Though not yet an official candidate for the French presidential elections, Emmanuel Macron this week (4 October) presented plans for sweeping changes to the French – and European – system of representative democracy. EURACTIV France reports.
At the first of his diagnostic meetings on French society in Strasbourg this Tuesday, Emmanuel Macron presented the first part of his analysis and his proposals for reform. These looked beyond national politics to questions of European importance, including the creation of a European list for EU elections.
France’s former minister of economy, who is a serial critic of received wisdom, even to the point of being branded a populist by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, spoke on the subject of political representation, which he sees as obsolete.
“We have two chambers, neither of which accurately represents French society,” he said, adding that France needed “to introduce a dose of proportionality to allow for all the political families to be better represented”.
This idea, which would also benefit his own political party En Marche, is one that has often been endorsed by smaller, or younger, political parties.
“I am aware of the responsibility we are taking. We will bring the National Front (NF) into this country’s representative institutions,” he said. But he argued that the method of trying to keep the extreme right party on the margins of French politics had not resolved any problems.
“In the past we thought it was better to break the thermometer than to look at it,” Macron said, adding that the introduction of greater proportionality into the French political system would also benefit the radical left, the Greens and the small parties of the political centre.
Replacing British MEPs with an EU list
The former minister also criticised the state of European democracy. He said that the many different national electoral systems used for EU elections put too great a distance between the European Parliament and the citizens.
To remedy this, Macron proposed a system devised by Daniel Cohn-Bendit: offering the seats formerly occupied by the UK’s MEPs to members elected from a pan-European list.
For Macron, this is an essential step to “bring European democracy to life, to give it a strong foundation and vitality”.
But it is more than just one step. Macron dreams of sending his army of followers, who have spent the last three months going door to door in France, surveying some 300,000 citizens, all over Europe.
For him, Europe should not leave the subject of reform to be decided behind closed doors. “Otherwise we should just leave deocratic vitality to the political extremes,” he said.
En Marche plans to organise democratic conventions in every country in Europe to try to come up with a shared vision for Europe.
“We will not ask people their opinion about a Europe that they do not want. We will engage the citizens in this adventure,” said the politician, who has already come out in favour of an EU-wide referendum on the future of the bloc.
Several other candidates for next year’s French presidential elections have promised referendums on Europe, which may have dangerous consequences.
“Our Europe needs to be reformed, it is a question of democratic participation,” he said. “It is a question of political lifestyle, we need to consult, explain and then evaluate the decisions and laws adopted.”
The former minister also launched a thinly-veiled attack on Nicolas Sarkozy, though he stopped short of naming the former president. Macron said he found it unacceptable that someone with a criminal record, or who is a suspect in criminal proceedings, can stand for election to the country’s highest office, when these conditions would end the career of the humblest civil servant.