In France, how can a government be forced to resign? Are there any examples of this occurring?
There is a noticeable gap between what the constitution seems to suggest and actual practice under the 5th Republic. As far as the constitution is concerned:
- Article 8 states that “The president ends the term of the prime minister when he tenders the cabinet's resignation”. The text says nothing about the president's right to revoke or force the resignation of the prime minister and his cabinet.
- Article 49-2 provides that the lower chamber of parliament (the assemblée nationale) can force the cabinet to resign by a vote of no confidence of the majority of its members (not the majority of valid votes).
- Article 49-3 can be used by the government to force an up-and-down vote on a text (no debate or amendment). If the parliament votes against the text, the government is forced to resign.
In practice, when the president's party has a majority in parliament (i.e. except during a cohabitation), the president is the leader of the government and parliamentary discipline is very strong. So the president can choose when a prime minister has to go and can effectively force him or her to resign, how this happens doesn't really matter. In 1968, Pompidou never wrote his resignation letter but he had to go nonetheless (technically, De Gaulle still had one Pompidou wrote a few months earlier for a resignation he did not accept at the time but in the meantime Pompidou made it clear he wanted to stay on).
Since 1958, article 49-2 has been used successfully exactly once (against Georges Pompidou in 1962). Article 8 is used regularly but only once against the wishes of the president (by Jacques Chirac in 1976). No president went through a full term without changing prime ministers along the way. Traditionally, the cabinet also resigns when a new president is elected.
Article 49-3 has been used 89 times and was each and every time successful in forcing the hand of the parliament (its real purpose). Never has a prime minister been forced to resign after invoking 49-3.
One was is through a vote of no confidence (motion de censure) initiated by the National Assembly can cause a government to resign:
A vote of no confidence (censure) allows the National Assembly, on its own initiative, to force the government to resign. The vote's application and action by the parliament, in this regard, is an essential characteristic of any parliamentary system.
Check the answer provided by Relaxed about other options and how it happened in practice.