Popular Republican Movement - Foundation and Height of The MRP

Foundation and Height of The MRP

In 1944, some prominent French politicians wanted to rally all the non-Communist Resistance behind Charles De Gaulle. This project failed. The SFIO Socialist Party was refounded and people from the Christian resistance movement founded the Popular Republican Movement. It claimed its loyalty to de Gaulle, who led the provisional government composed of Communists, Socialists and Christian-Democrats. At the November 1945 legislative election, the MRP was second (23.9%) after the French Communist Party (PCF) but ahead the SFIO.

The MRP benefited from the absence of real right-wing challengers to rally the conservative electorate. Indeed, among the three largest parties, it was the only one that was not Marxist. Furthermore, it appeared the closest to de Gaulle. It supported the reforms decided by the provisional government and inspired by the program of the National Council of Resistance written during the war: nationalization of banks and industrial companies such as Renault, the Welfare State. That's why it was defined as a "centrist party with right-wing voters but a left-wing policy".

Nevertheless, the MRP disagreed with the institutional ideas of De Gaulle, who advocated a strong executive power, autonomous towards Parliament, seeking the national interest while the particular interests would be represented by the parties in Parliament. Wanting to achieve the complete integration of the Catholicism in the Republic, the MRP supported the principle of the parliamentary democracy against De Gaulle.

Relations with De Gaulle deteriorated. In January 1946, the president of the provisional government resigned in protest at the restoration of the "parties regime". The MRP ministers chose to stay in government. Nevertheless, the party called on voters to reject the proposed constitution in May 1946, fearing the election of a pro-Communist regime. After that, the MRP became the largest party in parliament after the June 1946 legislative election (28.2%) and Bidault took charge of the cabinet. In October 1946, the MRP, together with the SFIO and the PCF, presented a new proposed constitution. It was approved despite De Gaulle's call for a "no" vote. One year later, a Gaullist party was founded under the name of Rally of the French People (Rassemblement du peuple français or RPF).

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The MRP became a mainstay of the Fourth Republic. It was allied with the Socialists and the Communists in the Three-parties alliance until spring 1947. Then, it joined the Third Force that brought together center-left and center-right parties against the Communists on the one hand and the Gaullists on the other hand. Two Christian Democrats led the cabinet: Georges Bidault (June-December 1946, October 1949-July 1950) and Robert Schuman (November 1947-July 1948, August-September 1948) who presented, as Foreign Minister, plans for what would become the European Community. Indeed, European unification was an important part of the MRP platform.

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