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Editorial

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: À bout de souffle

by Michel Guilloux

The Fifth Republic Is Near To Breathing Its Last

Translated Friday 19 April 2013, by Isabelle Métral

Is tragedy repeating itself as farce? What has taken place in Edmond-Rostand square in Paris in April 2013 is definitely no replica of the historical events on place de la Concorde in February 1934 [1] ...

The reference probably inspired the few hundred extremists and fundamentalists of all persuasions, cassock or no cassock, who last Friday yelled their hatred for the Republic after it was announced that the Senate had passed the bill on “marriage for all” [2]. and that the final vote by the National Assembly had been scheduled for next week. The pictures taken by TV cameras may have revived fleeting memories of the 1934 event, as did the agitation of radical groups along a line from Bordeaux to Nantes, which caused a minister to cancel a visit. From Jean-Louis Borloo to Jean-François Coppé through Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the divided, atomized Right, blown up by last Autumn’s internal quarrels, has found a battle horse and disreputable knights that sport shaven heads and studded boots. And so the followers of “natural law” are marching with those of “moral law”.

Clearly, leaving aside the president’s or his prime minister’s embarrassing position [3], the Right would be hard put to criticize the government’s economic and social policies, compared with what they themselves did in a decade. Simply, should the Right come back into office, we know it would push further in the same direction.

The problem is the shortening of the president’s original seven-year term to the deputies’ five-year term, coupled with the ruling by which each presidential election precedes a general elections. Ironically, these constitutional reforms were initiated by Lionel Jospin, then prime minister, and voted in 2002, just before the outgoing socialist prime minister and candidate lost the presidential election to Jacques Chirac. The only political issue once a presidential election has taken place is who will stand for election in the next. Or again, after promising to crack down on fiscal havens, the EU strangles Cyprus and spares Luxemburg. Or that it promises to put welfare at the top of the European agenda, then enforces an unprecedented social regression upon the Greek, Spanish, or Portuguese peoples. Or that austerity policies are implemented in order to satisfy the markets while no solutions to the nation’s problems are sought - the end-result of all this being that the people are further alienated from politics.

Just imagine the shockwave when an affair like the Cahuzac scandal explodes…

The least that can be said is that our fifth Republic is about to breathe its last and that it is time we set out to “re-found our institutions democratically”, as the communist party last Friday invited French people to do. The president may well talk of enforcing “transparency” on members of Parliament, it is clear that nothing short of proportional representation will make French people feel they are really “represented”, politically as well as socially. Not to mention the president’s planned institutional reforms that would increase the distance between citizens and their local councilors under the pretext of giving more varied competence to regional and county councils.

The current shady dealings are all the more frantic and spectacular as people, especially on the Left, are dumb-stricken, distraught, shocked, or disgusted at the president and his government‘s turning their backs on campaign promises that mobilized them as never before. Social democracy should be put on the agenda, like giving new rights to workers in the workplace, instead of obeying the dictates of the French bosses via a law that exactly duplicates the 11th of January accord between the bosses’ confederation and a few trade-unions. This accord, called ANI, dismantles the labor code and increases labor "flexibility" and uncertainty in the workplace.

The Left Front invites citizens to join the march for a sixth republic on May 5th in Paris, and the communist party calls on them to take part in the convention for a social and democratic overhaul of our institutions - to be held on June 16th. Indeed it is high time citizens were given the opportunity to take over. France stands in great need of fresh air.

[1On the 6th of February 1934, following the Stavisky scandal and at a time of deep economic and social crisis, Far-Right militants and Leagues who had gathered on place de la Concorde rioted; several demonstrators were killed, and this brought down the government that was to be about to be approved by Parliament on that same day. A new centre-Right government was then formed.

[2Including same sex marriages, and the right for homosexuals to adopt children, and to assisted reproduction for women

[3Following the recent Cahuzac affair: as budget minister, Jérôme Cahuzac, an ex-heart surgeon turned reputed hair-grafter before he was promoted to the Cabinet, was in charge of tracking down tax evaders and implementing austerity budgets. When a paper said it held proof that he had opened a secret account in a Swiss bank, he vowed he never had. Until it was discovered that it was a lie, and that he had opened one in Singapore too, and had a lot more money than was suspected.


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