UDF and RPR were the two main centre-right parties in France between the mid 1970s

and 1981. Those two parties tried to replace the gap left by a declining Gaullist party in the then French political scene. The common feature that both parties were sharing was their hopes based on the personalities of the two leaders, Jacques Chirac for RPR and Valery Giscard D’ Estaing for UDF. This essay explains the reasons that led to the creation of those two parties and analyses to what the extent those two parties were successful between the mid 1970s and 1981. Le Rassemblement pour la republique In the presidential elections of 1974 Jacques Chirac was one of the main allies of Giscard D’Estaing candidature. Giscard prized Chirac’s support by offering him the position of Prime Minister. However, in August 1976 Chirac decides to resign from his position of Prime Minister and to move forward towards a more leading position in French political scene. Chirac then decided to make true his ambition through the renewal of UDR, the party of De Gaulle. In September 1976 Chirac let the people know about his concerns on the reforms urgently needed in the UDR. In December of the same year, a meeting was held in Paris which resulted in Chirac’s establishment as leader of the Gaullist party and as the one who changed its name to Rassemblement pour la Republique (Addinal,1992, 36;Bell, 1999,50).The creation of RPR was the first demonstration of the political abilities of Chirac; his assignment as Prime Minister in the Giscard Government gave him the ability to overwhelm the opposition of the barons of the UDR towards his face and to be present as the absent leader of the Gaullist party. The rename of UDR to RPR gave him an established party, but at the same time was demonstrated to the rest of French right that something had changed. RDR was a creation of Chirac in order to claim the heritage of De Gaulle; it was a successful attempt to enrich his

One of the parts of the coalition was Giscard’s party. who succeeded to shift from one point to another and to set up himself as one of the main protagonists in the French political life. was founded in 1976. L’Union pour la Democratie Française UDF was created six weeks before the parliamentary elections of 1978. The third party of the coalition was the Radical Party that existed since 1972 and was expressed by the radical elements of right wing. UDF was a coalition and this prevented a homogeneous policy to .ambitions with a political background and to obtain an electoral base which could be enlarged with the right choices. and was the successor of the Christian Democrat Movement. especially the anti-Europeanism policy of De Gaulle was not accepted by those parties. the Republican Party which was a result of the refoundation of the Federation Nationale des Republicains Independants of 1966. the Centre des Democrats Sociaux. UDF was a coalition based on opposition to the Gaullism and was serving the electoral goals of the parties in the coalition. UDF was based on three different small non-Gaullist right-centre parties. The second part of the coalition. It was a coalition of all the non-Gaullist right-centre parties which after fifteen years of opposition to the Gaullism had succeeded to reach the government through the victory of Giscard on 1974. The creation of these parties was the result of De Gaulle’s incapability to express the ideas of the whole centre-right. Chirac has always been a very intelligent politician. Its name was given from an essay of Giscard during his presidency.

twice for parliamentary elections 1978 and 1981 and once for presidential election in 1981. Success The measure that calculates the success of a party is the level of voters’ acceptance in elections. 106-7). Parliamentary elections of 1978 The Parliamentary elections of 1978 took place on 12th and 19th March. Moreover.4% of the total amount of votes and obtaining 138 seats in the Parliament. The creation of UDF was a result of the opportunity that appeared with Giscard’s presidency in 1974 to non-Gaullist parties in order to dominate the French centre-right political scene.pp84: Cole. they believed that a centre party without any connection with the Gaullism will be successful and able to take advantage of the divided left. Evans. Bells. all the non-Gaullist right-centre parties concluded that being apart could not challenge the Gaullist movement and only united could present a considerable opposition. As mentioned before.be expressed. pp 47-48. RPR was voted by 6. In addition. in the period which we examined. At this speech he . UDF was voted by 6 million people representing 21. In a first place.5% of the total and achieving 150 seats in Parliament. Two incidents must be mentioned about these elections. 1996. On the other hand. 1999. they were the reason for UDF formation and the first time that the two parties would count their power. In this first challenge the numbers indicated that the RPR showed slightly stronger than the UDF. The two parties confront each other. 1997. the speech of Giscard at Verdun-sur-le-Doubs.3 million voters representing a 22.

Chirac was voted by 5. pp177-79).00 representing 1. In the first ballot Giscard took 8. The first appearance of the UDF in the political arena was quite successful if taken into account that it was the first time that the Party was voted. The RPR supported Jacques Chirac but two other Gaullist decided to place their candidature: Michel Debre.announced to everyone that even if he would loose he had no intention to resign. former prime minister of De Gaulle and Marie France Garaud. Presidential elections of 1981 The presidential elections in 1981 were the moment when Giscard and Chirac faced each other.3%. In addition. it succeeded to remain the voting base of UDR. The first appearance of the RPR it was as well quite successful and obtained a slightly higher percentage than UDF. On the other hand.000 people taking 1. however. the 18% that Chirac obtained was satisfactory enough to establish him as the continuer of the Gaullist movement and to be capable of clearing the RPR of all the remain elements of De . Debre was voted by 500. The elections of 1978 did not make anything very clear and the two parties were expecting the presidential elections of 1981 to sort out their differences.2% of the total. when it was created six weeks before the elections. the ideological border is not really noticeable and voters tend to vote according to the personality and the status of the candidate (Frears.7% and Garaud was voted by 400. 1991. the percentage obtained was not established as the dominant centre-right party. However. it brought up the voting behaviour of centre-right. advisor of Chirac during the time when he was Prime Minister in Giscard’s government.2 million people representing an 18%. In Parliamentary elections. Giscard was the absolute winner between the two of them.2 million votes representing 28. which resulted in the lack of the motive of change from the left voters.

Although in the second ballot where Giscard was required to support all the right-centre wing elements. pp155-58). Parliamentary elections of 1981 They were held on the 14th and 21st June.9% and 86 seats in Parliament. the second ballot was a disaster for the reason that UDF was a coalition based on electoral win. The second ballot was an additional demonstration of Chirac’s abilities. Mitterand decided to do so since the Parliament was dominated by the right-wing and he was thinking that after his victory in the presidential elections an additional victory would be possible at a parliamentary level. 1991. The UDF was voted by 4.8 million voters which represent 19. for the RPR the first ballot was mere disaster for the reason that had been defeated from the main opponent. pp180-81). in less than . Parliamentary elections of 1981 were an important test to the abilities of UDF. However.2 million voters which represented 20. it put under examination the ability of the party to maintain its electoral base united without casualties after the electoral defeat one month before in the presidential elections. Chirac succeeded to survive as the main leader of the Gaullism. 1991. The first ballot of the elections of 1981 was a triumph for Giscard who succeeded to win with a large difference from his main opponent Chirac. (Frears. The RPR was voted by 5. he had used the remains of the importance of his party to undermine his major opponent. in this terms the UDF failed to maintain its electoral base united. On the other hand. opposite to him. Therefore we can say that Chirac succeeded to exit the election winner in terms of centre right dispute. Chirac denied to support him which resulted in Giscard losing the elections from the socialist Mitterand (Frears. and defeat had shaken its foundations. after the decision of the new president Mitterand to dissolve the National Assembly. In addition. even if he had lost.Gaulle. The RPR and the UDF in front of the threat French political life to be dominant from the left had decided to corporate.2% and 66 seats in Parliament.

In political terms. it had proved wise had sink UDF in a turbulent period of dispute and after one month in the parliamentary lection was again in the same level. the RPR preserved its electoral base being established as the dominant party in centre-right waiting the next chance to face the new opponent: left. Chirac proved to be more sufficient from Giscard and succeeded to overwhelm the strains of his party taking in advantage the disadvantages of Giscard’s party. This gap was trying to take advantage of the non Gaullist right and created the UDF. Although it was clear that the elections were lost because of the fact that Chirac would not support Giscard in the second ballot. In terms of success we can say that the UDF was more successful until the presidential elections of 1981 when it was the absolute winner. Conclusion The creation of the UDF and the RPR was resulted from the end of a traditional Gaullism. The RPR until the presidential elections of 1981succeeded not to lose its electoral base but was not able to threat the UDF. Moreover. On . On the other hand. it must be mentioned that both parties had been based onto their respective leaders and the leaders based onto the parties in order to achieve their ambitions. to govern. the failure of Giscard to be reelected resulted on the main motive. to be lost together with the incapacities that suffered as not a real political party like lack of ability to organize and to mobilize a political base had resulted on the decline in parliamentary elections 1981.a month it lost 10% of its voters. In addition the RPR attempted to fulfil the same gap based on being presented as the continuer of De Gaulle’s legacy. However.

parties under presidential.London: Hurst& Company . A(1995) Le Rassemblement pour la republique. D. (106-139). Aldershot: Dartmouth Addinal. French political parties in transition. (1990. French . (1991) parties and voters in France . In A. A. Frears. Giscard never succeeded to follow the moves of Chirac in the political arena and logically never succeeded to establish his party as the major party in the centre-right. Addinal(Ed). Cole(Ed). J.) the return of the Orleanist right: the union for French democracy. In A. Cole. Bibliography Bell. (2000) Parties and democracy in France. Aldershot: Ashgate.the other hand.

political parties: a documentary guide. Cardiff: University of Wales Press . In A.(35-46pp). Addinal(Ed).(35-46pp). French political parties: a documentary guide. Evans. G (1995) L’union pour la democratie Francaise. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

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