Article 49 of the Constitution of the Fifth French Republic


August 13, 2022

Article 49 of the Constitution of the Fifth French Republic is part of Title V of the French Constitution of October 4, 1958: “Relations between Parliament and the Government” (articles 34 to 51). It organizes the political responsibility of the Government before Parliament. In this, he gave the Constitution of the Fifth Republic one of the main features of a parliamentary regime. It is, however, a highly rationalized parliamentarism, that is to say seeking to ensure the stability of the government. It reuses, by reinforcing them, elements already present in the Constitution of the Fourth Republic and introduces, by its paragraph 3, an original provision, without equivalent in previous constitutions or abroad, and providing a very powerful weapon to the Government . These provisions aim to provide the country with the governmental stability it lacked by protecting the government from ad hoc majorities that defeated governments according to alliances, while being unable to offer an alternative. The article comprises four paragraphs and constitutes one of the strong elements in helping to avoid ministerial crises, such as France experienced them under the Fourth Republic. He organizes : the commitment to responsibility for a program or a declaration of general policy (not to be confused with the “question of confidence” which disappeared under the fifth republic) on the initiative of the government; the motion of censure at the initiative of the National Assembly; the commitment of responsibility on a text which allows the government to force the adoption of a text, unless the Assembly is ready to reverse it by means of the motion of censure; finally the possibility for the government to request the approval of its policy by the Senate, the latter or its possible refusal being devoid of legal effects. following paragraph, where the censorship is in some way "provoked" by the government), by imposing the adoption of the motion by an absolute majority of the members, changes the burden of proof, forces the Assembly to demonstrate that there is has an effective rejection of the government. The government cannot be overthrown with the help of undecided people who would simply abstain. Article 49 paragraph 2 succeeded only once, in October 1962 against the first government of Georges Pompidou who had to resign, to be immediately renewed, and supported by a new majority resulting from early legislative elections after the dissolution parliamentary decided by President Charles de Gaulle. Article 49 paragraph 3, known as "commitment of responsibility", allows the government to pass the text it presents, without a vote, under cover of the rejection of the motion of censure that one tenth of the Assembly must file. Articles 50, 50-1 and 51 are directly attached to it, bringing for article 50 an essential complement to paragraph 2 and for article 51 a technical precision on paragraph 3, while article 50- 1 provides for the possibility for the Government to make a statement with debate.


Article 49 (Wikisource) Article 50 (Wikisource) Article 50-1 (Wikisource) Article 51 (Wikisource)

Articles 49 to 51 of the Constitution (current wording)

— Article 49 of the Constitution — Article 50 of the Constitution — Article 50-1 of the Constitution — Article 51 of the Constitution

Speech by Michel Debré before the Council of State

On August 27, 1958, Minister of Justice Michel Debré, one of the main drafters of the Constitution, presented the draft to the General Assembly of the Council of State. Article 49 is mentioned in a brief passage which sets out its spirit and motivations: "The difficulty