Home Politics Only one censorship proposal was adopted under the Fifth Republic (and it did not work for its authors)

Only one censorship proposal was adopted under the Fifth Republic (and it did not work for its authors)

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With the Bourne government resorting to Article 49.3 of the Constitution to pass pension reform and censure submissions by the opposition, this is an opportunity to consider an extraordinary point in history: the unique, hitherto, censure motion adopted under the Fifth Republic, which turned in favor of the president, de Gaulle. , who specifically wanted to consolidate presidential power.

At the beginning of the regime, in 1958, the President of the Republic, according to the new constitution, was elected by a body of 80,000 voters, which was much more than in the Third and Fourth Republics, where the election was by sole deputies. and members of the Senate. Memory of Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the only president of the Republic elected by universal suffrage (in fact almost universal, since women had no right to vote) in 1848, and who appointed himself Emperor in a plebiscite in 1852 after his election. The coup d’état of 1851 had its weight in choosing the following regimes: Avoid giving too much weight to a president of a republic consecrated by all citizens. In 1958, Charles de Gaulle was elected president for a seven-year term (the transition to a five-year term would not take place until 2002).

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On September 20, 1962, General de Gaulle announced on television that a referendum would be held to elect the President of the Republic by direct universal suffrage, in application of Article 11 of the Constitution (a legally controversial option – but the normal procedure, passing through Parliament, had no chance of success, and from Here is such a gimmick).

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He addressed a letter to Parliament on 2 October. Then a motion was made to censure, on the same day, the first signatories Paul Renaud (Independent), Guy Mollet (Socialist), René Simonet (MRP) and Maurice Faure (Radical).

“This assembly is not decadent enough to deny the republic.”Says Paul Reynaud, formerly a supporter of General de Gaulle. Georges Pompidou, the Prime Minister, responds by saying:

“The National Assembly naturally retains a dominant position in the state and its weapons are strong. There is a danger of an imbalance of power in the direction of weakening the powers of the executive branch.”

The motion of censure was adopted on October 5, by 280 votes (the necessary majority was 241). General de Gaulle dissolved the Assembly on October 9, and would not accept the resignation of the Pompidou government, submitted on October 6, until November 28, after the legislative elections.

In the October 28 referendum, “Yes” won the presidential election by direct universal suffrage with 62.25% of the votes cast. The legislative elections that took place on 18 and 25 November saw success for the UN-UDT (Gaullian Party) which won 233 seats (+ 56) at the expense of the independents (- 86) who formed, around Valéry Giscard d’Estaing who campaigned . For Yes, the group of Independent Republicans (35 elected), allied with the UN – Democratic Union of Timorese – Paul Reynaud is beaten in the first round. The Communist Party can once again form a group (+29 seats) and François Mitterrand finds seats in the National Assembly (see this summary and partial transcription of the parliamentary exchanges during the motion of censure). Pompidou in the process of resetting Matignon.

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The grand winner of the referendum and legislative elections, General de Gaulle will be re-elected, this time by universal suffrage, in 1965 – in the second round, against François Mitterrand. In 1964, the latter dedicated a book entitled “The Permanent Revolution” to the de Gaulle constitution, but he did not change anything in the institutions once at the Elysee Palace in 1981. This did not prevent him from saying many times :

Institutions were dangerous before me. They will be after me. »

During the presentation of the censure, the deputy and former president of the assembly (in 1940) Paul Reynaud on the opposition and Georges Pompidou on the government exchanged views in the assembly.

De Gaulle “wanted to be Churchill and King George VI”

Paul Reynaud (1878-1966, moderate right, support until 1962 of General de Gaulle) has this rhetoric:

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Now a question arises: How can we descend into such intellectual turmoil? Here is the answer: General de Gaulle wanted to combine the due honors of the head of state with the powers of the prime minister. He wanted to be Churchill, King George VI, Chancellor Adenauer and President Lübeck. Since then, the 1958 constitution has been doomed.

To carry out his plan, General de Gaulle chose his prime ministers and ministers from among his family members and from among senior civil servants of great talent who were accustomed to obeying their superiors in the hierarchy. (Applause from the same seats.)

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Also, for four years, despite Article 20 of the Constitution, France was governed by the President of the Republic, which some accepted, and others condoned, because of the severe plight that France had suffered in Algeria.

General de Gaulle was so anxious to act that he did not trust Parliament.

And now Parliament is considered in all civilized countries to represent the nation with its qualities, defects, diversity and even contradictions. But when the elected representatives deliberate and vote, they are invested with this outstanding quality of representatives of the nation.

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For us Republicans, France is here and nowhere else. »

To admit that it is otherwise is to admit the end of the republic. The conflict between us and General de Gaulle exists. This caused him to slide down the slope of personal power. Hence the temptation to elect the president of the republic by universal suffrage. (…) Since 1789, the representatives of the people, who are so frowned upon today, know well that they, isolated, are mere spokesmen of humble, unstable, infallible, and often famous. But they also know that together they are the nation and that there is no higher expression of the will of the people than the vote cast after public deliberation.

It is this faith that brings together today, in honor of the Republic, elected officials of all persuasions and political affiliations … “

For a long time people will say about the politician: How did he vote on October 4? It is an honor for us parliamentarians to have it at stake.

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Also, Prime Minister, go tell the Elysée that our admiration for the past still remains, but that this Assembly is not decadent enough to deny the Republic. (Loud applause on the right, on some seats center and left, middle left and far left). (…)”

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first MinisterGeorges Pompidou Copy of the original:

Others, and even among those who appealed to General de Gaulle in 1958 and acceded to the idea of ​​a head of state fully exercising the responsibilities of his office, this assembly was offered from the end of the lips and according to a provisional circumstance.

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One politician suggested that instead of reforming the 1946 constitution, de Gaulle should be given full powers for two or three years. Thus it is established that one has recourse to an exceptional character for a temporary rescue, but for the rest one thinks only of returning to former habits by somewhat promising to try to do better next time. (Applause left and center.)

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For these, as Albert Payet said: “De Gaulle was a bad time to pass.” (Laughter and applause on the same benches.)

Until today, what is it? What is the purpose of this great battle, if not to tell de Gaulle that he has his day and his order with him, and that we want to find ourselves among us, as before?

And yet, ladies and gentlemen, what an ignorance of the dangers that await us and, in general, of contemporary reality!

on the right. What are the risks?

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Mr. Prime Minister. We must only see that in all the great nations, by various means, we have ended up, because it is a necessity, in having at the head of the affairs of a man who, by one operation or another, seems evidently invested in the confidence of the nation and the power to materialize it in the face of external dangers or Interior (…)

Mr. Prime Minister. Remember, ladies and gentlemen, the difficulties I have had in playing this role by chiefs elected by Parliament, often after an endless series of ballots, who, even when in the exercise of their functions, have won the respect of the people, as of all. We were able to do this, often, at first, little known or ill, always disarmed in the face of the divisions of our political parties. I can cite here the memoirs of President Poincaré, who despaired in the first days of his seven-year term because of the continuing crises with the specter of war on the horizon. In the same spirit, we can recall the experience of President Albert Lebrun and I myself conveyed the message of the last President of the Fourth Republic. (…)

In a developed country like France, in a people with so much experience, adventurers no longer have their place through elections, and moreover, we see them prefer military coups and assassinations that no constitutional reserve can prevent. »(…)

If the National Assembly abolishes the government, the president can dissolve it, but the new assembly will exist for at least a year and he will have to put up with it. (Applause left and center.)

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Indeed, the National Assembly – naturally – maintains a dominant position in the country and its weapons are strong. The danger of an imbalance of power exists – I repeat – in the sense of weakening the powers of the executive branch.

This is the danger we wish to avoid by trying to preserve the importance of the office of the President of the Republic, by taking care for this purpose in his election that every citizen should feel the immediate concern of choosing the Head of State in order to feel so personally connected to the main lines of national policy. »

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