The difficult and restricted relationship that the President of the Republic has with the people

Emmanuel Macron launched this September 8 the National Council for Refoundation designed as a tool to bring government decisions closer to the French. For the director general of the Thomas More Institute, Jean-Thomas Lesueur, France needs, among other things, a better balance of powers and not useless gadgets:

[…] It is true that the distrust that the initiative arouses even in the ranks of the majority makes you smile. It is true that the choice of the name of the presidential “thingy”, whose acronym refers to the mythologized hours of 1944, makes you speechless: what short ministerial cabinet communicator can believe that such a big string has any effect? Finally, it is true that the choice of François Bayrou to lead the presidential “thingy” is disarming. The appointment of a man who has been in politics for almost forty years and who has headed the ghostly High Commission for Planning ironically confirms what macronie is: a closed political and technocratic field, cut off from the country and the people its force. as some executives as troops, with no real connection to the “world of life”.

But smiling is not enough. The case is not anecdotal. On the contrary, it deserves attention and seriousness. Because much has been said about the difficult and strained relationship that the President of the French Republic has with democracy. After the “great debate” invented in 2019 in reaction to the “yellow vests” crisis, after the Citizen’s Climate Convention in 2020, the National Council for Refoundation is the third initiative of Emmanuel Macron that claims to revive our democracy in crisis. . The analysis of these initiatives reveals two mistakes: that of believing in the alleged resources of participatory democracy, strangely combined with statistics and blameless recourse to the vertical of power.

For twenty years and more, sociologists, political scientists, NGO activists and politicians have been tossing around the concept of participatory democracy and singing its praises. By inviting more citizen participation, it is an effective response to distrust and political apathy. However, it clearly has little balance. How to explain it?

First, because ideological preconceptions prevent it from convincing beyond the circle of its militants: we clearly see how the Citizens’ Climate Convention was confiscated by the actors of political ecology, we clearly see how “the district council” operates in Paris, we see how the new “progressive, feminist, ecological and social” Constitution, designed by an assembly of citizens, was recently rejected in the Chilean referendum. Then, because the “left” background that led to the emergence of participatory democracy pushed its actors and advocates to think of it against institutions and elected officials instead of support. Finally, because these same actors have forgotten a major sociological fact: the refusal to participate in a large number of citizens. Whether it is lack of trust, holy indifference, lack of time or, on the contrary, continued trust in representative democracy, most people do not feel the need or desire to participate. For most citizens, not everything is political. And politics is not everything.

From this comes the impression of artificiality, self-segregation and confiscated democracy that many experience in representative democracy. Little rubbed in the field and without much local anchoring (the results of the municipal elections of 2020 and the almost zero presence of the presidential party prove this), Emmanuel Macron and his majority seem to enjoy this synthetic product: if the its footprint is weak in France and French, it has the merit of offering its initiators a complete mastery of methods (and conclusions) as well as elements of language and images for communication.

But the president combined this taste with a practice, quite contrary to its principles, very vertical to power. Whether it is a personal inclination or the effects of the evil geniuses of the Fifth Republic, he seems to believe that the impetus can only come from above, that the French institutional and political pyramid will inevitably be at its apex. . It is strange that, in the country of the West where the executive has the most extensive (and least controlled) power, the offer of democratic change comes from it with such insistence. But, in fact, after the crisis of the “yellow vests”, the president carefully preferred a “big debate” tailored for him rather than the establishment of a RIP (referendum on the popular initiative), which could be local at first. time, which would have breathed democracy from below but could not control it. And, in fact today, he reprimanded the unions, the intermediate bodies, the representatives of the legislative power who refused or hesitated to participate in the show that the installation of his National Council for Refoundation would consist of.

If the president really wants to fix our definitely sick democracy, he will give his “stuff”, which will help to strike the intermediate bodies and the actors of the representative democracy with irrelevance and archaism. With moderation, he will learn to understand that democracy is built from below. It will then respect Parliament and its members and promote constitutional reform without delay to increase their powers and their means of executive control. He will propose the progressive deployment of instruments of direct democracy, such as the local RIP, and has the courage to submit some important questions for the future of the country (energy choices, European agreements, immigration) in the article 11 of the constitution. Finally, it will launch a broad movement of decentralization and easing the limitations (legal, regulatory, budgetary) that burden local authorities, with a view to revitalizing local democracy, the last place of political confidence in our country.

In short, he will take initiatives that favor tools, practices, methods that do not depend on him. What France needs is a better balance of powers, a democracy that does not rely on a pinhead, a more moderate executive. No “stuff”, trust and freedom.

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