The French Fourth Republic collapsed following the rise of the civil war in Algeria. Its lack of stability, which was a consequence of its parliamentary structure and the weaknesses of its parties, did not manage to survive this major crisis, and pointed out the need for a stronger executive regime. On average, the parties during the fourth republic represented only 15 % of the electorate a piece. The Communist party was actually the strongest at this time, accounting for between 20% and 25% of the vote. All the parties were focused on narrow interests and clienteles and governments were built of very heterogeneous coalitions. Kirchheimer explained that a catch-all party abandoned attempts at the intellectual and moral encadrement of the working class, turning more fully for a wider audience and immediate electoral success . While the Fourth Republic never managed to contribute to the emergence of this type of party, the Fifth Republic wished by De Gaulle and adopted in September by about 80% of the French people, might have introduced a significant turn in the French party system.
[...] Do persistent divisions and multiple parties' show that the French Fifth Republic didn't led to the emergence of catch-all party or should we also consider the unity built around strong leaders? Examining the evolution of the French Right, I will first show how divisions have been significant during the Fifth Republic before explaining how unity can be achieved around one strong leader and even appeal to a much wider potential of electors. In the last part of my essay, I will attempt to demonstrate the catch-all posture adopted by the UDF, the UMP, and also the FN with a view to the next Presidential elections. [...]
[...] Divisions inside the Parties of the French Right throughout the Fifth Republic Each of these parties has known more or less important internal dissents, mainly because of individual's ambition rather than major disagreements towards their politic lines. The UDF, Union pour la Démocratie Française, was created by Valerie Giscard d'Estaing in 1978, it developed as a loose confederation of small parties. As such, it was ‘originally a confederation of those non-Gaullist parties supporting Giscard's presidency (1974-81). It has brought together economic ultraliberals, Christian and social democrats, right-wing radicals, political clubs and others centre right element. [...]
[...] The Constitution of the French Republic allows a powerful President who is, as De Gaulle wished, above all parties. In May 1958, Charles de Gaulle was the natural person to call upon to constitute a new regime as he had the greatest political standing of anyone in the country. He gathered people from various backgrounds and not only traditional right wing voters. In 1995, Jacques Chirac won the Presidential election following a campaign that he decided to centre around the social breaking, fracture sociale”, which is typically a left wing topic. [...]
[...] Divisions between the parties of the French Right Throughout the 1960's, the first decade of the Fifth Republic, the Gaullist were ‘hegemonic' on the French right. However, under De Gaulle's immediate successor, Georges Pompidou president from 1969-74, the Gaullist party became a more traditional, middle class conservative party. The first major division in the French right appeared in July 1976 when Chirac decided to resign from his role of Prime Minister under Giscard D'Estaing government. He wrote a press release in which he explained that hasn't been given the means to be an efficient Prime minister”. On December the 5th of 1976, Chirac founded the RPR and the 1st February of 1978, the UDF was built through a merge of three centrist parties: the PR (Parti Républicain), The CDS (Christian democrats) and the Radicals. [...]
[...] It was a surprise when Mitterrand managed to push De Gaulle into a second ballot during the second presidential elections in the Fifth Republic in 1965, the first by universal suffrage. However De Gaulle collected 45% at the first ballot which remains an impressive results compare to the 2002 elections in which Chirac was below 20%. In 1968, following the dramatic events of May, De Gaulle enjoyed again an impressive electoral success at the general elections in June. The UNR turned its name into UDR (Union pour la Défense de La République) and won the absolute majority with 293 elected deputies. [...]
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