Since 1789, the number of constitutional texts in France has refl ected an ambivalence about the organisation of the polity. On the one hand, by transferring the onus of sovereignty from the monarch to the people (or what we could assume to be its theorised version, the nation) the governing body became a representative regime with an assembly as its main institution. ‘Pure’ and sometimes ‘excessive’ parliamentary systems of government were to be the basis of numerous French constitutional texts. On the other hand, the basic societal organisation, the tribal Indo-European society established through a Franco-Germanic hierarchical monarchic society, was present in many other texts. Ambivalence and discontent, a dialectical relationship between the two poles of the government of the French society could be resumed in the classical conceptualised expressions: parliamentary regime v. presidential regime. The Constitution of the Fifth Republic appears to be an attempt to reconcile the two opposed sides of ‘how to govern a society’. The Fourth Republic, which failed to attract a wide consensus, was replaced after dealing (sometimes in a positive way) with decolonisation by the ‘most monarchic’ regime since the reign of Napoleon III and the Second Empire. It was a recurrent idea during the Third Republic that France has always needed a head. Charles Maurras was the leading fi gure supporting this claim, but the left wing of the time was also sharing this opinion, and later Duverger claimed, citing Maurras in Échec au Roi : ‘The Republic is a woman without a head.’ 2 This belief, embedded in the ancien régime , was obviously part of the background preparatory work on the new Constitution. As Professor JeanClaude Casanova notes: ‘The “real” father of the French Constitution is Charles Maurras, who is the “real” intellectual father of Charles de Gaulle, i.e. that France needs a head.’ 3 The infl uence of Charles Maurras on Charles de Gaulle, founder of the Fifth Republic, cannot be dismissed. Neither can his infl uence on Mitterrand, De Gaulle’s long-lasting political opponent, who not only became head of state under a Constitution that he vigorously criticised as a text permitting ‘the permanent coup d’État ’, 4 but also its longeststanding President to date. Mitterrand noted in his fi rst press conference that

‘those institutions were a danger before me, they will be again after me. So far, I can accommodate myself to it.’ 5 In doing so, he (re-)affi rmed the monarchist characteristic of these institutions. Both De Gaulle and Mitterrand were educated under the Third Republic when the dialectic between monarchy and democracy was at its zenith; Maurras’ ideas were crucial then. The ideological debate that marked the Third Republic, excluded for conjectural reasons from the constituent debate of 1945 to 1946 (after the Second Word War and the Vichy regime), reappeared in 1958 and was transposed in the text of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic. The structural debate of ‘who should govern’ formed part of the preparatory debate for the drafting of the new Constitution and it is present in the text itself. It is also present in two major modifi cations that took place in 1962 and 2000, although less evident in the 2008 amendment. 6

In this chapter, I wish to demonstrate the tensions within the text of the Constitution, characterised by the constitutional amendment that concern the President. I will start by looking at the theoretical framework to consider how the current semi-presidential system sits between the parliamentary and presidential versions; I will then analyse the constitutional arrangement at the origin of the Constitution and how it evolved, before looking into the dynamics of the Constitution as it now stands.