Thayer Watkins
Silicon Valley
& Tornado Alley

Politics and Economic Policy
in the Fourth Republic of France

With the liberation of France in 1944 came a new regime. The Free French government of General Charles de Gaulle was recognized by the American, British and Soviet governments in November of 1944. General de Gaulle announced that elections for a new government would take place as soon as the 2.5 million French held prisoner in Germany were returned. Their return was completed by the summer of 1945 and the promised elections were scheduled for October of 1945. Women were granted the right to vote in that election. The election rejected overwhelmingly any return to the prewar political structure.

A constituent assembly was formed. It was dominated by people of the French Resistance. Since French Communists had been a major part of the Resistance they were a politically significant share of the political leadership after the war. The constituent assembly was heavily weighted with people of the French left, Socialist, Communist and Christian Democrat (Mouvement Républicain Populaire MRP).

The leftist favored vesting political power in the legislative rather than in the executive branch of government. General de Gaulle favored a strong executive but he did not enter the debate over this matter in the constituent assembly. After the constituent assembly opted for the weak executive-strong legislative form for the constitution General de Gaulle resigned as president in January of 1946. He most likely was expecting to be called back by popular demand but he was not thus called. A socialist, Félix Gouin, was chosen by the legislature to replace him. De Gaulle's political career went into eclipse for more than a decade until he returned to power as president in the Fifth Republic in 1958.

Members of the Parti Communiste Française (PCF) were included in the governments during the period 1945-1947. In 1947 the Communists in government were expelled and supporters of the Communists were relieved of their administrative positions in the French bureaucracy. Politicians associated with the wartime government of Marshal Pétain were legally excluded from government.

Although the Fourth Republic lasted until 1958 the era of radically leftist governments of the postwar period came to an end in the early 1950's with:

The period 1945-1951 in France was a period of transition from control of the government by leftists to control by conservatives. There were six political parties and alliances that were important during this period.

Party or AllianceAcronymPolitical Character
Mouvement Répubicain PopulaireMRPCatholic socialist
Parti Républicain Radical et Radical-SocialisteRadical Partycenter left
Rassemblement des Gauches RépublicainesRGR
Rassemblement du Peuple FrançaisRPF
Parti Républicain de la LibertéPRL
Centre National des Indépendants et PaysansCNIP
Groupement de Défense de ContribuableGDC

(To be continued.)

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