Edgar Faure

(b. 1908)

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(b. Béziers, 18 Aug. 1908; d. Paris, 30 Mar. 1988)

French; Prime Minister 1955 Edgar Faure came from a middle-class family and trained as a lawyer. He first acquired prominence in 1945 as one of the French prosecutors at the Nuremberg trials and then entered the National Assembly for the eastern department of Jura. Able and ambitious, a natural governmentalist unencumbered by strong doctrinal convictions, he held a number of posts in the short-lived coalitions of the Fourth Republic and succeeded Mendès France as Prime Minister in 1955. In office he continued the decolonization programme of his predecessor and was an early advocate of the EEC. In December 1995, however, he dissolved the National Assembly and called a snap election. His decision, although legal, caused great controversy for its disregard of the constitutional code of French Republicanism. He was expelled from the Radical Party and lost the political, and personal, friendship of Mendès France.

The return to power of de Gaulle in 1958 ended the ministerial career of many of the party leaders of the Fourth Republic. Faure, however, adapted quickly to the new rules of the political game and put his trouble-shooting skills at the service of de Gaulle. In 1966 he was appointed minister of Agriculture with the task of calming an—electorally important—farming community which had been offended by the rationalization programme of his predecessor Edgard Pisani. The clearest acknowledgement of his talents came when de Gaulle asked him to become Minister of Education in the aftermath of the political chaos of the May 1968 events. Faure's brief was to draw up a plan for higher education which would democratize its structures while maintaining state control over the system. His law alienated the more conservative elements in the National Assembly but succeeded in defusing, if not solving, the crisis in the universities.

Faure never held ministerial office after de Gaulle's resignation in 1969 but he remained an important figure in the parliamentary game. He was president of the National Assembly from 1973 to 1974 and nursed dreams of standing for the presidency in 1974. Towards the end of his life he became a supporter of Chirac and wrote several volumes of memoirs. A man of great intelligence and energy ‘Edgar’ (as he was familiarly known) was, in the last analysis, too clever by half to be suitable for the high offices which he craved.

Subjects: Politics.

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