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Alain Poher


In office
1968–1992
Preceded by Gaston Monnerville
Succeeded by René Monory

In office
29 April 1969 – 20 June 1969
Prime Minister Maurice Couve de Murville
Preceded by Charles de Gaulle
Succeeded by Georges Pompidou
In office
2 April 1974 – 27 May 1974
Prime Minister Pierre Messmer
Preceded by Georges Pompidou
Succeeded by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing

In office
1966–1969
Preceded by Victor Leemans
Succeeded by Mario Scelba

Born April 17, 1909(1909-04-17)
Ablon-sur-Seine
Died December 9, 1996 (aged 87)
Paris
Political party Democratic Centre
Occupation Civil Servant
Religion Roman Catholic

Alain Émile Louis Marie Poher (French pronunciation: [alɛ̃ pɔɛʁ]; 17 April 1909 – 9 December 1996) was a French centrist politician, affiliated first with the Popular Republican Movement and later with the Democratic Centre. He served as a Senator for Val-de-Marne from 1946 to 1995. He was President of the Senate from 3 October 1968 to 1 October 1992 and, in that capacity, served twice as the country's interim president. Candidate in the 1969 presidential election, he was defeated by Georges Pompidou in the second round.

Contents

Biography and political career

Poher was born in Ablon-sur-Seine, Val-de-Marne.

He graduated from Lycée Louis-le-Grand et Lycée Saint-Louis in Paris and later studied law. On 19 August 1938 he married Henriette Tugler, with whom he had one daughter, Marie-Agnès.

His political career began in 1938, when he became a junior executive officer in the Ministry of Finance.

Later he served on several positions before entering Senate:

  • Chairman, Ministry of Finance Liberation Committee (from 20 July 1944)
  • Head of Social Services, Ministry of Finance (from 1 January 1945)
  • Mayor of Ablon-sur-Seine (from 1 January 1946)
  • Sec. of State for Finance and Economic Affairs (Govt. of Robert Schuman)
  • Sec. of State for the Budget (Govt. of Henri Queuille)

A longtime ally and political protege of Schumann, Poher was elected to the Senate in 1952, where he remained for over 40 years (until 1995). As Senator he continued to serve in some governments and his home town mayor.

As Schuman, he was known for strongly pro-European integration positions, having served as President of the European Parliament (1968-1969).

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Interim Presidency of the Republic

According to the order of succession established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, the president of the senate assumes the nation's presidential powers and duties following the president's death or resignation, and becomes interim Head of State until the next election.

Poher's first stint as interim president came on 29 April 1969, when Charles de Gaulle resigned. Previously he was one of de Gaulle's most notable political opponents and played a key role in the "no" success in de Gaulle's final referendum.

During his interim Presidency Poher continued to serve as Senate President. However, he resided during this time in the Élysée Palace

Initially Poher tried to recruit General Marie Pierre Kœnig as a candidate for the Presidency and offered him his full support. Kœnig, however, declined to run, citing his poor health and stating that one general should not replace another general as the head of state.

After Kœnig refusal, Poher himself announced his candidacy. Due to favourable polls he was viewed as the strongest opponent of Georges Pompidou and the only non-Gaullist candidate who had a real opportunity to win the election. Lack of a longstanding party machine, however, hurt his chances.

During his short term in office Poher's main task was overseeing the incoming election, which he himself participated in. However during his tenure he took some major initiatives; for example, he fired longtime de Gaulle confidant Jacques Foccart, a Secretary-General for African Affairs and, unofficially, chief of the Gaullist secret services (he returned to the Élysée after Pompidou's election).

Poher also ordered the directors of France's state-controlled radio and television networks that public media must be politically neutral and not act in interest of any particular party. His successors followed this precedent. He also ordered the redeployment of a large police force in Paris, staying after the May 1968 events.

During his tenure Poher served with a Gaullist Government of Prime Minister Maurice Couve de Murville, de Gaulle's close ally. Some even referred to this period as the first cohabitation. Despite sharp political differences Poher was widely credited for model cooperation with the Government.

Despite defeat in the election, due to his accomplishment Poher, previously largely unknown to the public, developed a large popularity during Interim Presidency.

He served again as Interim President in 1974 after Pompidou died in office. This time, however, he did not run for his own term and stepped down after Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was elected.

Political career

  • Interim President of the French Republic: April-June 1968, April-May 1974

Governmental functions

  • Secretary of State for Budget: September-November 1948
  • Secretary of State for the Navy: 1957-1958

Electoral mandates

European Parliament

Senate

Trivia

  • His favourite author was Lamartine
  • During his 1969 Presidential bid he was often compared by the U.S. press to Harry Truman, due to his folksy style and succession
  • He was considered by some to have been the Merovingian pretender to the French throne.

References

Political offices
Preceded by
Gaston Monnerville
President of the French Senate
1968-1992
Succeeded by
René Monory
Preceded by
Charles de Gaulle
Interim President of France
1969
Succeeded by
Georges Pompidou
Preceded by
Georges Pompidou
Interim President of France
1974
Succeeded by
Valéry Giscard d'Estaing

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