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Popular Republican Movement
Mouvement Républicain Populaire
President Jean Lecanuet
Founded 1944 (1944)
Dissolved 1967 (1967)
Ideology Christian democracy, centrism
International affiliation None
European affiliation None
Politics of France
Political parties
Constitution of France
Parliament; Government; President

The Popular Republican Movement (Mouvement Républicain Populaire or MRP) was a French Christian democratic party of the Fourth Republic. Its leaders included Georges Bidault, Robert Schuman, Paul Coste-Floret, Pierre-Henri Teitgen and Pierre Pflimlin.


Origins of the French Christian Democracy

In 1876, for the first time, the majority of the House of Deputies was Republican. One year later, they won the 1877 elections against President Mac-Mahon, following the 16 May 1877 crisis. Mac-Mahon wanted a monarchic restoration. After his resignation in 1879, the Republicans held the legislative and executive powers.

The Catholic Church was mistrustful about Republic and ideas of the French Revolution, as the popular sovereignty which questioned the superiority of the spiritual over the temporal power. For this reason, it supported all the conservative governments of the 19th century, notably Mac-Mahon and his policy of "moral order".

In 1892, in his encyclical Au Milieu Des Sollicitudes, Pope Leo XIII advised the French Catholics to rally the Republic. The previous year, another encyclical, Rerum novarum denounced the capitalistic society and the socialist ideology, and advocated creation of Catholic popular organizations. In 1894, students founded Le Sillon (The Furrow). Its leader, Marc Sangnier, militated for spiritual values, democracy and social reforms. It represented the progressive wing of the French Catholicism. But it was dissolved in 1910 by an order of the papacy.

At the beginning of the 20th century, many organizations appeared: the Christian Workers Youth, the Christian Agricultural Youth, and the French Confederation of Christian Workers. In 1924, the Popular Democratic Party (Parti démocrate populaire or PDP) was founded but it remained a small centre-right party. However, the Christian Democratic ideas rose in intellectual circles. Emmanuel Mounier founded the review Esprit (mind or spirit) which denounced fascism and passivity of the Western democracies. In the paper L'Aube (the dawn), Francisque Gay and Georges Bidault shared similar theses. These circles participated actively to the anti-Nazi underground Resistance during the Second World War.

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. This one advocated a strong executive power, autonomous towards Parliament, seeking the national interest while the particular interests would be represented by the parties in Parliament. Yet, in the French Republican culture, democracy and parliamentary sovereignty are inseparable. 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).

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.

A gradual decline

With the creation of the Gaullist RPF and the reconstruction of the conservative right in the National Center of Independents and Peasants (Centre national des indépendants et paysans or CNIP), the MRP faced challengers to represent the right-wing electorate. At the 1951 legislative election, it lost the half of its 1946 voters (12.6%). Furthermore, due to its propensity for integrating conservative politicians sometimes compromised by their association with Vichy, it was sardonically nicknamed the "Machine à Ramasser les Pétainistes" ("Machine for collecting Pétainists").

The MRP also dominated French foreign and colony policies during most of the later 1940s and 1950s. Along with the French Socialist Party, it was the most energetic supporter in the country of European integration. It was also a strong backer of NATO and of close alliance with the United States, making it the most "Atlantiste" of French political parties.

Its leaders, especially Georges Bidault and Paul Coste-Floret (foreign and colonial ministers respectively in several French coalition governments) were primary architects of France's hard-line colonial policies that culminated in long insurgencies in Vietnam (1946-1954) and Algeria (1954-1962), as well as a series of smaller insurrections and political crises elsewhere in the French Empire. The MRP eventually divided over the Algerian question in the late 1950s, (with Bidault being an avid supporter of the Organisation armée secrète).

After the 13 May 1958 crisis, the party supported De Gaulle's come back and called to approve the constitution of the Fifth Republic. It participated to the government of National Unity behind De Gaulle, then broke with him in 1962 over his opposition to extending European economic integration into the realm of political integration. Besides, it was against the presidentialization and de Gaulle's scorn towards Parliament.

Faced with the Gaullist hegemony

When De Gaulle proposed a referendum about the presidential election by the universal suffrage, the MRP took part in the "coalition of the no". De Gaulle dissolved the National Assembly. The MRP suffered a serious electoral defeat.

In 1963, Jean Lecanuet took the leadership in order to renew the image of the party. He was a candidate at the 1965 presidential election and was third (15%) behind De Gaulle and the left-wing represented by François Mitterrand. Then he created the Democratic Centre , which came from the merge of MRP members with the National Center of Independents and Peasants (CNIP). The MRP itself disbanded in 1967, while some historical personalities of the party joined the Gaullist party Union of Democrats for the Fifth Republic (Maurice Schumann etc.).



Electoral results

See also



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