currently still have more internal power than most of their European counterparts in parliamentary democracies. On September 28, 1958, a referendum took place and 79.2% of those who voted supported the new constitution. The president was initially elected by an electoral college, but in 1962 De Gaulle proposed that the president should be directly elected by the citizens in a referendum. Although the method and intents of de Gaulle in that referendum were highly contested by most political groups except for the Gaullists, the change was approved by the French electorate. Given the runoff voting system used in the presidential election, the president of the Republic has a high legitimacy, since he has to obtain a majority at either the first or second round of elections.

De Gaulle was succeeded by Georges Pompidou (19691974), Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (19741981), François Mitterrand (19811995), and Jacques Chirac (since 1995).

See also: Politics of France Constitution of France