The current Constitution of France was adopted on October 4, 1958, and has been amended 17 times, most recently on March 28, 2003. It is typically called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and replaced that of the Fourth Republic dating from October 27, 1946. Charles de Gaulle was its main instigator; the constitution was drafted by Robert Debré .
It recalls the Declaration of the Rights of Man from 1789 and establishes France as a secular and democratic republic, deriving its sovereignty from the people.
It provides for the election of the President and the Parliament, the selection of the Government, and the powers of each and the relations between them. It ensures judicial authority and creates a High Court of Justice, a Constitutional Council, and an Economic and Social Council. It was designed to create a politically strong President.
It enables the ratification of international treaties and those associated with the European Union. It is unclear whether the wording (especially the reserves of reciprocity) is compatible with European Union law.
The Constitution also sets out methods for its own amendment either by referendum or through a Parliamentary process with Presidential consent. The normal procedure of constitutional amendment is as follows: the amendment must be adopted in identical terms by both houses of Parliament, then must be either adopted by a simple majority in a referendum, either by 3/5 of the congress of both houses of Parliament (article 89). However, president Charles de Gaulle bypassed the legislative procedure in 1962 and directly sent a constitutional amendment to a referendum (article 11), which was adopted. This was highly controversial at the time; however, the Constitutional Council ruled that since a referendum expressed the will of the sovereign people, the amendment was adopted.
France has had numerous past constitutions.
The ancien régime was an absolute monarchy and lacked a formal constitution; the régime essentially relied on custom. However, the Revolutionary Era saw a number of constitutions:
- A liberal monarchical constitution was adopted October 6, 1789 and accepted by the king on July 14, 1790.
- The Constitution of 1791 or Constitution of September 3, 1791 established a limited monarchy and the Legislative Assembly.
- The Constitution of 1793 or Constitution of June 24, 1793 (Fr. Acte constitutionnel du 24 juin 1793), or Montagnard Constitution (Fr. Constitution montagnarde) was ratified, but never applied, due to the suspension of all ordinary legality October 10, 1793.
- The Constitution of 1795, Constitution of August 22, 1795, Constitution of the Year III, or Constitution of 5 Fructidor established the Directory.
- The Constitution of the Year VIII, adopted December 24, 1799, established the Consulate.
- The Constitution of the Year X established a revised Consulate, with Napoleon as First Consul for Life.
- The Constitution of the Year XII established the First French Empire.
There have been numerous other constitutions since.
- French Text http://www.conseil-constitutionnel.fr/textes/constit.htm - Constitutional Council
- English Text http://www.assemblee-nat.fr/english/8ab.asp - National Assembly
Last updated: 02-10-2005 21:17:43
Last updated: 05-03-2005 09:00:33