Tjebbe van Tijen on Sun, 6 May 2012 07:19:36 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> The Limping Messenger goes back half a century: France and the looming shadow of the 5th Republic of De Gaulle: captive of central-presidential-command

France and the looming shadow of the 5th Republic of De Gaulle: captive of central-presidential-command

May 6, 2012 by Tjebbe van Tijen

The illustrated and fully documented version with several links can be found at

[poster "Oui à la Consitution showing the shadow of General de Gaulle behind a French Marianne that has broken her chains + De Gaulle in the same pose as on the poster during a public address in 1962]

It is not so much who wins the French elections, but what is lost to all French voters once again in the ‘super presidentialism’ of a system installed fifty years ago with a manipulated referendums (1958-1962) that createdthe Fifth Republic with ex-general De Gaulle – in power already - making his rule even more powerful. Le Cinquième République, a legal coup-d’état as it was seen by some in that time (as expressed in “Le coup d’état permanente” by François Mitterand 1964, who as a Machiavellian figure did not hesitated later to make use himself of these Gaullist inspired constitutional powers  - after a first failed bid for power in 1965 – during two long presidencies lasting from 1981 to 1995, with the presidential terms of seven years, since 2002 changed to terms of five years)

Whoever wins coming sunday, this shadow of De Gaulle and his military and Bonapartist  inspired  top down constitutional rule is still looming….

How far away is the concept for a more democratic and ceremonial role of the French president, as a figure that helps bridging differences, with parties that are no longer captives of central-presidential-command and a parliament and prime-ministre that finally regain control and give space for more consensus and interaction with the electorate, putting an end to the frequent practice of rule by presidential degree?

Such alternative democratic concepts exist already for decades. Criticism of  the the 5th Republic system is more often voiced “a regime that has become more and more monarchical with the passage of years” and ideas for aSixth Republic that assures “political control by citizens and their representatives” are circulating. A detailed plan in French can be found on the web site of  the Convention pour la 6e République.

[Cartoon on a socialist poster against the first referendum to change the French constitution and give more power to the president in 1958, marked by the Algerian revolt against French colonialism. From top left to bottom right the captions: 1) De Gaulle has been carried to power by the rebellion prepared by his friends, and encouraged and relaunched by his appeals of 15 and 19 May forcing parliament to sing to his tune. 2) The constitution is made to fit De Gaulle. His ministers are his doubles (art 6-8-23) , the assembly can do nothing against him. 3) Urne/Ballot box; Dissolution/dissolve; He could impose laws by calling new referendums and dissolve parliament at his will (art. 11,12). 4) He could assume all power by declaring “the institutions in danger”: imitating Charles X and renewing Napoléon III (art 16).]

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