Biography of René Coty (1882-1962)

Politician and French lawyer, born in Le Havre on March 20, 1881 and died in the same town on November 20, 1962. He/She was President of the French Fourth Republic between 1953 and 1959.

Son of two teachers with deep Republican roots, studied philosophy and law at the University of Caen and specialized in maritime law. After graduating in 1902, he/she began practicing law in his hometown. He/She began his political career sponsored by Jules Siegfied regional Deputy in 1907 to the joining of the municipal Council of Le Havre. It was moved by the French army during World War I. In 1923 he/she was elected for the first time as a national Member, since he/she supported the reform of the Constitution. He/She joined the Republican left petitions that called for reforms in the Merchant Navy and the Government. Occupied in December 1930 the Secretary of interior on a provisional basis. In 1935 he/she joined to occupy a seat in the Senate, where he/she voted in 1940 for the law that granted full powers to Marshal Pétain so that he/she negotiate with the Germans. He/She retired from public life during the German occupation and refused to support the collaborationist government in Vichy.

After the war, he/she was elected member of the constituent Assembly, responsible for the drafting of a new Constitution, voted against it. The Fourth Republic was proclaimed in 1946, he/she joined to occupy a seat in the National Assembly. He/She worked briefly for reconstruction and Urban Affairs portfolio in the Government of Robert Schuman. He/She was elected as Senator in 1948, and a year later was appointed Vice-President of the Chamber, a post in which he/she remained until his election as President. From the Senate, he/she presented numerous proposals to reform the Constitution, which was reflected in numerous reports. One of them, made in November 1950, he/she criticized harshly to the National Assembly, which accused of omnipotent and assume the powers of the Executive. It also proposed that was restored to the President the possibility of dissolving the Assembly and that various administrative reforms were carried out. When finished the mandate of the President of the Republic Auriol, the members of the Assembly and Senate met in Versailles, on December 17, 1953, to choose a successor. December 23 Coty was elected President of France in the 13th vote with 477 votes, 41 more than needed, with 399 votes he/she received his rival, the Socialist Marcel-Edmond Naegelen. His election was a surprise, since he/she was not among the Favorites for the job, as it showed the fact that his candidacy was not presented to the 11th vote, thanks to a compromise of Gaullists and Christian Democrats.

Coty was almost unknown to the public, although it was estimated by the parliamentarians, among whom he/she had never earned enemies. Shortly after his election, there was the death of his wife. Coty printed a personal style to French politics, and unlike his predecessor in the post, was fond of a policy of no obstruction. In his inaugural speech he/she said partisan respect the opinion of the majority. However, not could put a stop to the political crisis, suffering the Fourth Republic, in which Governments were extremely quickly: eight different cabinets were formed from early 1954 to May 1958. During his tenure there were 127 days in which France was without a Government. Before proposing the appointment of a Prime Minister, he/she consulted all political forces, both which had caused the crisis as he/she was responsible for extending it and, after that, proposed candidate had possibility electable. One of its main objectives was to get the reform of the Executive Branch, since it thought that a regime could not be maintain by itself unless it was able to reform itself; but, despite it, he/she avoided using executive powers which afforded it the Constitution, and preferred to remain neutral in the ongoing crisis. In late November he/she will approve a constitutional reform, which was abolished the appointment system; Since then, the Ministers, for legislative approval, needed only a relative majority.

On November 30, 1955, after the fall of the Cabinet of Edgar Faure, conducted the first dissolution of the National Assembly in 80 years. 1956 legislative elections gave victory to the left, so Coty commissioned to form a Government to the leader of the Socialist Party, Guy Mollet. The situation escalated in Algeria, French colony to which the majority of citizens were supporters of granting independence, and that far-right groups and certain sectors of the army, led by Sakan and Maggu, threatened to revolt. The situation seemed to be drift to a pre-war civil position; to try to find a solution Coty did not hesitate to ask for the help of general De Gaulle, in order that try to pacify the situation. The general demanded to accept the granting of full powers and the adoption of a new Constitution. The decision to choose De Gaulle as Prime Minister, favors negotiating with Algerian separatists, sparked a revolt in Algeria, supported by the army. The President, as Commander in Chief of the armed forces, ordered the military to cease in their attitude. De Gaulle, who accepted on 26 may form Government, refused to take office before the National Assembly. Coty was forced to threaten to resign should not be would give power to the leader of the Popular Republican movement. Millerand, the President of the Chamber, gave a deadline of 48 hours to find a solution, time during which the President of the Republic began to discuss with all political groups the program that was to apply the general. The political circumstances forced all parties to accept the appointment of De Gaulle, and for the first time in the history of the Republic of France, a Prime Minister was appointed directly by the head of State. Coty has passed on his powers to De Gaulle on January 8, 1959, which was proclaimed the Fifth Republic. Coty became part of the Constitutional Council.


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