While French President Emmanuel Macron searches for a breath of fresh air to boost his second five-year term, during a period of low approval ratings and both international and domestic turmoil, The Good Lobby France has unveiled its study on the « presidentialist drift » of the Fifth Republic.
The study draws a (widely shared) conclusion: French citizens currently face an increasingly untenable imbalance of power between the institutions originally designed to protect their rights. It concludes by proposing several concrete recommendations to rectify the situation.
Gaëtan de Royer, Director of The Good Lobby France and author of the study, emphasized that by allowing Macron to become a larger-than-life “supreme magistrate”, this hyper-presidentialisation of the French institutions misses its fundamental goal: to give the State a head. Instead, the President is running out of steam, and increasingly alone on the front lines.
The Head of State’s own powers, as they were originally conceived, responded to a need to transcend the day-to day-turmoil of politics. During difficult times, it was intended for these powers to provide an escape route from various cases of political stalemate: first, to avoid institutional paralysis and second, to guarantee the stability of the political system via the oversight of one single institution. The President’s right to arbitrate should make it possible to overcome divisions and foster greater national cohesion. Instead, it has become an opposite force: further dividing the nation.
Once considered assets, these executive powers are now devitalised, as Presidents sink into chronic unpopularity. Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron took less than a year to fall below 30% approval in the polls. Far from presenting themselves as a unifying “father figure”; of the
Nation, these Presidents repeatedly isolated themselves from their constituents. Furthermore, the current hegemony of the President undermines the credibility of the other institutions.
The Good Lobby Founder and HEC Paris Professor Alberto Alemanno underlined his support, stating that the report “provides a timely analysis of the growing French presidential hegemony, as well as the need to start reforming the State.”
65 years after the adoption of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic, it is time to recognise that French institutions have undergone profound change, and that they no longer meet neither the spirit of their founders nor the challenges raised by a civil society that is increasingly agile, easily informed and keen to be more closely involved in public decision-making.