Article 49 of The French Constitution - Vote of No Confidence (49.2) - The Censure of 5 October 1962

The Censure of 5 October 1962

The censure was passed only once under the Fifth Republic, during the 4 October 1962 meeting (in reality on the morning of 5 October). The motion was filed on October 2, after General de Gaulle had announced on 30 September a referendum (in accordance to Article 11 of the Constitution) to organize the election of the President of the Republic by direct suffrage. The circumstances of that vote are quite specific, it occurred at the end of the Algerian crisis, which affected the first years of the Fifth Republic, a kind of transitional phase in its history. The vote took place during the first legislature of the Fifth Republic, and put an ends to it. The parliamentary elections of 1958 had not resulted in a clear majority, but the president and the Debré government could work with the assembly without a secured majority, because the priority was to resolve the Algerian crisis. In the summer of 1962, the crisis ended, and many of the deputies wished to revert to a more parliamentarian regime. De Gaulle, requesting the resignation of Prime Minister Debré, and appointing Georges Pompidou, a non-parliamentaryare, seemed not to go in this direction.

The motion was passed easily, the Gaullist party UNR being the only major group not to vote it. De Gaulle was moving on 5 October and received on 6 October Pompidou announcing his resignation, as Article 50 forces him to do. De Gaulle took note of the resignation without formally accepting it, and requested the Government to remain in office, and announced the dissolution of the National Assembly on 9 October. De Gaulle won very easily the 28 October referendum and the parliamentary elections on 18 and 25 November. With this last vote, the left recovered from the 1958 elections in which there had been no alliance between socialists and communists. Conversely, centrist parties, popular and independent Republicans are defeated at the benefit of the UNR, which monopolized the rightist votes. That election, consequence of censorship of 5 October, put in place the polarization of political life in France. Pompidou's new government was appointed after the elections.

The announcement of the referendum, which was preceded by few rumors in the summer, caused considerable excitement. The universal suffrage elections were to change the balance of powers, and would turn the election of the President of the Republic into a plebiscite, reviving the painful memory of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte and General Boulanger. However it was the procedure which was under attack, because De Gaulle choose to revise the constitution with the Article 11 and not with the Article 89 which requires the consent of parliament. Most parliamentarians believe that the procedure is unconstitutional. This was also the opinion of most experts, by the State Council whose opinion was published in the press after a leak, by the Constitutional Council whose advice remains confidential, and by most of the entourage of the president, even the Prime Minister. The motion was clearly directed against the President of the Republic. La plupart de ses pouvoirs sont soumis à contreseing, ce qui dans la tradition parlementaire, justifie son irresponsabilité, le ministre qui contresigne endosse l'acte. L'article 11 échappe au contreseing, cependant on ne peut parler de pouvoir propre, l'initiative devant venir soit du gouvernement, soit du parlement. En l'espèce, elle est venue, bien que ce soit de pure forme, du gouvernement, ce qui permet la mise en jeu de sa responsabilité. Le texte de la motion ne laisse cependant aucun doute quant à sa cible, le gouvernement n'étant mentionné qu'à sa fin : « L'Assemblée nationale, Considérant qu'en écartant le vote par les deux chambres le Président de la République viole la Constitution dont il est le gardien ; Considérant qu'il ouvre ainsi une brèche par laquelle un aventurier pourrait passer un jour, pour renverser la République et supprimer les libertés ; Considérant que le Président n'a pu agir que sur la proposition du Gouvernement ; Censure le Gouvernement conformément à l'article 49, alinéa 2, de la Constitution. » Sa rédaction n'est pas loin de suggérer l'usage de l'article 68, la mise en accusation du président de la République pour haute trahison, plutôt que la censure du gouvernement.

Read more about this topic:  Article 49 Of The French Constitution, Vote of No Confidence (49.2)

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    Everything here below beneath the sun is subject to continual change; and perhaps there is nothing which can be called more inconstant than opinion, which turns round in an everlasting circle like the wheel of fortune. He who reaps praise today is overwhelmed with biting censure tomorrow; today we trample under foot the man who tomorrow will be raised far above us.
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