Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Half a century ago: gestation of a new republic

Exactly fifty years ago, on 13 May 1958, Algiers was agitated. Crowds had gathered to honor the memory of three French soldiers executed by the Algerian FLN party [National Liberation Front], and to express their disapproval of the formation of a government in Paris led by Pierre Pflimlin. Banners in the midst of the crowd declared that Algeria must remain French, while others cried out for the return to power of Charles de Gaulle.

The army joined in the protests, which looked at times as if they might degenerate into a riot. Inspired by a concept of the French Revolution, the general Jacques Massu set up a comité de salut public [committee of public welfare], and called upon the French president René Coty to form a government in a similar spirit of salut public.

This crisis that flared up in Algeria created a context in which Charles de Gaulle finally decided to preside over the destiny of France.

The events of 13 May 1958 are considered as the starting point of the creation of the Fifth Republic.

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