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Towards the 6th French Republic?

by Migeru Sat Jun 17th, 2017 at 09:38:55 AM EST

The political realignment taking place in France is nothing short of extraordinary. Before Emmanuel Macron won the presidential election last month it was assumed that, lacking a party, he would not be able to beat the Republicans, or even the Socialists, at the legislative elections, and a cohabitation would ensue. But at the first round last week the vote share of Macron's party La République En Marche was a historic high, with participation at a historic low. As a result, Macron's party is expected to win a blowout victory at the second round tomorrow. His majority could be large enough to allow him to reform the Constitution without the support of the other political parties. We could be looking at the 6th French Republic.


The median estimate from the four major French election polls that give seat projections is that LREM could win between 435 and 465 assembly seats out of 577. That's roughly 3/4 of the seats. If he can keep the party together - an open question as about 35% of his parliamentary candidates are new to politics - he might even be able to reform the constitution without the support of the other political parties.

The rules for constitutional reform in France are laid out in Article 89 of the constitution of 1958. A constitutional reform needs to be approved in a referendum. But Macron could avoid a referendum if he has a 3/5 majority of the so-called Congress, which is a joint session of the Assembly and the Senate. The Senate consists of 348 seats, so the Congress has 925 members. 3/5 of this is 555. If Macron wins 450 seats in the Assembly tomorrow, he's only 105 senators short of a constitutional reform majority. That's under 30% of all senators.

Now, the French Senate is an indirectly elected chamber, voted by an electoral college of 150,000 elected officials dominated by members of local and regional government. Surely the grip of the traditional party system will hold and prevent Macron from having a substantial group of senators? But recall: 42% of Macron's assembly candidates have been elected at least once, including 10% mayors or former mayors, and 10% (maybe former) local councillors. If Macron sweeps the legislative elections, who is to say that Republican local and regional officials won't see the writing on the wall and start defecting? And if the Socialists drop from 278 assembly seats to the 22-34 the polls are giving them, the exodus of socialist party local officials can be massive. Though, in the Senate, the "centre"-right dominates so what happens to the Republicans is more important.

Tellingly, there is already a movement afoot to form a pro-Macron group in the current Senate. According to Journal du Dimanche, a group of about 30 senators is already organising itself in this direction.

The French Senate is renewed by halves every 3 years, with the next election in September. This means that Macron would need to win 60% of the seats in the September Senate election in order to have his constitutional steamroller. But unless his government leads to a quick public opinion backlash, he may have no problem getting the 30% he needs after the next Senate election in 2020. And then the road to a 6th French Republic would be clear.

This won't lead to a Hungarian-style "illiberal democracy", but more likely to a "neoliberal democracy". But I will leave for the comments the discussion of what the Macronisme that looks about to replace Gaullisme is likely to resemble.

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Liberté, inegalité, competitivité.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sat Jun 17th, 2017 at 09:45:36 AM EST
Thanks for this excellent overview. With majorities like that Macron has no excuses for not delivering on his promises and transforming France in his own image. Such majorities will also give him the authority to challenge German hegemony in the EU as an equal partner.  The question is whether he will have the ability to do so or do a Hollande and resile from his stated positions.

He has the advantage of an economy on a slight upswing and an EU which is becoming more cohesive due to Brexit.  Let's hope he doesn't waste his momentum on inequality exacerbating neo-liberal reforms and gives the EU and EZ some much need momentum to address the structural inequalities currently undermining the Union and Euro. He may not be a progressive, but at least he isn't a Trump or May, and does have some vision for how the EU should develop A Eurozone budget and finance minister would be a good start.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 17th, 2017 at 10:26:54 AM EST
Frank:
Such majorities will also give him the authority to challenge German hegemony in the EU as an equal partner.

This is debatable: other countries also had elected strong majorities at their respective parliaments and governments in the past. The Troika has been totally unmoved; so were Angela Merkel and Wolfgang Schäuble.

The other point, as you mention, is the new president's willingness to eventually challenge the German government's position with his own proposals, but there's no indication of this happening. In the short term at least, due in part to the age difference (this is true for the two countries as well).

by Bernard on Sat Jun 17th, 2017 at 05:47:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Whatever chance Macron has of guiding the EU in a different direction with such a strong mandate would be much reduced if he were elected by a small margin and forced to co-habit with a government made up of the  right pulling in a different direction to En Marche. A strong mandate for a leader in Ireland or Greece may not matter all that much to Merkel & Schäuble: a leader with a strong mandate in France is a different matter, especially if he also manages to gather support from other leaders on the European Council.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Jun 17th, 2017 at 06:29:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope!

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 18th, 2017 at 06:36:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I fear.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jun 18th, 2017 at 06:38:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An overwhelming majority will be useful to Macron. Probably not to change a constitution to a 6th Republic (this was Montebourg's tagline, not Macron's), but to pass his "reform" agenda: dismantling labor laws, deregulation for the businesses but much, much more regulation and increased surveillance for the Internet, the "state of emergency" laws becoming permanent (because terrrsm), reduction of the budget deficit while simultaneously decreasing the taxes (what could possibly go wrong?).

There's no need to change the constitution for all of that, even for changing the FTFP election system that is about to give him such an overwhelming majority of seats at the National Assembly: Mitterrand already did that for the 1986 elections.

Besides the steamroller majority, there's almost no common point between Macronism and De Gaulle's dirigiste, heavily regulated French society of half a century ago, except for a strong security apparatus and tight control of the communication networks: radio & television for De Gaulle, the Internet for Macron.

by Bernard on Sat Jun 17th, 2017 at 05:37:05 PM EST
European Tribune - Towards the 6th French Republic?
but to pass his "reform" agenda: dismantling labor laws, deregulation for the businesses but much, much more regulation and increased surveillance for the Internet, the "state of emergency" laws becoming permanent (because terrrsm), reduction of the budget deficit while simultaneously decreasing the taxes (what could possibly go wrong?).

With that program, I don´t see what there is to challenge Germany about. This is after all just what the Troika ordered.

by fjallstrom on Mon Jun 19th, 2017 at 12:06:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
France24:  Turnout slumps as Macron eyes landslide parliamentary victory

Voter turnout in the second round of the French legislative election reached 35.33 percent at 5pm, suggesting that President Emmanuel Macron's expected landslide victory could be marred by one of the lowest turnouts in modern French history.


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Sun Jun 18th, 2017 at 03:49:27 PM EST
People are obviously not enthused.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jun 18th, 2017 at 11:31:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Poll closed at 20:00 CEST. First estimates are in:

  • La République En Marche   355 seats
  • Les Républicains          125 seats
  • Parti Socialiste          34 seats  (PS + allies 49 seats)
  • France Insoumise & PCF    30 seats
  • Front National            8 seats

It is a landslide all right, but not the tsunami wave that was predicted last week where estimates were giving Macron's LREM up to 450 seats.

The "traditional" right wing is holding better than was expected and the PS is down to one of its lowest historical levels. The communists and Mélenchon's party are doing not too bad with a couple of strongholds that allowed them to keep up to 30 seats.

As for the FN, their relative lack of strongholds (the northern regions & the Mediterranean coast) is costing them dearly in this FPTP system.

by Bernard on Sun Jun 18th, 2017 at 06:16:59 PM EST
Is there substantial pressure or interest in reforming the Republic? What sort of changes do people want? Is it to address known and understood problems with the system, or is it to lock in current partisan advantages as they are currently understood?
by Zwackus on Mon Jun 19th, 2017 at 01:09:23 AM EST
Zwackus:
Is there substantial pressure or interest in reforming the Republic?

Short answer: no.

Certainly not with the new majority. The only political leader calling for constitutional reform is Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Montebourg has retired from politics).

You can certainly find things that should be changed in the present constitution, which is heavily skewed towards to the president in terms of power but still requires a parliamentary majority to work. But again, this is not a priority for the majority of people and certainly not those in power right now.

by Bernard on Mon Jun 19th, 2017 at 06:52:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, what happened?

Turnout is down, both compared to 2012 and between the rounds. And a lot compared to the presidential election.

So, Macron voters turned up and everyone else got depressed after the presidential election?

by fjallstrom on Mon Jun 19th, 2017 at 12:03:25 PM EST
Yeah I was worried about the danger of a two-thirds majority. But here's the thing : Macron has no interest in changing the Constitution. He's playing it like a violin, and he's the most powerful president since de Gaulle.
He has promised "a dose of proportional representation", which is a contradiction in terms. But he won't even do that.
He has promised us a "start-up nation". Could have been worse : could have been a popup shop. But a startup generally means it will burn through its seed capital, and either cease operations or be sold to a big investor.

The unspeakable vice of the fifth republic is that eveyone is convinced that he and his party are legitimate and have a huge mandate. The reality is that 16% of eligible voters gave him his parliamentary democracy.

Now we'll see if the "French street" remembers its legitimacy.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Jun 19th, 2017 at 09:49:44 PM EST
gave him his parliamentary majority

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Jun 19th, 2017 at 09:59:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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