The first round of the legislative elections has helped to make one thing very clear that, moreover, unequivocally refutes Emmanuel Macron’s fundamental position: his expression “at the same time” was nothing more than a rhetorical trick. Macron is neither from the left nor from the left. But the essential problem is another.
Political representation is a form of delegation of power. Although we do not interpret it literally, even if it is assumed that a deputy does not only represent his own social position and enters the hemicycle with a universal vocation, the mere fact that there is only one qualified worker among the deputies of the last legislature, against 27 directors of companies with more than 10 employees; the fact that businessmen, executives and the liberal professions represent more than three quarters of the Assembly is enough to seriously question the whole procedure. The mistrust, prevention and indifference regarding the electoral process that we experienced last Sunday is one of the manifestations of that doubt: abstention. No matter how many turns we give to the word “representation”, no matter how much we attribute all kinds of things to it, no matter how much we try to make it likeable, there is something that resists. The people refuse to help maintain this curious attenuated oligarchy that pretends to be a democracy. A single working woman and nothing more than 4.6% of wage earners among the deputies: the price of representation is the elimination of half of the active population. It’s so serious that it should be enough to make Democrats worry.
But the website of the National Assembly reassures us: “Being a deputy is not a job, it is a function.” Goodness. And the lazy person who wrote this nice summary – “Are the deputies a reflection of society?” – recognizes that executives, civil servants and liberal professionals are more represented, “while employees, workers and retirees have less presence”. If the entire future of representation depends on those two little adverbs of quantity, democracy has no choice but to function well. To structural inequality is thus added its negation, and precisely in the seat of the institution that is supposed to embody democracy: Parliament.
In short, for the National Assembly, a single working woman, four or five retirees, three dozen well-behaved employees are enough to build a democracy, for the Assembly to be “a reflection of society.” And it is a reflection, in fact, because in it the workers have nothing to do, given that, in society, the employees, their children and their relatives do not benefit from the same opportunities, the same privileges as those executives and those liberal professionals who are only “better represented”.
Finally, the website of the Assembly is satisfied with “the diversity and originality of trajectories that are found…, for example, with a student, a sailor, several writers and a former elite athlete”. I don’t know if they make me want to clap or cry.
This is what inspires me in principle the first round of these legislative elections. Now, for once, there is a possible alternative. Let us remember that, in the last century, the left has come to power together only six times and that, on those six occasions, there was a clear decrease in inequalities, thanks to free secondary education, paid vacations, the limitation of the working day, social security and nationalizations. If NUPES gets the majority, a little more democracy will have entered the institutions. If the street supports and opposes as in the time of the Popular Front, we can expect a freer and more egalitarian social and political life.
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Instead, a relative victory for Macron would produce the opposite result: the institutions would immediately, and more vigorously than ever, revert to their old hierarchical and authoritarian tendencies. In all probability, the president could only govern by decree, in accordance with article 49.3 of the Constitution, without a control procedure, without debate, without voting. One no longer has illusions about political life, about the degree of democracy of the procedures that structure it, but this is a real danger.
On the one hand, there is the possibility of a more intense social life, more faithful to the general interest and more democratic and, on the other hand, a contraction of power around its less democratic function – management, the executive function – and concentrated decisions , suddenly, in a few hands.
Regardless of the suspicion that we are rightly aroused by a procedure as biased and unequal as electoral representation, the idea of a third round, formulated the day after the elections by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is an attempt to give moribund institutions a new bath of universal suffrage and thus counteract the concentration of power. When, on the very night of the elections, Elisabeth Borne spoke contemptuously of what she calls “the extremes”, she was no longer referring to RN [Rassemblement National, el partido de Marine le Pen] and the unsuspecting [de Mélenchon], but to RN and to all the left. Now, the mere fact of being on the left is, in the opinion of the presidential majority, being too partisan.
This anathema is not to be taken lightly. Perhaps it means that even the old non-egalitarian procedures that, despite everything, allowed us to establish paid vacations, limit the working day and abolish the death penalty, are today too democratic for those who govern us. A worker must remain an excess; 4.6% of employees must remain too many, too many extremists.
When one speaks like this, there ceases to be a possible opposition, a possible alternation. In this sense, perhaps the second round will have a special importance this time. Perhaps we can make the old unequal procedure, as has happened on other occasions in the past, temporarily deviate from its course and allow those who represent more than half of the active population to benefit from higher wages, security of jobs and the freezing of prices. That’s what I think when I see 50% abstention: it reminds me that you have to vote, but not to be a good citizen – no, that’s nonsense – but because the old procedure sometimes gets away from those who write short summaries.
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