Parties and Politics in Modern France

Parties and Politics in Modern France

Parties and Politics in Modern France

Parties and Politics in Modern France

Excerpt

Most Americans felt relieved when DeGaulle's Fifth Republic won a spectacular endorsement by some eighty percent of the French people. The French were at last in essential agreement on a set of institutions to their liking. It was remembered that, by contrast, the constitution of the Fourth Republic had the affirmative blessing of hardly more than one third and that the Third Republic had been created by a majority of one.

Yet is it questionable whether a new set of institutions has solved once and for all the problem of efficacy and democracy in a country that so far has proved unable to reconcile the polar opposites of authority and liberty. In a recent issue of Express (September 11, 1958) Mendès France presented the "contrat des Non" and raised some pertinent questions about the new constitution: "The multiplicity of the precautions taken against the Assembly elected by universal sufferage reveals . . . . the will 'el refouler la democratie'." He wondered if the average Frenchman "realizing that it is not he who decides . . . . will not turn his back on the institutions, disinterest himself in the State and its affairs and renounce, by lassitude and disgust, further exercise of his rights, the vanity of which is demonstrated day after day."

In the same issue of Express André Maurois, admirer of both DeGaulle and Mendès France, exclaimed, "Ah, que je suis divisé contre moi-même?" He added significantly. "It remains that in the days in which we live 'il faut parier'." One must bet. But bet on what? On a man, a constitution, a new spirit, or gamble on the bet of others? Will the new regime signify the rule of One sustained by occasional plebiscite and by the technocracy that a modern economy can so easily generate? Or is it at last the door open to the reconciliation of efficient government and adequate democratic control? A reconciliation, one might add, that could under other circumstances have been obtained without sacrificing the myth of popular sovereignty and without keeping the legislature on perpetual probation.

Not that the stronger executive was not wanted both by the Right and by the Left. Nor that General DeGaulle appears today as the . . .

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