- The Fifth Republic has been the government of France since October 1958. Coming to power in the wake of the events of May 1958, General charles de gaulle put through, despite opposition from a faction of the Left, the constitution of the new republic, reinforcing the executive power and guiding France toward a presidential regime. From the Union de la nouvelle République and the Union des démocrates pour la République came the first prime ministers: michel debré (1959-62), georges Pompidou (1962-68), maurice couve de murville (1968-69), with de Gaulle as president, but who came to power not without difficulty (Algiers putsch, 1961; évian accords, 1962, ending the war in Algeria). In foreign policy, de Gaulle sought to gain diplomatic and military independence for France (retreat from NATO; creation of nuclear deterrent powers), and to promote a "Europe des États." in economic and social areas, however, neither the measures of the Pinay-Rueff Plan (1958-59) nor the stabilization policies of valéry giscard-d'estaing succeeded in halting inflation. After some relative electoral progress of the Left (1965, 1967) and economic, social, and cultural malaise culminating in the widespread strikes and protests of may 1968, the government faced a crisis. The resignation of General de Gaulle following a referendum brought political reform as georges pompidou was elected president and his governments (jacques chaban-delmas, 1969-72; pierre messmer, 1972-74) continued to modify Gaullist policies. Elected president in 1974, Giscard-d'Es-taing, a centrist who undertook various reforms, was defeated in the presidential election of 1981 by François Mitterrand, marking the first major political change since 1958. Governing with pierre mau-roy (1981-84) and laurent fabius (1984-86), he brought further major reforms (nationalization, decentralization, retirement at age 60). The success of the Right in the 1986 legislative elections forced the president to name jacques chirac as prime minister, marking a period of "cohabitation." In 1988 Mitterrand was reelected with a relative legislative election victory for the Socialists as well. The new governments (michel rocard, 1988-91; édith cresson, 1991-92) had to face a climate of social malaise and a growing economic crisis. in foreign affairs, Mitterrand followed the policies of his predecessors, notably in terms of European unity, which was greatly encouraged, and he engaged France in the Gulf War (1990-91). The elections of 1993 brought a strong return of the Right, opening again a period of cohabitation (Edouard Balladur, 1993-95), then culminating in the election of jacques chirac as president. The Chirac governments also were those of cohabitation (alain juppé, 1995-97; Lionel jospin, 1997-2002). Recent developments of the Fifth Republic include the construction of the English Channel Tunnel (1994), nuclear testing in the South Pacific (1995-96), immigration issues, military involvement in Africa (1997-2003), the adoption of the Euro currency (1999), and the pursuit of an independent policy in the Middle East (2003).
France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.
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