Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Senate

The French Senate is a most peculiar institution. It exists on sufferance, with diminished real power, because bicameralism has always suffered from an association of the upper chamber with aristocracy, despite Tocqueville's heroic if disingenuous effort to persuade his compatriots that it was merely a different and more refined emanation of the general will. The Fifth Republic has a Senate that has indeed been "aristocratic" in the sense of embodying changeless continuity: it has never been controlled by the Left. Its members are indirectly elected by some 150,000 local élus known as grands électeurs. Yet despite the fact that the Left is now clearly in command at the local level, control of the Senate will not change hands. To be sure, it would not matter much if it did, since the government can always choose to break a deadlock by granting the National Assembly the power to pass a bill without Senate approval. But the symbolic significance of genuine alternance in the Senate would be worth something, as Jean-Pierre Bel writes in Le Monde. The Balladur Commission has recommended a reform of the way in which senators are chosen. What will come of it remains to be seen.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Given the state of bicaralism everywhere in the West (I can't speak on the topic elsewhere) one almost wonders if it isn't flawed in concept.

An elected Upper House seems superfluous, a hereditary one is perhaps effective by undemocratic, an appointed one invariably becomes little more than a patronage appointment, and one after the French model is ineffective and disconnected.

Looking at Iceland, I almost wonder if unicameralism is the way to go (despite my own sentimental attachment to the Westminster Systerm we have here in Canada).

Anonymous said...

^^ nice blog!! ^@^

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