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FRANCE: Crackers & Chocolate

2 minute read

When France is in the throes of forming a new government, the spectacle is undignified, sometimes dangerous and a severe physical tax on the men involved at the core of it. For three days 54-year-old René Mayer, last week’s unsuccessful premier-designate, did not eat a decent meal. From morning until late at night he conferred hectically with party leaders. At intervals he replenished his energies with crackers and chocolate bars from a desk drawer.

After the resignation (TIME, Oct. 17) of the Radicals’ Henri Queuille (because of Socialist contumacy), President of the Republic Vincent Auriol had called on Socialist Jules Moch, a hard-hitting Minister of Interior in the Queuille regime, to see what he could do. By the narrowest margin in French parliamentary history, Moch had been approved by the Assembly, but he could not form a cabinet. It seemed that neither of the other two parties in the center coalition, the Radicals and Popular Republicans, wanted a Socialist premier. Then long-suffering M. Auriol called on the Radicals’ René Mayer.*

Middle-of-the-roader Mayer won a fairly comfortable Assembly ratification, but he also was unable to form a cabinet, largely because the Socialists resented the frustration of M. Moch. M. Auriol next wistfully beckoned to an eminent Popular Republican, Georges Bidault, first Foreign Minister of the Fourth Republic. M. Bidault would undoubtedly exert himself to the utmost, for of the three center parties the Popular Republicans have the sharpest fear of parliamentary dissolution and new elections (the Popular Republicans anticipate wholesale defections to the Gaullists). By a majority vote the deputies could bring about dissolution at any time, and the longer the crisis went on the closer came the specter of dissolution.

*Not to be confused with doctrinaire Socialist Daniel Mayer, no kin.

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