Constitution of the Fifth French Republic

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Constitution of the Fifth French Republic.

The current French constitution of October 4, 1958 has been amended 24 times so far, most recently on July 23, 2008. It is also known as the Constitution of the Fifth French Republic and replaced the Constitution of the Fourth Republic , which dates from October 28, 1946. Its main initiator was Charles de Gaulle , and it was formulated by Michel Debré . It has a major impact on the French political system .


Preamble and Article 1

The preamble recalls the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen of 1789 and the principles set out in the Preamble to the Constitution of 1946 economic and social rights that the constitutionnel Conseil in a ruling on freedom of association together with the actual text of the Constitution of 1958 as Bloc de constitutionnalité were called . The 2004 Environment Charter was later added to the Fundamental Rights of 1789 and 1946.

Article 1 declares France an indivisible, secular , democratic and social republic . It also contains the principle of equality and obliges the state to enforce gender equality.

Title I: Sovereignty (Articles 2 to 4)

Article 2 defines certain national symbols such as the flag and anthem ; Since 1992, this has also included the French language .

Article 3 contains the principle of popular sovereignty , which is exercised by elected representatives and by means of a referendum . According to the French tradition, the indivisibility of sovereignty is emphasized. Finally, this article contains the most important electoral principles.

For the first time in French history, Article 4 contains a constitutional provision on the status and rights of parties.

Title II: The President of the Republic (Articles 5 to 19)

Articles 6 and 7 set out the provisions for the election of the President , which has been direct elections since the constitutional amendments of 1962 and for five years (previously seven) from 2000.

This title also contains the rights and duties of the President, who, because of these rights, has a strong position in the French political system . These include in particular:

  • the fundamental right to appoint the Prime Minister and the members of the government (Art. 8),
  • the right to preside over the Council of Ministers (Art. 9),
  • the execution and promulgation of laws, whereby the President has a suspensive right of veto insofar as he can demand that a law be discussed again (Art. 10),
  • the right to have the people vote directly on legislative proposals by means of a referendum - this article was supplemented in 2008 by the possibility of an initiative by a fifth of the members of parliament, supported by a tenth of the registered voters - (Art. 11),
  • the right to dissolve the National Assembly and to call new elections (Art. 12),
  • to be in command of the military (Art. 15),
  • 30 days of incontestable powers to secure the means required by the constitutional public authorities to carry out their tasks as quickly as possible, if “the institutions of the republic, the independence of the nation, the integrity of its national territory or the observance of its international obligations are seriously and directly threatened and if at the same time the proper exercise of constitutional public powers is interrupted "(Art. 16),
  • the right to pardon (Art. 17).

Title III: The Government (Articles 20 to 23)

This title contains provisions on the position and duties of the government , which is responsible to Parliament (Art. 20), and of the Prime Minister . Due to the government's responsibility towards parliament, the French political system is not a presidential system of government , but rather the term semi-presidential system of government was coined for this.

Art. 23 defines the incompatibility of a government office with a parliamentary mandate and with any other public function or professional activity.

Title IV: Parliament (Articles 24 to 33)

The French Parliament consists of two chambers, the National Assembly and the Senate , the first of which is determined directly and the second indirectly by members of the parliamentary representations in municipalities, departments and regions as well as the members of the National Assembly (Art. 24).

Other articles of this title concern, among other things, the electoral laws (Art. 25), the status of Members (Art. 26 and 27) and procedural provisions.

Title V: Relations between Parliament and Government (Articles 34 to 51)

Art. 34 contains an exhaustive catalog of subjects of legislation, which means a restriction of the position of the Parliament, as all other subjects of regulation are reserved for government ordinances (Art. 37).

Articles 39 to 47 concern the legislative procedure, in particular

  • the right to initiate legislation , which the members of parliament and the prime minister are entitled to (Art. 39),
  • the ordinary legislative procedure (Articles 40 to 45), in which the National Assembly has the last word in the event of a disagreement between the chambers following a conciliation procedure,
  • special provisions for organic laws , d. H. Implementing laws on constitutional provisions (Art. 46) and
  • special provisions for budget laws (Articles 47 to 47-2).

Art. 49 contains provisions on the vote of no confidence and the question of confidence as well as the possibility of combining a legislative proposal with a vote of confidence in such a way that the law is deemed to have been adopted if a vote of no confidence is requested within 24 hours.

Title VI: The international treaties and agreements (Articles 52 to 55)

It enables the negotiation and ratification of international agreements as well as contracts that are related to the European Union . It is unclear whether the exact wording is compatible with European law .

Title VII: The Constitutional Council (Articles 56 to 63)

With the Constitutional Council , France has a constitutional court for the first time in the Fifth Republic , but initially it was essentially responsible for examining elections (Articles 58–60) and for settling disputes over jurisdiction between the government and parliament. It was not until 1974 that Article 61 (2) gave a minority of 60 deputies or senators the opportunity to have the constitutional council ascertain the unconstitutionality of laws before they came into force.

The possibility of a retrospective review of the constitutionality of laws that are already in force by means of a judge's bill was only introduced in 2008 (Art. 61-1).

Title VIII: Ordinary Jurisdiction (Articles 64 to 66-1)

The provisions of this title guarantee an independent judiciary and prohibit arbitrary arrests (Art. 66) and, since 2007, the death penalty (Art. 66-1), which was abolished in 1981.

Title IX: The High Court of Justice (Articles 67 and 68)

This title contains provisions on the criminal responsibility of the President (Art. 67) and the impeachment procedure (Art. 68)

Title X: The Criminal Responsibility of Members of the Government (Articles 68-1 to 68-3)

Articles 68-1 to 68-3, added in 1993, contain provisions on the criminal responsibility of members of the government and a special court set up for this purpose.

Title XI: The Economic, Social and Environmental Council (Articles 69 to 71)

This advisory body, established in 1925, was given constitutional status for the first time with the 1946 constitution, which was also confirmed in 1958. Formerly known as the Economic and Social Council, its area of ​​responsibility was expanded to include the environment as a result of the 2008 constitutional reform.

Title XI A: The Defender of Rights (Art. 71-1)

The office of ombudsman , who can be called upon by anyone to protect fundamental rights or act on his own initiative, was introduced in France in 2008.

Title XII: The local authorities (Articles 72 to 75)

This title has been revised several times as part of the decentralization process . In particular, it also lays down special rights for overseas territories .

Title XIII: Transitional Provisions Regarding New Caledonia (Articles 76 and 77)

Articles 76 and 77 regulate the legal status of New Caledonia in accordance with Article 72-3, Paragraph 3 .

Title XIV: Francophonie and Association Agreements (Articles 87 and 88)

According to Art. 87, France promotes solidarity and cooperation between French-speaking countries and peoples. According to Article 88, France can conclude agreements with states that wish to associate with France in order to develop their cultures.

Title XV: The European Communities and the European Union (Articles 88-1 to 88-7)

Art. 88-1 stipulates that France participates in the European Union .

The right to stand as a candidate in local elections or the procedure when new member states join are also regulated .

Title XVI: Amendment of the Constitution (Art. 89)

The constitution also lays down the possibilities to change it yourself: this can be done either through a referendum or through a parliamentary process with the consent of the President. The normal procedure for such requests is as follows: the amendment has to be accepted in the same wording by both houses of the French parliament, after which it has to be accepted either by a simple majority in a referendum or by a three-fifths majority in both houses. De Gaulle bypassed this mechanism as early as 1962 and immediately initiated a referendum on a constitutional amendment he had proposed, which was also adopted. This approach was discussed very controversially at the time. However, the Conseil constitutionnel decided that a referendum was “the direct expression of popular sovereignty ”, declared that it was not responsible for assessing the content of laws passed by referendum and thus allowed the constitutional amendment.


  • La Constitution . Introduite et commentée by Guy Carcassonne. Paris: Seuil.
  • Frédéric Monera: L'idée de République et la jurisprudence du Conseil constitutionnel. Paris: LGDJ, 2004.

Individual evidence

  1. decision 71-44 DC
  2. Constitution of October 4, 1958 (PDF; 195 KB) Conseil constitutionnel, accessed on July 1, 2018 (with new versions as a result of the constitutional amendment of July 21, 2008).
  3. Decision 62-20 DC

Web links