What Exactly is France’s Fifth Republic?

Though France’s history as a nation stretches all the way back to medieval times, did you know that its currently government has only been around for 60 years?

This is because France has had five separate republics, or constitutions, since it gained freedom from the monarchy during the French Revolution. The first two ended in dictatorships, the third in Nazi rule, and the fourth, Vichy France, mercifully ended with the Second World War. So it was former French president Charles de Gaulle in the 60s and 70s that the Fifth Republic came into being. But what exactly does that mean for France as a whole? The big answer is a strong presidency. France has one of the most powerful presidential seats in the world, and individual French presidents have even more power over their country than in places like the U.S. Current prez Emmanuel Macron technically has carte blanche on all foreign policy, the ability to dissolve the National Assembly at will, and the ability to hire and fire the prime minister.


This all goes back to de Gaulle’s notion that in order to “resurrect French prestige” after WWII, he needed to be able to rule unencumbered. And Macron is the spitting image of de Gaulle’s tough-guy legacy, one that continues to be reincarnated with each new leader. At least, until number six comes along…