French Fourth Republic
"Liberté, égalité, fraternité"
"Liberty, equality, brotherhood"
Dark green: Fourth French Republic.
Light green: French possessions.
|-||1958–1959||Charles de Gaulle|
|Historical era||Cold War|
|-||Established||14 October 1946|
|-||Disestablished||4 October 1958|
The French Fourth Republic was the republican government of France between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems. France adopted the constitution of the Fourth Republic on 13 October 1946.
The Fourth Republic saw an era of great economic growth in France and the rebuilding of the nation's social institutions and industry after World War II, and played an important part in the development of the process of European integration which changed the continent permanently. The greatest accomplishments of the Fourth Republic were in social reform and economic development. In 1946, the government established a comprehensive social security system that assured unemployment insurance, disability and old-age pensions, and health care to all citizens.
Some attempts were also made to strengthen the executive branch of government to prevent the unstable situation that had existed before the war, but the instability remained and the Fourth Republic saw frequent changes in government – there were twenty-one administrations in its twelve year history. Moreover, the government proved unable to make effective decisions regarding decolonization of the numerous remaining French colonies. After a series of crises, most importantly the Algerian crisis of 1958, the Fourth Republic collapsed. Wartime leader Charles de Gaulle returned from retirement to preside over a transitional administration which was empowered to design a new French constitution. The Fourth Republic was dissolved by a public referendum on 5 October 1958 which established the modern-day Fifth Republic.
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|History of France|
Founding of the Fourth Republic (1944–47) 
After the liberation of France, the Vichy government was dissolved and the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF) was instituted. With most of the political class discredited and containing many members who had more or less collaborated with the enemy, Gaullism and communism became the most popular political forces in France.
Charles de Gaulle led the GPRF from 1944 to 1946. Meanwhile, negotiations took place over the proposed new constitution, which was to be put to a referendum. De Gaulle advocated a presidential system of government, and criticized the reinstatement of what he pejoratively called "the parties system". He resigned in January 1946 and was replaced by Félix Gouin (SFIO). Ultimately only the French Communist Party (PCF) and the socialist SFIO supported the draft constitution, which envisaged a form of government based on unicameralism; but this was rejected in the referendum of 5 May 1946.
For the 1946 elections, the RGR (Rassemblement des gauches républicaines), which encompassed the Radical-Socialist Party, the Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance and other conservative parties, unsuccessfully attempted to oppose the Christian democrat and socialist MRP-SFIO-PCF alliance. The new constituent assembly included 166 MRP deputies, 153 PCF deputies and 128 SFIO deputies, giving the tripartite alliance an absolute majority. Georges Bidault (MRP) replaced Félix Gouin as the head of government.
A new draft of the Constitution was written, which this time proposed the establishment of a bicameral form of government. Léon Blum (SFIO) headed the GPRF from 1946 to 1947. After a new legislative election in June 1946, the Christian democrat Georges Bidault assumed leadership of the Cabinet. Despite de Gaulle's so-called discourse of Bayeux of 16 June 1946 in which he denounced the new institutions, the new draft was approved by the French people, with 53% of voters voting in favor (with an abstention rate of 31%) in the referendum held on 13 October 1946. This culminated in the establishment in the following year of the Fourth Republic, an arrangement in which executive power essentially resided in the hands of the President of the Council (the Prime Minister). The President of the Republic was given a largely symbolic role, although he remained chief of the French Army and as a last resort could be called upon to resolve conflicts.
Failure of the new parliamentary system 
The intention of the new Constitution's authors was to rationalize the parliamentary system. Ministers were accountable to the legislative body, the French National Assembly, but some measures were introduced in order to protect the Cabinet and to reinforce the authority of the Prime Minister of France, who led the Cabinet. The goal of the new constitution was to reconcile parliamentary democracy with ministerial stability.
For instance, under the new Constitution, the President of the Council was the leader of the executive branch (Prime Minister of France). The President of the French Republic, elected by the Parliament (the National Assembly and the Council of the Republic), played a symbolic role. His main power was to propose a Prime Minister, who was subject to election by the National Assembly before forming a Cabinet. Only the Prime Minister could invoke a parliamentary vote on legitimacy of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister was also the only member of the executive able to demand a vote of confidence from the National Assembly (in the Third Republic any minister could call for a vote of confidence). The Cabinet could be dismissed if an absolute majority of the National Assembly's members voted against the Cabinet. Finally, the National Assembly could be dissolved after two ministerial crises in the legislature.
However, these constitutional measures did not work. In January 1947, after his election by the National Assembly and the nomination of his ministers, Prime Minister Paul Ramadier called for a vote of confidence in order to verify that the Assembly approved the composition of his Cabinet. This initiated a custom of double election, a vote for the Prime Minister followed by a vote of confidence in the chosen Cabinet, that weakened the Prime Minister's authority over the Cabinet. Cabinets were dismissed with only a plurality (not the absolute majority) of the National Assembly voting against the Cabinet. Consequently, these ministerial crises did not result in the dissolution of Parliament. Thus, as in the Third Republic, this regime was characterized by ministerial instability.
The Fourth Republic was also a victim of the political context. The split of the three-parties alliance in spring 1947, the departure of Communist ministers, Gaullist opposition, and the new proportional representation did not create conditions for ministerial stability. Governmental coalitions were composed of an undisciplined patchwork of centre-left and centre-right parties. Finally, the Fourth Republic was confronted with the collapse of the French colonial empire.
European Unity 
The creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was first proposed by French foreign minister Robert Schuman and French economic theorist Jean Monnet on 9 May 1950 as a way to prevent further war between France and Germany. Though the United Kingdom was invited, its Labour government, then preparing for a re-election fight, did not join the initiative. It was formally established in 1951 by the Treaty of Paris, signed by France, Italy and the three Benelux states: Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Between these states the ECSC would create a common market for coal and steel. The ECSC was governed by a 'High Authority', checked by bodies representing governments, Members of Parliament and an independent judiciary.
The trigger for the collapse of the Fourth Republic was the Algiers crisis of 1958. France was still a colonial power, although conflict and revolt had begun the process of decolonisation. French West Africa, French Indochina, and French Algeria still sent representatives to the French parliament under systems of limited suffrage in the French Union. Algeria in particular, despite being the colony with the largest French population, saw rising pressure for separation from the Metropole. The situation was complicated by those in Algeria, such as white settlers, who wanted to stay part of France, so the Algerian War became not just a separatist movement but had elements of a civil war. Further complications came when a section of the French Army rebelled and openly backed the "Algérie française" movement to defeat separation. Charles de Gaulle, who had retired from politics a decade before, placed himself in the midst of the crisis, calling on the nation to suspend the government and create a new constitutional system. De Gaulle was carried to power by the inability of the parliament to choose a government, popular protest, and the last parliament of the Fourth Republic voting for their dissolution and the convening of a constitutional convention. (Algeria became independent on 5 July 1962.)
Prime Ministers 
|Paul Ramadier||22 January 1947||SFIO|
|Robert Schuman||24 November 1947||MRP|
|André Marie||26 July 1948||Radical|
|Robert Schuman||5 September 1948||MRP|
|Henri Queuille||11 September 1948||Radical|
|Georges Bidault||28 October 1949||MRP|
|Henri Queuille||2 July 1950||Radical|
|René Pleven||12 July 1950||UDSR|
|Henri Queuille||10 March 1951||Radical|
|René Pleven||11 August 1951||UDSR|
|Edgar Faure||20 January 1952||Radical|
|Antoine Pinay||8 March 1952||CNIP|
|René Mayer||8 January 1953||Radical|
|Joseph Laniel||27 June 1953||CNIP|
|Pierre Mendès-France||18 June 1954||Radical|
|Edgar Faure||23 February 1955||Radical|
|Guy Mollet||31 January 1956||SFIO|
|Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury||12 June 1957||Radical|
|Félix Gaillard||6 November 1957||Radical|
|Pierre Pflimlin||13 May 1958||MRP|
|Charles de Gaulle||1 June 1958||UNR|
- "France", Microsoft® Encarta® Encyclopedia 2001. © 1993-2000 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
- Dell, Edmund (1995). The Schuman Plan and the British Abdication of Leadership in Europe. Oxford: Clarendon Press.[page needed].