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 Post subject: French politics thread
PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2018 1:05 pm 
Smeric
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Thread for discussing French politics

Can this En March government get any worse?

Their general rule thus far was *just* to steal from the poor to give to the rich, whether it's taking money from students or pensioners they're willing to do that to reduce tax for the rich. And if anyone else talks, they're not worth listening to.

Already in November, there were a hundred members leaving at once because a dearth in democracy: http://www.lemonde.fr/la-republique-en-marche/article/2017/11/14/cent-militants-lrm-declarent-quitter-le-parti_5214685_5126036.html

Now Macron has gone and claimed the link between church and state needs 'mending'. http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2018/04/10/laicite-emmanuel-macron-a-franchi-la-ligne-rouge-selon-jean-luc-melenchon_5283588_823448.html
And other En Marche members have described the right to sleep in a building as a 'caricature'.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2018 1:32 pm 
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THings could always be worse. I don't like what Macron has done, but I would prefer him as president over my president (America) or my prime minister (Israel) by a lot.

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2018 2:11 pm 
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jmcd wrote:
Can this En Marche government get any worse?

I would think even a cursory glance at 20th-century French politics would yield the answer, "Yes. By quite a lot."


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:22 pm 
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Yup. This is, relatively speaking, both functional and humane governance - two standards that much of the world, including France, have often failed to live up to. It could, and has been, and in many countries is, so much worse.

Hell, I'd rather have Macron than May...

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2018 4:34 pm 
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Emphasis on relative when it comes to humane - the government has continued the horrible Romani policy of Hollande and Sarkozy.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:55 pm 
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OK so there are obvious examples of who could be worse. Trump is an example (especially on a personal level), and just about any dictator is obviously even worse. And I still would have voted for him on the second round of the presidential election. The question was a bit rhetorical though. It was more to say 'it has gone markedly worse, and I dread what's coming'

As for the comparison to May, she's already got state involvement in religion and private rail companies before she took power. And she's harsher on immigrants and more explicitly so. I don't know what police repression has been like under May, but in France student and ecological protests have been taking a toll from police and gendarmes, as well journalists who happen to present. To what extent En Marche is directly involved is another question.

As a general rule, comparisons to British PMs prior Macron's presidency focussed on Blair. Now he's seeming more like Thatcher. And the political labelling has likewise changed: he was 'centrist' before taking power, and is now largely seen as a right-winger. It was basically a marketing ploy from a banker.

I've watched parliamentary debates under Hollande and Macron and the level of cooperation and willingness to listen and simply politeness that was there a year ago just isn't so present. On the other hand, it is partly a case of descending into Westminster territory...


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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2018 5:05 am 
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jmcd wrote:
Can this En March government get any worse?
it could be ever more liberal...

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2018 9:08 am 
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xxx wrote:
it could be ever more liberal...

Conservatism is slavery.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2018 11:15 am 
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The problem is that Macron's government is liberal in a sense that in America is called libertarian. Macron believes in social progressivism, but he also pisses on the workers and unemployed.

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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2018 11:45 am 
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Yeah, exactly. The way 'liberal' is used and perceived depends largely on the country you're in. What is called 'libéral' in France is maybe closer to 'libertarian' or 'economically conservative' in America; it's very much a term referring to right-wing hypercapitalists. 'laissez-faire' doesn't even do it, because they hand over billions to major corporations and barely ask a penny in return.

And what is called 'liberal' in America generally seems more or less centrist from Western Europe. And in the UK, 'liberal' would be most closely associated with the Lib Dems, who are on the centre. But, because two of three major parties in Scotland are left-wing, that makes the Lib Dems slightly right-wing from our perspective, especially when they were in coalition with the Tories.

Anyway, things have gotten worse:
Journalists being prevented from asking questions to the Jupiterian president:
https://www.facebook.com/taranisnews/videos/1983162065230638/?hc_ref=ARTgrMBOHH5oANBcQ-4YewMNxTLE90hrrl5JjBiWNZufN1CssYOj1c5t6wjy4uEB-ws

A proposal to restrict the right to strike:
http://www2.assemblee-nationale.fr/documents/notice/15/propositions/pion0871/(index)/propositions-loi

This could affect me personally as well, because we're on strike and half the personnel aren't participating because they are scared of losing their jobs.

Sure, it's, supposedly at least, bringing France in line with other European countries. But it should be the other way round: give more power to the workers in the other countries.

Also, seeing as they already have several strikes on their hands against their ridiculous policies, it's a bit like a boxer saying: "I just got an uppercut! Stop stop, stop the match! So we can change the rules and ban uppercuts!".


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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 7:58 am 
Avisaru
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I've vaguely heard of this. What I don't understand is how you can criticize a movement that's proposing to restrict individual rights and increase collusion between church and state for its "libertarianism". In the Anglo world, libertarians explain their position as being economically conservative and socially liberal. If those policies are "liberal", then French liberals would be both economically and socially conservative in ways.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:13 am 
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He's "liberal" believes in those personal rights that do not prevent exploitation by banks.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 2:35 am 
Avisaru
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Exactly. How is that different from corporate conservatism? As opposed to, say, religious conservatism, that seeks to legislate religious morality, or populism, which is socially conservative but economically liberal.

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PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2018 7:55 am 
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Think "neoliberalism", which is about deregulation, lower taxes, and corporatism. It's a concept often associated with conservatives (from Reagan and Thatcher to Dubya Bush). This is what the French now understand by "libéralisme".

Yes, both of these words are hopelessly vague. I know that.

By the way, it wasn't always the case: Victor Hugo called himself a "libéral", and he was in favor of religious freedom, redistributive policies, and increases in school funding; just about what "liberal" means in the US today.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 4:03 am 
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Thanks. In my experience, such as it is, libertarians are extremophiles who implore the government to let broke corporations go bust and retreat to the dark web to escape legal strictures. I don't know much about libertarian-neoliberal connections.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 17, 2018 6:44 am 
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As usual, words are ambiguous. For instance, François-René Rideau (a friend of a friend) call himself a "libéral", and his positions fit what you'd call "libertarian" (anti-government, against government-supported monopolies, pro-free software, interested in cryptocurrencies...).


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 1:58 am 
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Regardless, I don't think it's controversial to say that neoliberals are conservatives. If French liberals are anything like neoliberals, they are probably conservatives.

Back to topic: What are the prospects for the French left in the next election, or at least in the immediate future? How much does it matter anyway, and to what extent are politicians PR personnel hired by the civil service?

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PostPosted: Wed Apr 18, 2018 2:30 pm 
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The next legislative and presidential elections are far enough off that only a single French poll has yet been produced on the presidential election 2022.

The next election in France is the European elections. The predictions for this are on an EU-wide basis. So much less reliable than other polls IMO (because it looks a lot less at the detail). The polls in question since June 2017 project an increase in vote for the left, especially France Insoumise, compared to their support in June. But this still represents a loss compared to their current seats.

The most urgent prospects for the left are more strike- and protest- related: there are regular strikes and protests, potential for collective pressure to get the government to back down on several issues and mentions of the millions-in-the-street student-and-worker strikes of May 1968. It's also the 1st of May soon.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 7:01 am 
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I see a lot of proposals to rally the left into a united front, so I made a table to get a clearer picture of the scene: https://drive.google.com/open?id=17UYkt ... 0aUEG3Biz4 Any mistakes so far?

Based on what I've read, these figures suggest to me a relative increase in the right due to apathy on the left. Would you say that's fair? Any specific numbers you would recommend paying attention to?

What do you think of La France Insoumise's proposal for a Sixth Republic?

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 8:44 am 
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French politicians have called for a sixth republic every election since the 1980s. It's never happened, largely because a) it's not clear what's wrong with the fifth, and b) it's even less clear what could be tried in a sixth.

So Melenchon, last I heard, didn't actually have a plan, just a desire to call a constitutional convention and hope that they came up with something better. [or, of course, they could come up with something worse and the country would collapse into chaos]. Also, the new constitution, whatever it is, will eliminate corruption... and will also presumably enable pigs to fly.

In particular, most calls for a sixth republic are essentially calls for a return to the fourth republic: strengthen parliament, weaken the president, proportional representation, etc.

This runs into two problems:
i) the Fourth Republic was a mess, and it collapsed. The average cabinet lasted sixth months. Do the French want that sort of chaos again? Now of course, reformists will correctly point out that other countries cope with full PR and parliamentarism, and that the correct fine-tuning of the rules will lead to stability. The problem is, experience shows that while a well-tuned constitution can produce stability, the rate of rapid failure is alarmingly high - when you fiddle with the constitutional structure that fundamentally, there's always an element of risk, which makes taking that step, when the existing system fundamentally works fine as it is, very difficult when the moment actually comes.

ii) the call for a Sixth Republic is part of a wider call for sweeping reforms, and is made by charismatic reformers (or those who want to be seen that way). But the changes generally imagined - more consensual parliaments and weaker presidents - make all other reforms harder, because they systematically reduce the power of charismatic reformers and increase the power of conservative-minded bureaucrats. Invariably, anyone who actually comes to power with a shopping list of reforms, including reducing their own power, decides to prioritise the other items, and never quite gets around to reducing their own power. Mitterand, for example, came to power promising to reduce the power of the Presidency... but when he became an autocratic President himself, suddenly he found more urgent things to do...


In short, "A Sixth Republic!" is a nice soundbite that encapsulates the desire for fundamental change, without committing the politician to any specific changes in particular. Nobody really knows what they mean by it, and if they spelled it out it would be hard to get people to vote for it, which is kind of a moot point since politicians elected on the basis of reducing the power of politicians will invariably renege on their promises if elected anyway.

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 19, 2018 12:17 pm 
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@rotting:
I suppose you could say there is some apathy in the left in France because Hollande was disappointing: people voted for 'the enemy of finance' because they were fed up with the mega-rich getting richer, while poor people's wages stagnate, power concetrated in the hands of a few and bankers getting away with murder. In the end, he took on a young banker called Emmanuel Macron as finance minister. Which resulted in him being probably the least popular president ever and not even being candidate in the primary of his own succession.
--
@Sal (and rotting):
The Fifth Republic has obvious problems, and this has also been mentioned for decades: the concentration of power in the president. This has led to many people down the years, including Mélenchon, to compare the position to that of a monarch.

The composition of Fourth Republic governments might have changed often, but is change a bad thing? The Fourth Republic certainly put in place many popular measures like Social Security, though admittedly similar measures were put in place in other European countries at about the same time.

I don"t see any trend in favour of strong presidential systems being any more able to reform or less conservative.

The France Insoumise's proposal for a Sixth Republic is available online and is divided into 15 different sections: https://laec.fr/chapitre/1/la-6e-republique, only one of which is about the constituent assembly. One of the measures in the second section is to ban from office anyone convicted of corruption. Obviously, you can't necessarily prevent every instance of corruption, but you can prevent the known cases from being allowed back into positions of power.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 8:15 am 
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jmcd wrote:
The Fifth Republic has obvious problems, and this has also been mentioned for decades: the concentration of power in the president.

That's a feature, but it's not an obvious problem.
In constitutions, there's a difference between something people don't all like, and something that stops the country working. A strong president is not the latter.
Quote:

This has led to many people down the years, including Mélenchon, to compare the position to that of a monarch.

Well yes - the President, like a monarch, is a head of state. A president is always effectively an elected monarch. Of course, just as there are absolute and constitutional monarchs, there are strong and weak presidents. The French monarch is actually unusually weak for a directly-elected president, btw.

Quote:
The composition of Fourth Republic governments might have changed often, but is change a bad thing?

Chaos is not change.
How do you think change happens? Not by someone snapping their fingers. It takes work. It takes plans, and revisions, and step-by-step passing of bills in a concerted fashion toward a single end.
That can't happen if the government changes ever couple of months. Without stability, you can't have change - it's like trying to push something while you're standing on ice.

And of course, the chaos doesn't even bring real change in personnel. Frequent government turnover tends to mean that a core of politicians end up in government perpetually (the ones who are essential to any mathematically-viable coalition). They can't get stuff done because their partners are constantly changing, but they can stop things getting done!
(the best example here is the Italian First Republic: government duration was measured in weeks, yet the Christian Democrats remained in power for forty years. It was a great recipe for stagnation and corruption...)

Quote:
The Fourth Republic certainly put in place many popular measures like Social Security, though admittedly similar measures were put in place in other European countries at about the same time.

It's true that the Fourth Republic was not a total failure - it accomplished some things. But how, when the government kept falling? Because power was increasingly delegated to an elite, unelected bureaucratic caste who were able to continue to progress their own agenda by ignoring the politicians (and from whose ranks the politicians were often drawn). That's not necessarily a good thing!

[also, please note: like a lot of what the republic did manage to do, the big social security changes were all made in the first year of the republic, during tripartisme, an inherently unsustainable condition]

It's also generally felt that any system that collapses in a military coup d'etat has done something wrong.
Quote:
I don"t see any trend in favour of strong presidential systems being any more able to reform or less conservative.

The more people you have to get to agree on a policy, the harder it is to get it passed. Hence dictators (the strongest presidents!) can get things done on a whim, while people in Somalia during the civil war (a state of total anarchy - the weakest president!) could get very little done at all. The art of the constitution is finding an appropriate balance between power and constraint.
Quote:
The France Insoumise's proposal for a Sixth Republic is available online and is divided into 15 different sections: https://laec.fr/chapitre/1/la-6e-republique, only one of which is about the constituent assembly. One of the measures in the second section is to ban from office anyone convicted of corruption. Obviously, you can't necessarily prevent every instance of corruption, but you can prevent the known cases from being allowed back into positions of power.

I'm afraid I can't read French - but even so, most of those points are clearly nothing to do with a sixth republic in any meaningful sense, as they only involve (generally minor) legislative changes, rather than constitutional changes.


Regarding the French President, btw: it's worth noting that, constitutionally, he has very little power at all. The role was created as a ceremonial position not greatly different from that of many parliamentary systems - it was transformed by the personal authority of De Gaulle, and the passing of an ammendment to directly elect the position. Nonetheless, the power the President has is given to him by Parliament and the people, not by the constitution. It's the Prime Minister who, constitutionally, leads the government and the passage of laws, and who makes almost all appointments - and while the President appoints the Prime Minister, he cannot remove him from office, and must appoint him with the consent of Parliament. Constitutionally, the President just deals with the military and the foreign service, and sometimes acts as a check on the power of the PM (he can call new elections, call referendums, refer things to the constitutional court, etc).

The powers of the President in practice come from three things:
- the French people demanded that the Presidency be strengthened by synchronising elections to make it much rarer for Parliament to be able to oppose the President
- the French people then obsessively ensured that they always voted for the same party for both Presidency and Parliament. Even when, as in the most recent case, that meant destroying the existing party system just to give the President more power!
- the French parties then tacitly committed to strengthening the power of the Presidency by acting in a servile manner toward him, making him an unusually powerful party leader. For instance, Prime Ministers will always resign if a President of the same party asks them to. Why? They don't have to. They don't in many other countries - even in the US, which is a full presidential system (as opposed to the 'semi-presidentialism' of France), the President can't just demand that the Congressional leadership resign at his say-so! But in France they do.

This isn't because of constitutional flaws; it's because of the behaviour of politicians. And so it's hard to remedy it through constitutional reform!

I note, though, that Melenchon ran for President, not to be Prime Minister - which rather suggests that his party will continue to be committed to the primacy of the presidency!

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 9:02 am 
Lebom
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Yeah, I've watched with despair my country turn into a semi-dictatorship with a few, seemingly unimportant changes in the election system. The switch in 2000 from a 7-year term to a 5-year term sealed it down: it ended up strengthening the President's power considerably. The legislative election should be the most important election, but the calendar has turned it into a referendum: "Do you want your newly elected President to be able to enact his policies?". And people always answer "yes" to this question, otherwise what was the point of electing him in the first place? Even if, due to weird circumstances, he was elected without a real fight (as in 2002). Even if he was elected without the support of a party, and had to conjure one out of thin air (as in 2017). How could the deputies oppose the President, when he is the reason they were elected?

And we're turning into a police state in the name of "opposing terrorism". Nowadays, you can't get into a public building without having someone check your bag. The only good news out of this mess? If you're a scary-looking black guy, you can easily get a job as a security agent.

Edit: also, I don't get why Hollande was so unpopular. He had always been a weak, indecisive man; and he became a weak, indecisive President. What were people expecting?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 1:35 pm 
Smeric
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It's interesting your idea about the cange in number of years. I never would have thought that it would have made such a difference.

Salmoneous wrote:
That can't happen if the government changes ever couple of months. Without stability, you can't have change - it's like trying to push something while you're standing on ice.
Good point and metaphor

Salmoneous wrote:
It's also generally felt that any system that collapses in a military coup d'etat has done something wrong.

I disagree that the system itself is necessarily the cause.

First of all, this is something that Weimar Republic sems to be accused of, but when you look at its downfall, it doesn't seem so extraordinary given the circumstances: it was surrounded by fascist dictatorships, communist doctatorships and other dictatorships, along with colonial empires.

As for the Fourth Republic goes, I think the main cause was the war in Algeria which was due to the stubbornness in leaving the colonies and a halfway-house form of colonisation: neither completely a Western exploitation territory (like say Somalia) nor completely Western replacement territory (like say the Afrikaner areas of South Africa). So basically they created a group of Loyalists. And the Loyalists held the government for ransom.

ren wrote:
He had always been a weak, indecisive man; and he became a weak, indecisive President. What were people expecting?
A bit like how Macron was always a banker with a habit of giving the impression he knowed things rather than actually knowing them?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 20, 2018 2:04 pm 
Smeric
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Salmoneous wrote:
I note, though, that Melenchon ran for President, not to be Prime Minister - which rather suggests that his party will continue to be committed to the primacy of the presidency!
Nobody can run for prime minister technically: in the legislative elections, the prime minister is chosen by the president. Mélenchon did however campaign on the basis of cohabitation between the presidential election and legislatives elections. And it very well could have happened had the momentum in his favour continued rather than subsided. In the case where his party became first in the legislatives, he could have become prime minister. As it stands, he is deputy.


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