The French party system emerged in the form of parliamentary factions in the Third Republic. Soon enough, these factions were no longer only evident at the parliamentary level, but were organising the nation. From 1958, there is a considerable change in the organisation of the political parties in France as the constitution of this year recognises political parties as legitimate ‘representative institutions'. These changes had an impact not only on the role of the parties, but also on the way in which politics and elections took place. The term ‘French party system' implies that there are political parties, which work together in a system as a system. The system is not static and so, as has been noticed over the years, varied in form. There have been three main compositions to the French party system: a strongly polarised multi-partisan system, strict bi-polarisation, and multi-partisan with a dominant party.
[...] Bipolarisation reached its peak in 1978 with what is called a quadrille bipolaire. During this time, four main parties were able to successfully gain 20-25% of the votes each showing that voter preferences were evenly distributed between the right (RPR and UDF) and the left (PCF and PS) of the political spectrum. However, this system is no longer in place and Cole claims that it is partly due to the particular make up of each party citing the PCF as an example of declining importance in the new post-communist world order. [...]
[...] However, once the Socialists rose to office, the population was quickly disillusioned and felt betrayed, as there seemed to be a considerable discrepancy between “theoretical claims with practical results”. They were displaced in 1986 by the conservative government further supporting the bipolarised structure of the party system showing an alternation of left and right wing governments. As it turned out, the French were equally dissatisfied by the conservatives as they had been previously with the socialists leading to a crisis in the party system and voter confidence. [...]
[...] In fact, since 1962 onwards, an unseen amount of close collaboration and cooperation has been achieved between the traditional rival camps of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party. One can also notice a disappearing centre, which was being absorbed by the right and in particular by Giscard d'Estaing's UDF. As to sociological explanations, the first one considers the appearance of social class as the primary political cleavage. During the 1970s, this was a structuring factor as the economic situation was one of crisis and so helped to perpetuate the left right bipolarisation “artificially created by the institutions and electoral system of the Fifth Republic”. [...]
[...] This notion is confirmed by Cole who states, existence of disciplined, pro- presidential coalitions controlling the National Assembly for the most part of the period since 1958 has been in stark contrast to the chaos of the Fourth Republic”. The institutions as settled by the constitution are not able to fully explain the impact of the President's new role on the French party system. De Gaulle's strong charismatic personality should also be taken into account. He interpreted the constitution in an extensive way and gave himself a considerable amount of power, which was not included in the constitution. [...]
[...] short historical account from the III Republic, the major changes of the French party system and reasons that brought about the changes, and finally the impacts as well as the challenges each phase needed to address. The political parties of the Third Republic were very fragmented, disjointed and divided, much like the French society at this time. Due to the sheer volume of cleavages, it was impossible for a single party to gain the majority, and even coalitions were very often unsuccessful in doing so. [...]
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