Saturday, October 13, 2007

Constitutional Reform

Le Monde has revealed the preliminary recommendations of the Balladur Commission on constitutional reform. There is some nebulous language about changing the president's role from that of "determining" the nation's policy to "defining" it. I would suggest that the commission apply a Popperian falsifiability test to this idea: how might a citizen, or a constitutional court if there were one, decide whether this provision of the constitution had been violated? Is there some action that might be construed as "defining" that would not also be "determining?" Is there any clear statement of the difference between the two words? Will the constitutional commission share with the public the thinking behind this recommendation, or is to be taken simply as an oracle, to be interpreted by the high priests currently occupying the temples gathered around the Elysian Omphalos?

Other proposals suffer from no such ambiguity. Senators and deputies would be barred from le cumul des mandats. This would indeed be a significant and healthy reform. A two-term limit would be imposed on the president. Presidential nominations would be subject to the advice and consent of parliament. The scope of Article 49-3, which permits rule by presidential fiat, would be strictly limited. And a small degree of proportional representation would be introduced.

If adopted, these would be significant reforms. It will be interesting to see how the debate evolves.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's also noteworthy concerning the Balladur Commission that it's room for manoeuvre has been very limited. Sarkozy - as reported in Le Monde - made much of saying that no stone would be left unturned, no taboos unchallenged etc, but in fact the president has made clear the lines in the sand the commission should not cross. Hardly the conditions conducive to a radical shake-up of France's Vth republic institutions.