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France celebrates 5th Republic in stormy European waters

President Macron at the Charles de Gaulle Memorial on Thursday 4 October, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the fifth French Republic
President Macron at the Charles de Gaulle Memorial on Thursday 4 October, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the fifth French Republic REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/Pool

Thursday marked the 60th anniversary of the fifth French Republic. For those who are wondering why France has five Republics, here's a little explainer.


France is one of the very few countries whose history is marked by changes in different ruling systems.

Ten government systems since the French Revolution

Almost all countries, in the course of history, have undergone regime changes.

Kings are dethroned, or presidents are elected in and out of office.

But in France, the major changes have concerned the political system as a whole.

Since the French revolution in 1789, France has had ten different governing systems -- three monarchies, two empires, five republics, and Marshall Pétain's war regime during the German occupation.

From the French Revolution to De Gaulle - five French Republics

The first French Republic was formed in 1792, three years after the French Revolution.

The Republic lasted for 12 years till Napoleon I established the first Empire with a coup in 1804.

The second Republic was created after a Republican revolution in 1848, and lasted for four years before the Empire was established again by the conservatives under Napoleon III.

The Third Republic came in 1870 with the defeat of Napoleon III, and lasted till 1940, when France came under German occupation.

The Fourth Republic came after the Second World War, and was a system where the President did not have as much power as today - the Assembly had the power to oust him.

And finally, the fifth and current Republic was created in 1958 under General Charles de Gaulle.

In the fifth Republic, the President is elected by universal suffrage, and referendums are held to consult public opinion.

Charles de Gaulle was the first president of the fifth Republic, and Emmanuel Macron is the eighth.

Listen below to Paul Vallet, a former political scientist at the Science Po institute, tell us why the 60th anniversary of the fifth French Republic is significant in France.

Political analyst Paul Vallet talks about the importance of the Fifth Republic in France

Macron keeps strong front in troubled times

President Emmanuel Macron visited General Charles de Gaulle's tomb on Thursday.

He spoke about the importance of the fifth Republic in a European context.

In the last few weeks, Macron's government has been in troubled waters.

There was the Benalla case, where a former security aide was caught on video manhandling public protesters at a rally.

This gave rise to subsequent revelations concerning abuse of power within Macron's inner circle.

Then there was the resignation of France's popular Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot. And finally on Wednesday, France's Interior Minister Gerard Collomb resigned.

However, Emmanuel Macron seemed optimistic on Thursday.

While visiting General Charles de Gaulles's tomb, Macron said that the 5th Republic was solid enough to stand up against other regimes that could destabilise Europe.

Political analyst Oleg Kobtzeff told RFI that France's fifth Republic gives the country stability, unlike governments in Italy and Belgium.

In Belgium and Italy, Kobtzeff says, governments are under pressure to make coalitions.

"Belgium has not had a real government for years", says Kobtzeff.

"The sixth Republic is just a media gimmick" - Oleg Kobtzeff






A Sixth Republic?

Many political parties in France, mostly left-leaning, have been calling for a sixth Republic.

Former President François Hollande declared Thursday that he was in favour of getting rid of the role of the Prime Minister.

Oleg Kobtzeff believes that talk of a sixth republic is just a media stunt.

The historians can heave a sigh of relief.

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