Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Rape of Europa

Daniel Cohn-Bendit knows his mythology. He deplores the effect of what he calls the "presidentialization" of French institutions on the European elections, which have become, for some, a "sanction vote" against Sarkozy, for others, a training ground for a future presidential campaign and chance to buff their personal images as présidentiables.

It may well be that the French presidential regime has become "the disease of which it purports to be the cure" (as Karl Kraus said of psychoanalysis). It was intended to substitute order and authority for chaotic party bickering and pettiness, but it has drained the legislative process of substance, turned parties into baskets of crabs seeking to put a piece of the presidency in their pincers, and made it impossible to debate any issue without reference to its bearing on the current presidency and potential to define the race for succession.


bert said...

Raped by bull. Danny knows his mythology - and his American idiom.

The problem can be traced back to 1958, can't it? De Gaulle's conception of the presidency was, as Danny might put it, olympian. Powerful, somewhat aloof, a unifying national figure existing above the tawdry squabbles of the politicians.

The Fifth Republic has been an extended demonstration that you can have a powerful president or a nonpolitical president, not both.

FrédéricLN said...

Well, you can have very a political president without any substantial power on reality (I mean, reality outside the political arena). The more political he will be, the less he will be tempted to exert real power - for sure, it is much easier to win elections by designating foes, that by putting forward a change agenda. This may be true outside France too!

bert said...

Exactly right, Frédéric.

It's a simple two-dimensional grid, but there a number of plausible combinations. The combination that's proved hard to reproduce is the one de Gaulle designed for the splendid fellow who looked back as he shaved in the morning.