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The Constitution of the new French Republic, adopted by referendum in 1958, and the institutions established to serve it were, for decades, associated with ideas of progress and a strong, dynamic French nation.

“One of the essential features of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic is that it endows the State with a head,” observed Charles de Gaulle when speaking of the text which had been drafted, at his request, by Michel Debré, the man subsequently to become his Prime Minister. There is a touch of irony, as France is well known for the fate reserved for certain heads of State in the past.