Never a Golden Age
General Charles de Gaulle, founder of the Fifth French Republic in 1958, was a bitter opponent of the unchecked power of political parties, for which he blamed the failure of earlier Republics, but his vision of the future was as naïve as his diagnosis of the past was tendentious, for the problem of the Third and Fourth Republics was rather the weakness of parties. The main surprise of the Fifth Republic was the emergence, from 1962, of the secure parliamentary majorities that France had hitherto lacked; in addition, since 1965, when de Gaulle himself found that he needed party support to campaign for re‐election, the presidency itself has been a key stake in party competition. These two developments transformed the role of parties, and the party system of the Fifth Republic may now be described as one of bipolar multipartism. This contains two distinct and opposed sets of dynamics (pressures): bipolarity, (which is encouraged in important ways by France's political institutions), and forces in the party system pointing towards fragmentation and multipartism; these pressures exist in every party system, but the French case is unusual because they are so evenly balanced. The introduction discusses this situation; the next three sections cover the same topics as those in the other country case studies in the book, and examine party legitimacy, party organizational strength (finance and staffing, and activism, and parties in civil society), and party functionality (in political recruitment, governance, interest articulation and aggregation, political participation, and political communication and education).
Keywords: activism, bipolar multipartism, bipolarity, case studies, civil society, de Gaulle, France, governance, interest aggregation, interest articulation, multipartism, parliamentary majorities, party competition, party finance, party functionality, party legitimacy, party organization, party performance, party staffing, party strength, party system, party weakness, political communication, political education, political institutions, political participation, political parties, political recruitment, political system
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