Alain Poher

Alain Poher

French statesman
Date of Birth: 17.04.1909
Country: France

Alain Poher: French Statesman and Former President of France

Alain Poher was a French statesman who served as the President of the Senate of France for 24 years. He holds the unique distinction of temporarily assuming the duties of the President of the Republic twice in French history, in 1969 and 1974. Poher was born in Ablon-sur-Seine, Val-de-Marne, near Paris. He graduated from the Lycée Louis-le-Grand and the renowned political science institute, Sciences Po. During World War II, Poher served in the Ministry of Finance while also collaborating with the French Resistance.

After the war, Poher became the secretary of Robert Schuman's cabinet, focusing on social policies and the issues of occupied Germany and Austria. He held various positions in the Council of the Republic/Senate of France from 1946 to 1995, constantly getting reelected except for a brief hiatus during his work in Germany from 1948 to 1952. He represented the Popular Republican Movement (MRP) in the Senate. Poher was also part of two short-lived governments in the Fourth Republic, serving as Secretary for Budget in 1948 and Minister of Naval Affairs from 1957 to 1958. He supported Charles de Gaulle in the process of dismantling the Fourth Republic and implementing constitutional reforms.

In October 1968, Poher was elected President of the Senate. In April 1969, following a referendum proposed by President de Gaulle to transform the Senate into a consultative-economic body, Poher actively opposed this initiative and tried to convince de Gaulle to cancel the referendum. The proposal was rejected by the population, leading de Gaulle to announce his resignation, thereby ceasing his presidential duties at 12 noon on April 29, 1969. According to the French Constitution of the Fifth Republic (1958), the Constitutional Council of France determined that the conditions for temporarily assuming the responsibilities of the President of the Republic were met by the President of the Senate, and early presidential elections were held. Poher himself participated in these elections, intending to become the permanent President (immediately after de Gaulle's resignation, he moved into the Élysée Palace and started holding receptions and consultations according to a tight schedule). In the second round of elections, Poher ran alongside former Prime Minister and close ally of de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou, managing to surpass communist Jacques Duclos and socialist Michel Rocard. This was the only instance until the 2002 elections (Chirac - Le Pen) where representatives of left-wing parties did not qualify for the second round. However, Poher lost to Pompidou, and on June 20, 1969, he ceased his temporary presidential duties after Pompidou took the oath and occupied the Élysée Palace. In the first round, Poher received 5,268,613 votes (23.3%), and in the second round, he received 7,943,118 votes (41.8%). He received support from right-wing non-Gaullists, and in the second round, also from socialists. The communists, led by Jacques Duclos, boycotted the second round.

On April 2, 1974, Georges Pompidou died of leukemia at 9:00 pm. The following day, the Constitutional Council of France once again approved Poher as the temporary President of the Republic. This time, he did not participate in the early elections, which were won by Valéry Giscard d'Estaing (in the second round, Poher closely monitored the voting in overseas departments, the outcome of which determined the victory for either Giscard or the winner of the first round, François Mitterrand). On May 27, 1974, the newly elected President took office, ending Poher's second temporary term as President.

Following that, Poher occupied the position of President of the Senate for another 18 years and retired at the age of 83 on October 1, 1992. As the Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly of the European Communities, now the European Parliament, from 1966 to 1969, Poher was a staunch supporter of European integration. During his second temporary term, Poher ratified the European Convention on Human Rights, which had not been ratified under the Gaullists; he did so in memory of his teacher, Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers of the united Europe. When François Mitterrand came to power in 1981, Poher collaborated with the socialists but rejected the constitutional amendments proposed by Laurent Fabius in 1984.