Created: 9/7/1962

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Consequences of the Death or Assassination of De Gaulle



To assess the consequences for the Internal politicalin France and the effect on French foreign policies of de Gaulle's death by assassination or natural causes within the next few months.


A constant threat of assassination hangs over de Gaulle. But we believe that while some disorders might follow his assassination, the succession would take place normally, as if the President had died of natural causes. We do not believe plotters have extensive military backing and without suchoup attempt would almost certainly fail. The most likely successor to de Gaulle wouldnotable" of the Fourth Republic, who would not have de Gaulle's unique authority. Relations with France's allies wouldimprove, but many Gaullist foreign policies wouldto have strong support and any basic alterations in foreign and defense policies would probably come slowly.



constant threat of assassination hangs; over President de Gaulle, who has already experienced two attempts on his life since coming to powerhe end of the French-Algerian war has loosed on French soil thousands of Iawiess. bitter, andEuropean expatriates from Algeria, including many veterans of the OAS. who have Jived by violence for months and who still regard de Gaulle with loathing. Spokesmen of the OAS have declared the assassination of the President to be the first stepong-range strategy to change the political climate in France and eventually to reconstitute the French presence in Algeria. There aresome military officers who feel that assassination of de Gaulle wouldatriotic gesturean who in their opinion had dishonored the French military

The assassination of de Gaulle could come about as an act of vengeance bymall group of malcontents, orOOM be partlot by elements of the OAS In the latter case, the plotters might attempt to seize power on de Gaulle's death, in the belief that they could rally anumber of supporters amongsettlers from Algeria and army officers to carryoup attempt once they hadof de Gaulle and possibly some of the Ministers most closely identified with hisWe believe that such an undertaking would almost certainly fail because the OAS has little popular support in France and would receive little support from theonger rangebe the hope to set in motiondeterioration which would lead eventuallyightist dictatorship. This more distant hypothesis cannot be dismissed out of hand, but it falls beyond the scope of this Estimate.

Most military officers, even those who harbor deep resentments against de Gaulle, probably view the loss of Algerialosed, evenordid, chapter ln French history. They would almost certainly be unwilling to identify themselvesoup involving the possibility of widespread violence unless lt wasause which would arouse patrioticamong at least the rlghtwlng of French politics. Algeria is no longerause. In any event, they would fear that only extremists on right and left could profit from such violence. In the absence ofinvolvement, the security forces alone would be quite sufficient to eliminate quickly any momentary success that clandestinemight achieve, such as the seizure of some public buUdings. By the same token security forces would be likely to restrain any demonstrations that might be mounted from the left in protest against the assassins.

While some disorders might follow the assassination, we believe the succession would take place normally, as ifyear-old President had died of natural change in present constitutionalthe President of the Senate, Gaston Monnerville, would assume de Gaulle'sand would shortly thereafter call for

electionermanentautious but dedicated republican, would probably use his powers Inay as to Insure that the succession processsmoothly and that the transition was accomplishedinimum of political tension.

Under such comparatively tranquilthe probable choice of theelectoral college wouldnotable" of Fourth Republic vintage, such as Antolne Pinay. If the domesticshould become highly charged, or If some dangerous external crisis should develop over Berlin or the safety of the remaining French settlers inaullist or afigure might be chosen. On the whole, however, we believe the domestic atmosphere would be relatively calm and that external factors would notecisive role In the choice.

Any successor to de Gaulle would, of course, be unable to command the uniqueenjoyed by his predecessor, and at least Initially he would almost certainly try to compensate for his relative weakness bya more charitable and cooperativetoward Parliament. This wouldmean that the Premier's role would be expanded. The Premier, in turn, wouldprove mora responsive lo the evident wishes of his parliamentary majority.

1 For the purpose ol this estimate It Is assumed thai the present conaUtuUonal provision for the succession will remain In force. Tbe test of this provision Is attached atDe Oaullc Isj considering, const! taUonal changes which would sflect th* succession. There Li speculation that he Is considering popular elecUon of theand possibly ihe establishment of an office of Vice President without knowledge of what these changes will be tt Is impossiblemate at this

Superficially, the arrangements described above would appear to constitute aof the de Gaulle regime underess imposing leader. However, essential ingredients of the old formula would be lacking. Because the new President would not enjoy de Gaulle's sweeping popularity, he would probably refrain from throwing hisprestige into any political crisis with Parliament or against any powerful special interest groups. He would lack the aura of ^dispensability which has made other leaders reluctant to attack de Gaulle. Finally, he would find himself falling heir to the many problems which remained unresolved during the long agonies of the search for an Algerian solution. In this category are such issues as the small farmers' virtual revolt againstauthority, the pied-noir problem in the south, and wage and price problems.

Under theseuccessor regime would probably in time drift back toward some of the political and parliamentary practices that were hallmarks of the Third and Fourth Republics. Constitutional changes might be adopted which aimed at redressing the balance of power between Parliament and President, although It is unlikely that the Presidential system would be entirely abandoned. Even though the constitution were not amended, some of the more arbitrary powers which de Gaulle has exercised would probably wither away from disuse. But these relationships would be worked out over time, and much would depend on the men who held office, and on the degree to which the parties could win back their old roles. If the drift back toward the multiparty system resultedeturn to governmental instability, this would give the OAS-type plotters their best chance of a

In general, the relative strengths of France's major political parties would tend to remain much as they are now. However, two trends would probably soon become evident as


domestic political issues began Co dominate the political scene. Factionalism wouldinside the UNR, with various partytrying to win advantages ln the struggle to inherit de Gaulle's mantle. At the same time, all parties would probably becomeassertive as they saw theto improve their parliamentaryby appealing to the voters on bread-and-butter Issues. Over the short run, however, we doubt that dramatic political changes would occur, or that dynamic new political movements would be established, or that there wouldolarization of political forcesright and left.

Foreign Policies

De Gaulle's successor would lack his unique authority at home, be preoccupied with the evolution of the domestic scene, and would lack his Intense and highly personal approach to foreign affairs. Assuming that the most likely successor wouldnotable" of the Fourth Republic, any probable successor would almost certainlyoreattitude towards the US and toward NATO, at least on the surface. Moreover, the balance of political forces in the Parliament is such that it would probably give backingore flexible approach to relations with France's allies. Only in the case of theion of some such nationalistic figure as Debre, which we consider highly unlikely, would relations with France's allies fail to improve.

However. French nationalism has been greatly revived under de Gaulle and he will have left behind him legacies that fewwill be willing to forfeit. The great financial investment already made in the force de frappe and the French belief that this has given them great political advantage will almost certainly Inhibit any early turning away from the achievement of an independent

French nuclear capability. Strongmay develop to curtail certain aspects of the program, but the desire to make France "first on the continent" will probably operate to preserve its main lines. The currenthas already moved away from Its earlier Interest InNATOforce" and has been giving moreto the ideaEuropean force dehich would exclude USInterest in this objective wouldIncrease under the new circumstances,we believe any such project Is far from realization.

The departure of de Gaulle would also stimulate hope of eventual European political union among the strong body of integration-ists in the center parties, but we do not believe negotiations over the UK's entry into theMarket would be made significantly easier by that fact. In fact, the relatively greater political pressure which specialgroups, particularly the peasants, could apply on the new government would, ifprobably cause it to maintain itson strict terms for UK entry.

Finally, it seems likely that any new regime would hesitate to make significant changes in foreign policy, even if it wereto do so, until such time as the mood of the country had been tested by elections. Many Gaullist foreign policies will continue to have strong popular supportew President and his Premier would probably hesitate to change them for some time to come. In short, while France wouldconduct its relations with Its alliesore flexible and friendly manner, any basic alterations Ln the content of foreign andpolicies would probably come slowly and onlyuccessor government hadassessed the mood of the country and the balance of political forces.



Under the present terms ol the Constitution the President is named by an electoral college, of0 electors,the members of Parliament, the members of theCouncils and of the Assemblies of the Overseasas well as elected representatives from all French municipal councils. The controlling constitutional article on the succession reads as follows:

"In the event that the Presidency of the Republic has beenhe (unctions of the President of the Republic, with the exception of those provided for by Articlesndelow, [the Presidents powers to Initiate constitutionaland dissolve the Assembly] shall be temporarilyby the President of the Senate. In the case ofhe voting for the electionew President shall take place, except in case of force majeure officially noted by the Constitutional Council, twenty days at thend fifty days at the most after the beguuiing of the"

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