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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La-democratie-une-obstruction

by Jean-Paul Piérot

Is democracy an “obstruction”?

Translated Sunday 25 January 2009, by Anatoli

The institutional reform wanted by Nicolas Sarkozy and adopted last summer by the members of Parliament reunited as the constitutional Congress is now showing its true face. One surely does not need to be a wizard to guess what reasons drove the Élysée Palace to let them proceed swiftly with an amendment to the Constitution to allow the head of state to come in person and speak to the people’s representatives. No other task could be more urgent for a government. French people’s buying power, offshoring, failed economic growth, and a looming crisis did not matter much compared to this historic challenge of “modernizing” the political life.

Those on the left who warned against the Bonapartist temptation were referred to the bonds of the past by newly converted supporters of Nicolas Sarkozy’s “rupture” policy. Wasn’t the reform, presented at that time to the public as derived simply from common sense, prepared by a commission whose two key figures were Édouard Balladur and Jack Lang? It was said that the rights of the Parliament would be reinforced. Even in the Socialist group, some voices were heard that feigned to believe in this mystification, going along with the former Minister of Culture.

A moment of truth has come: the sovereignty of the people is undermined by the draft of a law aimed at restricting the right of parliament members to express themselves and to defend amendments. All this is done for the sake of efficiency! Democracy causes a waste of the executive branch’s time; let us curtail democracy! Nothing can be simpler, indeed. France has seen rather dark periods, and not only the 18th Brumaire, when anti-parliamentary sentiment was instigated by demagogues seeking arbitrary power. In their vision, people are nothing more than an electoral body to be abused during a presidential race. The right gets rid of its complexes regarding any topics — including respect for democracy. There was a time when a chairman of the National Assembly even dared to engage in an anti-parliamentarian propaganda action held right on site in the Bourbon Palace. At that time, photographs of a stack of papers representing a number of amendments were taken and reproduced in the press to illustrate “obstruction” and to attribute it to the opposition deputies! “You will speak in the commissions” is an argument from the right. Size is what matters. Public debate, exchange of arguments in public, expression of disagreement even inside the majority — i.e.: the stuff of a parliamentary democracy — simply make the Palace feel uncomfortable, as they dream there about a still more submissive Parliament than today’s.

The outline of a global project comes out surreptitiously through a succession of steps and an accumulation of laws and decrees affecting diverse areas, designed to unravel democracy and to enhance the impact on society. Each decision taken by itself cuts a bit out of democracy; but if one looks at them all together, such measures constitute a coordinated attack on democracy. Appointment of top managers to public audiovisual channels by the Élysée Palace, elimination of investigative judges in favor of prosecution officers, restrictive measures regarding the right to strike, record numbers of expelled foreigners, and guillotine provisions imposed on parliament members today... This consolidation of power in the hands of the President, diminishing the office of the Prime Minister, downgrading the Parliament and encroaching on freedoms—this not only affects the separation of powers but also threatens democracy itself.

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