Alain Poher

Alain Émile Louis Marie Poher (French: [alɛ̃ pɔɛʁ]; 17 April 1909 – 9 December 1996) was a French centrist politician, affiliated first with the Popular Republican Movement and later with the Democratic Centre. He served as a Senator for Val-de-Marne from 1946 to 1995. He was President of the Senate from 3 October 1968 to 1 October 1992 and, in that capacity, served twice as the country's interim president. A leading candidate in the 1969 presidential election, he was defeated by Georges Pompidou in the second round.

Alain Poher
Poher in 1969
President of the French Senate[a]
In office
3 October 1968  1 October 1992
Preceded byGaston Monnerville
Succeeded byRené Monory
President of the European Parliament
In office
7 March 1966  11 March 1969
Preceded byVictor Leemans
Succeeded byMario Scelba
French Senator
In office
26 April 1959  1 October 1995
In office
18 May 1952  26 April 1959
In office
8 December 1946  7 November 1948
Personal details
Alain Émile Louis Marie Poher

(1909-04-17)17 April 1909
Ablon-sur-Seine, France
Died9 December 1996(1996-12-09) (aged 87)
Paris, France
Political partyPopular Republican Movement (before 1967)
Democratic Centre (1967–1976)
Centre of Social Democrats (1976–1995)
Democratic Force (1995–1996)
Other political
Union for French Democracy (1978–1996)
Spouse(s)Henriette Tugler
Alma materMines ParisTech
Sciences Po

Life and career

Poher was born in Ablon-sur-Seine, Val-de-Marne.

He graduated from the Lycée Louis-le-Grand and the Lycée Saint-Louis in Paris and later studied law. On 19 August 1938 he married Henriette Tugler, with whom he had one daughter, Marie-Agnès.

His political career began in 1938, when he became a junior executive officer in the Ministry of Finance.

Later he served on several positions before entering the Senate:

  • Chairman, Ministry of Finance Liberation Committee (from 20 July 1944)
  • Head of Social Services, Ministry of Finance (from 1 January 1945)
  • Mayor of Ablon-sur-Seine (from 1 January 1946)
  • Sec. of State for Finance and Economic Affairs (Govt. of Robert Schuman)
  • Sec. of State for the Budget (Govt. of Henri Queuille)

A longtime ally and political protégé of Schuman, Poher was elected to the Senate in 1952, where he remained for over 40 years, until 1995. As Senator he continued to serve in some governments and as his home-town mayor. Like Schuman, he was known for strongly pro-European integration positions; he served as President of the European Parliament from 1966 to 1969.

Interim Presidency of the Republic

According to the order of succession established by the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, the president of the French senate assumes the nation's presidential powers and duties following the president's death or resignation, and becomes interim Head of State until the next election.

Poher's first service as interim president came on 29 April 1969, when Charles de Gaulle resigned. Previously he was one of de Gaulle's most notable political opponents and played a key role in the successful "no" campaign in de Gaulle's final referendum.

During his interim Presidency Poher continued to serve as Senate President. However, he resided during this time in the Élysée Palace as acting president.

Initially Poher tried to recruit General Marie Pierre Kœnig as a candidate for the Presidency and offered him his full support. Kœnig, however, declined to run, citing his poor health and stating that one general should not replace another general as the head of state.

After Kœnig's refusal, Poher himself announced his candidacy. Due to favourable polls he was viewed as the strongest opponent of Georges Pompidou and the only non-Gaullist candidate who had a real opportunity to win the election. Lack of a longstanding party machine, however, hurt his chances.

During his short term in office Poher's main task was overseeing the incoming election, in which he himself participated. However, during his tenure he took some major initiatives; for example, he fired longtime de Gaulle confidant Jacques Foccart, a Secretary-General for African Affairs and, unofficially, chief of the Gaullist secret services. (He returned to the Élysée after Pompidou's election).

Poher also ordered the directors of France's state-controlled radio and television networks to keep public media politically neutral and refrain from acting in the interest of any particular party. His successors followed this precedent. He also ordered the redeployment of a large police force in Paris in the wake of the May 1968 events.

During his tenure, Poher served with the Gaullist government of Prime Minister Maurice Couve de Murville, de Gaulle's close ally. Some even referred to this period as the first cohabitation. Despite sharp political differences, Poher was widely credited for model cooperation with the government.

His accomplishments helped Poher, previously largely unknown to the public, develop significant popularity during his interim presidency, despite his defeat in the election.

He served again as Interim President in 1974 after Pompidou died in office. This time, however, he did not run for his own term and stepped down after Valéry Giscard d'Estaing was elected.

Political career

  • Interim President of the French Republic: April–June 1969, April–May 1974

Governmental functions

  • Secretary of State for Budget: September–November 1948
  • Secretary of State for the Navy: 1957–1958

Electoral mandates

European Parliament



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