France: Opposition boycott tarnishes Macron’s new participatory experiment | International

The experiment in participatory democracy that was to mark the recently begun second five-year term of Emmanuel Macron has started off on the wrong foot. Behind closed doors and without the presence of the parliamentary opposition, which boycotted the act, the French president inaugurated on Thursday the so-called National Refoundation Council (CNR). The name is inspired by the National Council of the Resistance that, at the end of the Second World War, laid the foundations of modern France and its welfare state.

The forum, in fact, is more like the citizen consultations that in 2019 responded to the yellow vest revolt or the convention that in 2020 addressed the environmental crisis. The CNR must help France face the upheavals of the 21st century through dialogue between the political class, civil society and citizens. Critics see it as a propaganda device designed to circumvent a parliament in which the president no longer holds an absolute majority.

Macron announced the project at the beginning of June, a few weeks after being re-elected in the presidential elections for a second and final term, and in full campaign for the legislative elections. The CNR was called to illustrate the “new method” of the president to govern.

During the first term, he was accused of governing in an excessively vertical way: decisions concentrated in one man and in one place, the Elysee Palace. He was reproached for despising the opposition and the social partners. The “new method” was going to give birth to a more horizontal style, listening to the ordinary Frenchman. In times of record abstention, widespread mistrust of the political class, and eruptions of popular anger like the yellow vests, the answer was more participation and deliberation.

The reality is more complicated. Macron invited what he calls “the living forces” to the opening day of the CNR, at the National Rugby Center in Marcoussis, near Paris. He sent 52 invitations: 12 declined. They were weighty negatives: the main opposition parties (rebellious, socialists, environmentalists and communists on the left; the Republicans and the National Regrouping on the right), the CGT and Force Ouvrière unions and the conservative Gérard Larcher, president of the Senate and second authority of the State.

“I share the diagnosis of the crisis of democracy, but it is not the National Refoundation Council that will give the answer,” Larcher justified on the network. France Inter. “Parliament is Parliament. He is the one who votes the law and controls the Government.”

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Before entering the meeting, Macron declared to the press: “Whoever is not here will not be able to explain later that they have not been consulted, that if too vertical and what if this or if that”. The CNR will address issues that will define the France of the future, such as schools, health, the environmental transition, the aging of the population or full employment.

The objectives

The president set three goals. First, “build consensus on the situation in France and its future.” Second, “replace French men and women at the heart of these great decisions.” And third, “the action”. The CNR, which will be open to citizens with online consultations and meetings throughout the country, must lead to specific and appropriate plans for each territory. A referendum? “I do not exclude anything,” Macron replied.

The Figaro In an editorial he speaks of “a simulacrum of direct democracy” and believes that “the most disturbing thing” is that “this new method of governance hides not so much a desire for dialogue to find solutions as an absence of objectives.” Le Monde he believes that the opposition’s boycott “is equivalent to denying the seriousness of the democratic crisis.”

The antecedents in the first five years (the great national debate by the yellow vests and the Citizen Convention for Climate) ended with an ambivalent balance. With the great debate, Macron showed that he was capable of debating hours and hours with mayors and citizens throughout the territory and helped calm things down after the revolt. The After months of citizen meetings, the climate convention gave birth to a package of proposals that the president only partially took up.

Neither of the two experiments in participatory democracy dispelled the image, widespread among part of the citizenry, of an arrogant head of state out of touch with the country’s realities. But then he ruled with an absolute majority; now, with a relative majority, which forces him to agree with the opposition. Parliament has regained the relevance it lost in the last five years. The French democratic deficit, to which the CNR must respond, has been attenuated. Today Macron could no longer govern alone and with command and command. Even if he wanted to.

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