Constitution of France

Constitution of France
Constitution de la Ve République (4 octobre 1958) Page 1 - Archives Nationales - AE-I-29 bis n° 19.jpg
Constitution of France (1958)
Original title(in French) Constitution française du 4 octobre 1958
Date effectiveOctober 4, 1958; 60 years ago (1958-10-04)
SystemSemi-Presidential indivisible, secular, democratic and social republic
BranchesThree (executive, legislature and judiciary)
ChambersTwo (Senate and National Assembly)
ExecutivePresident-led cabinet responsible to the National Assembly; Prime minister as head of government
JudiciaryHigh Court is established for presidential Impeachment purposes; an extra-judicial body, the Constitutional Council, reviews the constitutionality of laws; no other part of the court system is referenced.
Electoral collegeNo, but senate elections mandated to be indirect
Last amended2009
SupersedesFrench Constitution of 1946
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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 twenty-four times, most recently in 2008.[1]


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 as yet convened court for trying the Government[2]), 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[3] 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.