Provisional Government of the French Republic

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French Republic
République française
Provisional government

 

 

1944–1946
Flag Emblem
(unofficial)
Capital Paris
Languages French
Political structure Provisional government
Chairman
 -  1944–1946 Charles de Gaulle
 -  1946 Félix Gouin (SFIO)
 -  1946 Georges Bidault (MRP)
 -  1946–1947 Léon Blum (SFIO)
Legislature National Assembly
Historical era World War II
 -  Established August 1944
 -  Disestablished 14 October 1946
Currency French Franc

The Provisional Government of the French Republic (gouvernement provisoire de la République française or GPRF) was an interim government of Free France between 1944 and 1946 following the liberation of continental France after the operations Overlord and Dragoon, and lasted until the establishment of the French Fourth Republic. Its establishment marked the official restoration and re-establishment of a provisional French Republic assuring continuity with the defunct French Third Republic.

It succeeded the French Committee of National Liberation (CFNL), which had been the provisional government of France in the overseas territories and metropolitan parts of the country (Algeria and Corsica) that had been liberated by the Free French. As the wartime government of France in 1944-1945, its main purposes were to handle the aftermath of the occupation of France and continue to wage war against Germany as a major Ally.

Its principal mission beside the war was to prepare the ground for a new constitutional order that resulted in the IVth Republic. It also made several important reforms and political decisions, such as granting women the right to vote, founding the École nationale d'administration, and laying the grounds of social security in France.

Creation[edit]

It was officially created by the CNFL on 3 June 1944, the day before de Gaulle arrived in London from Algiers on Winston Churchill's invitation, and three days before D-Day. Among its most immediate concerns were to ensure that France did not come under allied military administration, preserving the sovereignty of France and freeing allied troops for fighting on the front.

After the liberation of Paris on 25 August 1944, it moved back to the capital, establishing a new "national unanimity" government on 9 September 1944, including Gaullists, nationalists, socialists, communists and anarchists, and uniting the politically divided French Resistance. Among its foreign policy goals was to secure an French occupation zone in Germany and a permanent UNSC seat. This was assured through a large military contribution on the western front.

Politics[edit]

The GPRF was dominated by the tripartisme alliance between the French Communist Party (PCF), claiming itself to be the parti des 75,000 fusillés ("party of the 75,000 shot") because of its leading role in the Resistance (though actual dead were much fewer), the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO, socialist party) and the Christian democratic Popular Republican Movement (MRP), led by Georges Bidault. This alliance between the three political parties lasted until the May 1947 crisis during which Maurice Thorez, vice-premier, and four other Communist ministers were expelled from the government, both in France and in Italy. Along with the acceptance of the Marshall Plan, refused by countries who had fallen under the influence of the USSR, this marked the official beginning of the Cold War in these countries.

It started decolonisation by recognising the independence of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, but the refusal to include Cochinchina in the new state led to the First Indochina War.

Actions[edit]

Although the GPRF was active only from 1944 to 1946, it had a lasting influence, in particular regarding the enacting of labour laws which were put forward by the National Council of the Resistance, the umbrella organisation which united all resistance movements, in particular the communist Front National. The Front National was the political front of the Franc-tireurs et partisans (FTP) resistance movement. In addition to de Gaulle's edicts granting, for the first time in France, right of vote to women in 1944, the GPRF passed various labour laws, including the 11 October 1946 act establishing occupational medicine. It also appointed commissioners to fulfill its aims.

The provisional government considered that the Vichy government had been unconstitutional and that all its actions had thus been illegal. All statutes, laws, regulations and decisions by the Vichy government were thus made null and void. However, since mass cancellation of all decisions taken by Vichy, including many that could have been taken as well by republican governments, was impractical, it was decided that any repeal was to be expressly acknowledged by the government. A number of laws and acts were however explicitly repealed, including all constitutional acts, all laws discriminating against Jews, all acts against "secret societies" (e.g. Freemasons), and all acts creating special tribunals.[1]

Collaborationist paramilitary and political organizations, such as the Milice and the Service d'ordre légionnaire, were also disbanded.[1]

The provisional government also took steps to replace local governments, including governments that had been suppressed by the Vichy regime, through new elections or by extending the terms of those who had been elected no later than 1939.[2]

Reforms[edit]

The provisional government resumed the project started in 1936 by Jean Zay to create a national administration school (École nationale d'administration), which was founded on 9 October 1945, to ensure high-ranking civil servant of consistent high quality, as well as allow gifted people to reach these functions regardless of social origin.

The right to vote had been granted to women by the CNFL on 21 April 1944, and was confirmed by the GPRF with the 5 October 1944 decree. They went to the polls for the first time in the local elections of 29 April 1945.

It passed decisions about Social Security (Sécurité sociale, decree of 19 October 1945), and child benefits (law of 22 August 1946), laying the foundations of the welfare state in France.

In the dirigist spirit, it created large state-owned companies, for instance by nationalising Renault and founding electricity company EDF and airline Air France.

The new constitution[edit]

Further information: French Fourth Republic

Another main objective of the GPRF under de Gaulle leadership was to give a voice to the people by organizing elections which took place on 21 October 1945. The polls saw the victory of the French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO), the French Communist Party (PCF) and the Popular Republican Movement (MRP), collecting three-quarters of the votes, and the referendum had an outcome of 96% of voters in favour of abolishing the IIIrd Republic. Becoming a constituent assembly, the newly-elected parliament is charged with drafting a constitution for a new fourth republic.

de Gaulle, favouring a stronger executive, resigns in disagreement with Communist ministers on 20 January 1946. A first draft constitution, supported by the left but denounced by de Gaulle and by centre and right-wing parties, is rejected by a referendum on 5 May 1946 resulting in the dissolution of parliament and the resignation of de Gaulle's successor Félix Gouin of the SFIO.

A new election for a constituent assembly is held on 2 June 1946, marked by a strengthening of the MRP and the decline of the left. The constitutional project shifts from unicameralism to bicameralism. The constitution of the IVth Republic, established under the presidency of Georges Bidault (MRP), is finally adopted by the 13 October 1946 referendum.

Following the elections for a new Chamber of parliament held on 10 November 1946, former Popular Front leader Leon Blum becomes the leader of the last interim government for a month, before the election of a president of the Republic that marks the entry into force of the institutions of the IVth Republic.

List of Chairmen[edit]

References[edit]