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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le pouvoir est entre les mains d’un clan

by Interview realized by Rosa Moussaoui

Crisis over the CPE: "State Power is in the Hands of a Clan"

Translated by Henry Crapo

Translated Sunday 9 April 2006, by Henry Crapo

For Dominique Rousseau, professor of constitutional law at the University of Montpellier-I, member of the University Institute of France, the crisis of the CPE gives a death blow to the Fifth Republic.

HUMA: Why have you characterized the series of actions adopted by Jacques Chirac in the matter of the CPE (promulgation, non-application, revision) a "constitutional error"?

DOMINIQUE ROUSSEAU: Article 10 of the Constitution would have permitted the president of the Republic to ask for a new debate of the law in Parliament. But instead, Jacques Chirac promulgated the law, then gave instructions not to apply it. It is in this sense that he has committed a constitutional error. The President, as stipulated in Article 5, has the duty to ensure the regular functioning of public authority. He is the chief executive. He is charged with executing the laws that are adopted. But in the case before us, he obstructs the correct functioning of the public powers by asking that the law not be enforced. This is a constitutional fault. It is a fault that carries a strong sanction: the crime of high treason, as defined in Article 68 of the Constitution. In law, high treason refers to the President of the Republic betraying the duties of his post, which consist, in this context, in ensuring that the laws of the nation are executed. If he was not in accord with this law, he could well have followed another judicial path, that offered by Article 10.

HUMA: Is it the job of a political party, say that of the majority, to manage this crisis?

ROUSSEAU: I think that we have arrived at the very end of the Fifth Republic. As General de Gaulle would have said, we have found ourselves back in the time of rule by political parties. Today, it is the head of the majority party who is governing, who receives the union representatives, and who, in complete disrespect for established constitutional regulations, takes decisions that engage the nation. We are thus not only in a social and political crisis, but in a crisis of the constitutional regime. It is an irony of history that it is Jacques Chirac, who, while presenting himself as an heir of Gaullism, has given the final sledge-hammer blow to the Constitution established by General de Gaulle.

HUMA: Why was it your judgement, prior to the favorable decision rendered by the Constitutional Council on the Law of Equality of Opportunity enacting the CPE, that the "wise men" of the Constitutional Council should have censured the text of this law?

ROUSSEAU: In 2002, the same Council judged, in considering the Law for Social Modernization, that limiting the power of the employer to fire his workers was an excessive restriction of employers’ rights. It was my opinion, as a sort of mirror of this judgment, that the Council should have considered that to give complete liberty to the employer to fire employees during a two-year period, and this without having to give any reason, is an excessive offense against the rights of employees. Outside any political considerations, there is an objective judicial basis for the Council to transpose its judgment of 2002 to the affair of the CPE.

HUMA: Can these different elements, taken in relation to the government’s refusal to listen to a powerful popular movement against the CPEs, lead us to the conclusion that we are no longer really living in a democracy?

ROUSSEAU: We are now seriously in a situation of disorder. We no longer know where the power resides. It is no longer in the Elysée Palace, nor in Matignon (the President’s and Prime Minister’s residences, respectively). It is no longer even in Parliament, when one asks Parliament to dismantle the laws it has adopted. State power today is in the hands of a clan, the clan of the UMP (presidential majority party), gathered around the president. All this is clearly not very democratic.

Published in l’Humanité, Friday 7 April 2006

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