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About this book

Developments in French Politics 5 provides a systematic assessment of French politics following the 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections. Bringing together an entirely new set of specially-commissioned chapters, its central theme is whether the discourse of reform - initiated by Sarkozy - has been translated into tangible change.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. From Sarkozy to Hollande: The New Normal?

This is the fifth volume of Developments in French Politics. While every chapter is new, the overall aim remains the same as that of its predecessors: to provide an integrated and systematic assessment of current trends in French politics, drawing on the latest research but giving sufficient background to make the book accessible to those without a detailed knowledge of French politics. Two central questions guide this present volume.
Alistair Cole, Sophie Meunier, Vincent Tiberj

Chapter 2. The French Presidency

This chapter places the Sarkozy presidency (2007–12) in the context of presidential leadership from 1958 and reflects on the early months of the Hollande presidency. The main argument is that Sarkozy was able to operate a form of personalized governance because the institutions of the Fifth Republic encourage presidential leadership (Gaffney, 2012). However, it is important not to caricature either Sarkozy himself or his governing style. Many of the criticisms of the president’s ostentatious lifestyle date from the early period of his presidency. Thereafter, he was careful to tone down the public manifestations of personal excess. Moreover, when he came to power he practised a policy of political ‘ouverture’ (opening up), whereby the presidential majority was extended to include both centrists and former socialists. In addition, in 2008 he was the driving force behind constitutional reforms that aimed to increase the powers of parliament and decrease the powers of the presidency. Thus, the images of him as some sort of republican Croesus in his personal life and as an inveterate aggrandizer of personalized power in his political life need to be tempered somewhat. Even so, there is usually some truth to all myths. The Fifth Republic places the president at the centre of the political process and the system was undoubtedly presidentialized under Sarkozy.
Robert Elgie

Chapter 3. The ‘New’ French Parliament: Changes and Continuities

One of the main legacies of the French revolution of 1789 was to vest the undivided sovereignty of the people in an elected Assembly, though this foundational belief was observed more in theory than in reality, as the country veered between monarchy and republic for over one century from 1789 to 1875. The republican tradition that re-established itself from the late 1870s firmly embedded the belief in parliamentary sovereignty in the country’s political culture. The Third (1875–1940) and Fourth (1946–58) Republics were known as régimes d’Assemblée, though they were subsequently lauded and denigrated in turn by the parliamentary and Gaullist traditions. The instability of the post-war Fourth Republic, which experienced 28 governments in its short 12-year existence, challenged the belief that Parliament had an absolute right to make and unmake governments. The constitution of the Fifth Republic, created under de Gaulle’s leadership in 1958 (and some would say tailor-made for the General), set as one of its key objectives to limit drastically Parliament’s influence and powers.
Sylvain Brouard, Olivier Costa, Eric Kerrouche

Chapter 4. Politics and Justice

The main aim of this chapter is to examine some recent trends in relations between politicians and judicial actors in the French political system. This relationship has sometimes appeared paradoxical over the past few years, especially under the Sarkozy presidency. On the one hand, several reforms have been decided and partially implemented, changing some important institutions or procedures within the judicial system. On the other hand, recurrent tensions and conflicts between political and judicial actors have resurfaced. The impression that the French political system is still unable to guarantee a real and lasting judicialization is a widely shared one. The relative importance of these contradictory trends will be assessed in this chapter, which starts with general observations about the place of judicial powers in France and provides some insights into the recent political context.
Yves Surel

Chapter 5. Local and Regional Governance

Based on vigorous cultural and political assimilationist policies (via the army, the education system and the national language), the Jacobin ideal of the ‘nation state’, according to which the nation is a product of the (democratic) state, has been seriously challenged in recent decades (Pasquier, 2012). The French state, like other European nation states, has been confronted for some years by the dual pressure of European integration and the growing desire for autonomy on the part of subnational political communities. As a result of the decentralization laws of 1982–83, the evolution of EU policies and, more generally, the increasing globalization of the overall economic context, the central administrative organs of the French state have lost their monopoly on political initiative (Le Galès, 1999). The state is increasingly exposed to new economic, social and cultural logics; and the growing power of local and regional authorities in the public policy process is one of the most striking features of the erosion of the Jacobin myth of the unity and indivisibility of the Republic. This is the main object of analysis in this chapter.
Alistair Cole, Romain Pasquier

Chapter 6. Political Parties: The UMP and the Right

In 2012, the Union for a Popular Movement (Union pour un Mouvement Populaire — UMP) celebrated its tenth anniversary. The movement was formed in 2002 as the latest attempt to unite the diverse families and groups on the French centre and right. In the summer of 2012, after Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat in the 2012 presidential election, the UMP appeared to be rediscovering the energy of its early years, when it had freely experimented with new forms of internal democracy, encouraged ideological pluralism and accommodated party factionalism. Since Sarkozy’s defeat, UMP leaders have agreed on the need to copy the Socialist Party (PS) by introducing open primaries for the 2017 UMP presidential nomination. While awaiting this longer term challenge, UMP party managers and activists were primarily mobilized by the selection of a new leader, planned in November 2012. For the first time in the history of the party, the competition for the leadership was genuinely open and strongly contested. Jean-François Copé, the then general secretary (secrétaire général), was running for his re-election; François Fillon, the former prime minister, was challenging him. The party was thus confronted with the logic of a contest between an externally popular politician and an organizational strongman.
Florence Haegel

Chapter 7. Political Parties: The Socialists and the Left

The French Socialist Party (Parti Socialiste — PS) was returned to power in 2012 after a decade in opposition. How was it able to win an election again? How, previously, had it reacted to defeat in 2007? These two questions are the key ones that will be addressed in this chapter.
Frédéric Sawicki

Chapter 8. The Media

The news media of press, radio, television and the internet function as providers of information for citizens and as communication platforms for a range of political actors in France. While their power is open to debate, the media contribute to the construction of political and policy agendas, frame issues in a way that is more (or less) helpful according to sources and influence the salience of topics for public discussion. The media are, therefore, central actors in the representative democratic politics of the Fifth Republic.
Raymond Kuhn

Chapter 9. Interests and Collective Action

The neo-Jacobin model of the French state, featuring a strong central government facing an atomized society in which the collective representation of societal interests is delegitimized, if not actually forbidden, never accurately described reality, as Pierre Rosanvallon showed in Le Modèle Politique Français (Rosanvallon, 2004). In recent years, however, several scholars have proposed one version or another of a veritable anti- or post-Jacobin model, in which the influence of societal actors rivals or even subordinates the role of the state. Rosanvallon (2007, 2008, 2010, 2012), working at the level of political theory, attributes the rise of what he calls ‘counterpowers’ to a crisis of democracy, which in his view has compelled the state to adopt new strategies: no longer able to count on the electoral and legislative processes as adequate sources of legitimacy, it must, in order to maintain its authority, establish quasi-independent organizations in which societal interests are more or less adequately represented and which must negotiate the implementation of laws with affected interest groups. Levy (1999, 2006), building on Grémion (1976), similarly portrays a state that cannot act unless it enlists societal instruments in support of its initiatives. And Moravcsik (1998, 2000) depicts societal interests as effective checks on the independence of state action even in circumstances relatively favourable to executive autonomy.
Arthur Goldhammer

Chapter 10. Elections in France: Electoral Disorder in a Realignment Era

Confronted with a major and lasting global economic crisis, Nicolas Sarkozy did not win re-election in May 2012 as President of the French Republic. Elected in 2007 on the promise of building a new era of prosperity, he quickly became unpopular, finishing his term with a rising rate of unemployment and an enormous amount of public debt. Trailing Socialist Party (PS) candidate François Hollande in the first round (27.2 against 28.6 per cent), Sarkozy managed nevertheless to resist the recovery of the National Front (FN) led by Marine Le Pen (17.9 per cent), before losing by only a rather small margin in the runoff (48.6 per cent). This conservative resistance was quite unexpected. However, it did not outlive Sarkozy’s defeat, as the PS benefited from a presidential push in the June legislative elections and secured a comfortable hold on the National Assembly.
Florent Gougou, Simon Labouret

Chapter 11. The Evolution of Political Attitudes and Policy Preferences in France

The approach adopted in this chapter places developments in French politics in a new context. French political history is well known for being eventful and political developments are often narrated in relation to key events. But contemporary politics also requires an understanding of the longer-term evolution of social attitudes and preferences. Political attitudes today, as expressed in surveys or electoral choices, make more sense when we are able to use suitable longitudinal indexes of opinion preferences. Beyond the antipathy towards particular political figures (or to their style or appeal), beyond a purely event-based understanding of politics, in this chapter we argue that electoral victories and defeats have their roots in the evolution of the public’s demands over the medium to long term and their preferences for certain policies. It is because French voters, like their American, Canadian or British equivalents, react to the public policies implemented by those in power that these governments endure, are sanctioned or even dismissed at subsequent elections. This is not to say that all governments are defeated in the polls, but clearly part of their unpopularity comes from changes in the electorate’s preferences in the short term (in relation to any given election).
James Stimson, Vincent Tiberj, Cyrille Thiébaut

Chapter 12. France in Crisis? Economic and Welfare Policy Reform

The riots and protests that took place in late 2005 in and around France’s public housing estates caused many French people to rethink the merits of their social model. The nation that gave birth to the ideal of ‘solidarity’ was exposed as a troubled place: racially segregated, rife with job discrimination and racked by high levels of chronic, long-term unemployment. As in a few other European nations, including Italy, Spain and Greece, for 20 years those under the age of 30 had suffered high unemployment, low wages, delayed access to career-path jobs, delayed marriages, low home ownership rates, as well as poor chances of becoming as wealthy as their parents. Many second and third- generation French citizens were still called ‘immigrants’ by their compatriots and in 2010 over 50 per cent of them said they had been the victims of racial discrimination (Brinbaum, 2010). France’s unemployment rate had hovered around 10 per cent since the 1980s, sometimes reaching 12 per cent, sometimes dipping to 8 per cent. France has not seen full employment since the early 1970s. The country’s social and economic problems were shared by a handful of other rich European nations, but in no other was the gap between political ideals and social realities so pronounced.
Timothy B. Smith

Chapter 13. Contested Citizenship in France: The Republican Politics of Identity and Integration

The 2012 French presidential campaign, which ended with the election of a Socialist president in May, put immigration — once again — at the heart of debate and societal choices. While the politicization of immigration issues did not begin in the 2000s, the sequence of events opened by the appointment of Nicolas Sarkozy in 2002 as interior minister in the Raffarin government made immigration a core issue before it was eclipsed — for only a few months — by the impact of the financial and subsequent economic crisis that hit Europe. Even more than his predecessors, Sarkozy addressed immigration in its three increasingly intermingled aspects: the management of migration flows; the processes of integration; and the fight against discrimination and the promotion of diversity. Indeed, he went so far as to make it one of the core identity themes of his political discourse. In this field, as in others, Sarkozy took a proactive stance that sought to break with earlier policies. However, this did not prevent a string of reversals and failures to meet the stated goals.
Patrick Simon

Chapter 14. France and the European Union

On the evening of 6 May 2007, in a hoarse voice and to a crowd of youthful supporters chanting ‘Nicolas! Nicolas! Nicolas!’, the freshly elected President Sarkozy delivered a speech barely 13 minutes long. Half-way through he turned, rhetorically speaking, to address France’s European Union (EU) partners with whom, he declared, France’s destiny was ‘profoundly conjoined’. He reassured these partners that all his life he had been European, that he ‘profoundly and sincerely’ believed in la construction européenne and that ‘ce soir, la France est de retour en Europe’: tonight, he pronounced, projecting his persona to imagined audiences well beyond la Salle Gaveau in Paris, ‘France is back in Europe’.
Helen Drake

Chapter 15. France and the Global Economic Order

Globalization has never been popular in France. This is, after all, the country that had given birth to anti-McDonald’s hero José Bové, the policy of ‘cultural exception’ and the anti-globalization organization ATTAC (Association pour la Taxation des Transactions pour l’Aide aux Citoyens (Association for Taxing Transactions for the Benefit of Citizens)). As a result, French policy-makers and big companies have long had to tread carefully, globalizing by stealth while pretending not to — never mind that France is the fifth largest commercial power in the world, one of the world’s most attractive destinations for foreign investment and one of the largest holders of real assets in other countries.
Sophie Meunier

Chapter 16. French Foreign and Security Policy: In Search of Coherence and Impact

On 6 May 2012, President Nicolas Sarkozy was narrowly defeated in his bid for a second term by François Hollande, who thus became the seventh president of the Fifth Republic. During his election campaign, Hollande studiously avoided any major pronouncements in the field of foreign and security policy, conscious that the election would be won or lost in the realm of economics and jobs. Yet Hollande’s first month as president was overwhelmed by the foreign and security policy agenda. This has indeed been the case with all his predecessors, who have considered international affairs to be a presidential prerogative (domaine réservé; Cohen, 1986). Continuity in these areas has, over the decades, been more prevalent than change. French foreign and security policy under the Fifth Republic has been structured around three broad frames: the transatlantic; the European (see Chapter 14); the Mediterranean/African. Under President Sarkozy (2007–12), all three saw high levels of activity, although there is little evidence that French diplomacy embarked on any radically new departures. Nor is there evidence that Sarkozy’s activism succeeded in substantially increasing French influence over regional and global affairs.
Jolyon Howorth
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