May 5

A Sixth Republic?


In the two and a half hour debate between the two contenders for the French presidency, Socialist candidate Mme.Segolene Royal called for the introduction of a new Sixth Republic. She criticised the Fifth which she said allowed for the adoption of unpopular laws, e.g., the recent law on labour contracts, which was withdrawn after a series of increasingly violent demonstrations. Her Gaullist opponent , M.Sarkozy accused her of wanting to go back to the Fourth Republic “ which did not work.”

Some constitutional lawyers warned that the First Keating-Turnbull Republic proposed in the nineties, but not the one which was chosen by the republicans for submission to the people in 1999, would have created republic similar to the first version of the Fifth Republic. (In the first version of the Fifth Republic the president was not elected by the people but had considerable powers and was difficult to remove.) Republicans Professor Greg Craven and Malcolm Turnbull warn that the current preferred ARM process would probably result in an referendum model, similar to the current French Fifth Republic. Under this the president and the prime minister would be in potential conflict leading to a series of political crises making the country ungovernable.

A French historian appearing on CNNTV immediately after the debate said that the French regularly “get fed up” with the French political system and demanded a new constitution with which they are ubsequently dissatisfied.

This confirms my view: almost anybody can write a constitution; very few are successful over time.


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