The Longest Night: Polemics and Perspectives on Election 2000

By Arthur J. Jacobson; Michel Rosenfeld | Go to book overview

15
CONSTITUTIONAL COUNCIL REVIEW OF
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS IN FRANCE AND A
FRENCH JUDICIAL PERSPECTIVE ON
BUSH V. GORE

At a time when the market economy is on the way to dominating the world, some people are announcing that ideologies are dead and that politics is being ousted by economics. Is this prophecy becoming a reality? There are good grounds for doubting it, considering the excitement that political elections continue to generate in the life of a country. Admittedly there is a general tendency for the abstention rate to rise from one election to the next, although this tendency is appreciably lower in Europe than in the United States. And the younger generation's lack of interest in public life is a genuine source of concern. But let us not be misled: national and even local elections are still the high points in the life of a democracy. This is when the citizens get to choose who will represent them (in France, as deputy, senator, or president of the Republic) or what team (municipal, general, or regional council in France; 1 parliamentary majority), once in place, will have the responsibility of directing the life of the national or local community to meet the aspirations of the country. It is when the citizens choose their political leaders, whom they can then call on to “give an account of their administration.” 2

The right to vote is at the core of democracy. It is the vector through which the people's will is expressed, this “general will” that in the view of Jean-Jacques Rousseau could never do wrong. Conceived as the base for national sovereignty, the general will has a quasi-religious status in France. The right to vote, in France as elsewhere, is the source from which all other rights flow. At the end of the nineteenth century, the United States Supreme Court held that “The right of suffrage is a fundamental political right, because preservative of all rights.” 3 In the same spirit, the Constitutional Council (as France's supreme constitutional court, which is the only tribunal that can adjudicate constitutional issues, is called) today ranks

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