Monday, February 18, 2013

Government Expects Constitutional Reform to Fail

Jean-Marc Ayrault has let it be known that his vote-counting has not gone well: the constitutional reform promised by candidate Hollande will not pass if put to a vote later this year. Hence it may be withdrawn.

What does this mean? The proposed reform has several major features. It would end one form of le cumul des mandats by making a ministerial position at the national level incompatible with an executive position at the local or regional level. This is strenuously opposed by some major PS barons. The reform would also grant resident aliens the right to vote in certain elections. This is strenuously opposed by the Right and by many on the Left. Ex-officio appointments to the Constitutional Council (of ex-presidents of the Republic, for example) would also end. The legal status of the president would be modified, and there would be major changes in the judicial system.

In short, this is the sort of reform that might accomplish a few worthy goals, likely to please any number of political scientists, but unlikely to arouse any great enthusiasm for or against among the people at large--except for granting foreigners the right to vote, which will spark tremendous opposition, and tampering with le cumul, which will be fought doggedly behind the scenes by those who would stand to lose an important source of power.

Hollande has no leverage over the Right, which has made it clear that it will oppose the reform on general principles of orneriness. And he has little leverage over his opponents on the Left, who see threats to their own job security. He may therefore decide that it is better to beat a hasty retreat than to risk an embarrassing public loss. Right now, the public is indifferent. Better to bow out now than to risk much political capital on a turkey.


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Anonymous said...

Actually, people across the political spectrum are very interested in the end of "cumul". More precisely, they may not care as much if senators and representatives didn't also add up all these stipends and benefits.

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Massilian said...

As a french citizen, I believe that without a powerful popular movement against the cumul des mandats, the constitutionnal reform is almost impossible. Our beloved politicians will use any trick to procrastinate. I am ready to march and ask for a referendum on the issue. A more relevant issue for a referendum than gay marriage, imho. And I believe a lot of voters from left, right, center, do agree, the time has come to get rid of the cumul des mandats.

Passerby said...

Sorry, but in my opinion, withdrawal upon meeting the first headwind is not acceptable at all.

I can perfectly understand how elected officials would rather fight with all their strength this constitutional reform rather than give away their perks. This is human nature, and had to be expected.
If the government cannot count on enough votes then it should pursue the referendum route instead of backing off.
I am convinced if you ask the citizens, then wind will blow the opposite direction. One of the side effects of the crisis is that a lot of people are very irritated that austerity does not apply to politicians.
I'm not a survey agent, so I can only talk for my direct surroundings. Over the past few years I have seen a constant increase in the number complaints about government spending, and more particularly about elected officials. Cumulated mandates and life-long perks are hard to swallow for voters across the spectrum.
It's hard to put a starting date, but I had to venture a guess, I would say that complaints rose a lot during the debate on retirement reform under Fillon. Regular citizens were prompt to realize that “strangely” reforms didn't impact at all the retirement system of “deputes”, “sénateurs” and other “ex-ministres”.

Mitch Guthman said...

Given the certainty of such intense, across-the-board opposition, one must ask how Hollande come to be in this fix he’s in. I can’t see any advantage to him or any possibility that this could be passed without a bloodbath inside the PS; neither can I see how he or his advisors ever thought otherwise. Yet, Hollande blithely tossed this proposal into the ring and then simply watched helplessly as it was stomped to death and he was again made to look like a fool.