World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Constitution of France

Article Id: WHEBN0000365102
Reproduction Date:

Title: Constitution of France  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Independence referendum, France, Human rights in France, Constitutional Council (France), President of France
Collection: 1958 in Law, Constitutions of France, Legal History of France
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Constitution of France

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
France portal

The current Constitution of France was adopted on 4 October 1958. It is typically called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, and replaced that of the Fourth Republic dating from 1946. Charles de Gaulle was the main driving force in introducing the new constitution and inaugurating the Fifth Republic, while the text was drafted by Michel Debré. Since then the constitution has been amended eighteen times, most recently in 2008.


  • Summary 1
  • Impact on personal freedoms 2
  • Amendments 3
  • Past constitutions 4
  • Further reading 5
  • See also 6
  • Notes 7
  • External links 8


The preamble of the constitution recalls the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen from 1789 and establishes France as a secular and democratic country, deriving its sovereignty from the people.

It provides for the election of the President and the Parliament, the selection of the Government, and the powers of each and the relations between them. It ensures judicial authority and creates a High Court (a never convened court for judging the President[1]), a Constitutional Council, and an Economic and Social Council. It was designed to create a politically strong President.

It enables the ratification of international treaties and those associated with the European Union. It is unclear whether the wording (especially the reserves of reciprocity) is compatible with European Union law.

The Constitution also sets out methods for its own amendment either by referendum or through a Parliamentary process with Presidential consent. The normal procedure of constitutional amendment is as follows: the amendment must be adopted in identical terms by both houses of Parliament, then must be either adopted by a simple majority in a referendum, or by 3/5 of a joint session of both houses of Parliament (the French Congress) (article 89). However, president Charles de Gaulle bypassed the legislative procedure in 1962 and directly sent a constitutional amendment to a referendum (article 11), which was adopted. This was highly controversial at the time; however, the Constitutional Council ruled that since a referendum expressed the will of the sovereign people, the amendment was adopted.

On 21 July 2008, Parliament passed constitutional reforms championed by President Nicolas Sarkozy by a margin of two votes. These changes, if finalized, introduce a consecutive two-term limit for the presidency, give parliament a veto over some presidential appointments, end government control over parliament's committee system, allow parliament to set its own agenda, allow the president to address parliament in-session, and end the president's right of collective pardon. (See French constitutional law of 23 July 2008)[2]

Impact on personal freedoms

Constitution of France (1958)

Prior to 1971, though executive, administrative and judicial decisions had to comply with the general principles of law (jurisprudence derived from law and the practice of law in general), there were no such restrictions on legislation. It was assumed that unelected judges and other appointees should not be able to overrule laws voted for by the directly elected French parliament.

In 1971, a landmark decision by the Constitutional Council (71-44DC[3]) cited the preamble of the Constitution and its references to the principles laid in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen as a reason for rejecting a law that, according to the Council, violated one of these principles. Since then, it is assumed that the "constitutional block" includes not only the Constitution, but also the other texts referred to in its preamble: the Declaration, but also the preamble of the 1946 Constitution (which adds a number of "social rights", as well as the equality of males and females) and the Environment Charter of 2004.

Since then, the possibility of sending laws before the Council has been extended. In practice, the political opposition sends all controversial laws before it.


The Constitution defines in Article 89 the rules for amending itself. First, a constitutional bill must be approved by both houses of Parliament. Then, the bill must be approved by the Congress, a special joint session of both houses; alternatively, the bill can be submitted to a referendum.

In 1962, president Charles de Gaulle controversially submitted a bill to a referendum through another procedure defined at article 11 of the Constitution – see French presidential election referendum, 1962. This procedure has never been used since then for constitutional changes.

Past constitutions

France has had numerous past constitutions.

Further reading

  • "Constitution". Journal Officiel de la République Française (in French): 9151–9173. 5 October 1958. Retrieved May 14, 2012. 
  • Ghevontian, Richard (1979). L'élaboration de la Constitution de la Ve République (Th. Etat). Aix-en-Provence. 
  • Oliva, Éric; Sandrine Giummarra (2011). Droit constitutionnel. Aide-mémoire (in French) (7 ed.). Paris: Sirey.  
  • Frédéric Monera, L'idée de République et la jurisprudence du Conseil constitutionnel – Paris : L.G.D.J., 2004 [4]-[5].
  • Martin A. Rogoff, "French Constitutional Law: Cases and Materials" – Durham, North Carolina: Carolina Academic Press, 2010.[6]

See also


  1. ^ see article 68 of the constitution
  2. ^ "France backs constitution reform". BBC News. 21 July 2008. Retrieved 4 September 2009. 
  3. ^ (French) Decision nr. 71-44 DC, granting constitutional authority to the preambles of 1789 and 1946

External links

  • "La Constitution". Légifrance (in French). Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  • "Constitution of October 4, 1958". Assemblée nationale. Retrieved 1 February 2015. 
  • "Constitution of 4 October 1958". Conseil constitutionnel. Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  • "Texte intégral de la Constitution du 4 octobre 1958 en vigueur". Conseil constitutionnel (in French). Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
  • "Constitutional council of the French Republic". Retrieved 14 May 2012. 
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.