Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970)
2010 commemorates the fortieth anniversary of the death of Charles de Gaulle, the first President and architect of the 5th Republic, and the most notable political figure in 20th century France.
As leader of the Free French Movement under the German occupation, he entered into the history books when, in his Appeal of the 18th June 1940, he urged the French population to resist. Upon the Liberation of France, he paraded along the Champs Elysées before an enthusiastic crowd. However, his political impulses were hampered by the system of the 4th Republic which he condemned as being the "regime of the parties". Called to power in 1958 to resolve the problem of the Algerian war, de Gaulle founded the new constitution and became President of the Republic. He was re-elected in 1965 but faced criticism for his solitary exercise of power. Society had changed and de Gaulle's government was shaken by the opposition demonstrated during the events of May 1968. He dissolved the National Assembly and despite a resounding success in the legislative elections of June that year, de Gaulle decided to resign in 1969 following disappointing results in the April referendum.