Olivier Faure: “We have reached the end of the Fifth Republic”

Olivier Faure We have reached the end of the Fifth

L’Express: La Nupes has just celebrated its first anniversary. She seems functioning in assembly, but beyond that, she mostly looks like a vaudeville. What’s next ?

La Nupes has been a narrative under construction from the outset. It is not a single group in the National Assembly, and even less a single party. It is a coalition with five autonomous parties. So there are times that are more complicated than others. There are bound to be differences, discussions can be lively. Gathering is always more complicated than dividing. It is the unitary reflex of the left-wing electorate that pushed the parties to create Nupes in 2022. It is the French who will force us again in 2027. After ten years of Macronism and with the risk of an alternative on the extreme right, no one will be forgiven for having provoked a new failure of the left.

“The Ve is a contradiction with the original promise of the founders of the Republic”

Aren’t you afraid that the Europeans, where everyone will go to their own corner, are the hide-sex of an ultimately inevitable divorce?

There has never been a common list on the left, including when the left governed together. I see the interest of a common list, but I don’t want to dramatize anything. We must return to the substantive debate. It is the nature of the project that dictates the alliance, not the alliance that dictates the project.

Obviously, the trauma of 2005 has never been resolved on the left, and the European flag would even be, according to Manon Aubry, the incarnation of this, of a “democratic forfaith”.

Manon Aubry’s expression is incomprehensible. There are sometimes words that you regret as soon as you say them… The European flag is the flag of freedom for Ukrainians. It is the flag of peace found on the continent. Not approving all European policies cannot lead us to reject the European project itself. The European Union is the relevant level for considering the great ecological transition, health, food and industrial sovereignty. It is not by nature ordo-liberal, it is what we make of it. It is necessary to modify its opaque functioning, to give birth to an authentically European debate, but obviously not to condemn the greatest political idea born in the post-war period.

15 days ago, Jean-Luc Mélenchon launched: “Down with the bad Republic”. Do you agree with him?

You are tiresome in wanting me to comment on expressions whose meanings I do not know. If this means that the Ve is out of breath and needs to be drastically upgraded, I agree. But let’s focus instead on saying what we want to change our institutions…

Do you also want a Sixth Republic?

We have reached the end of the Fifth Republic. The reality is that since 1958, we have already changed our institutional balance several times. Election of the president by universal suffrage, then a five-year term, then reversal of the legislative calendar… With the appearance of the primaries, we come to wonder four years before about the identity of the representative of the right or the left. It is a lowering of democratic life, this reduction of the debate is an infantilization of the citizens. For 64 years, the Constitution has evolved in an exclusive direction: that of hyper-personalization. It is a contradiction with the original promise of the founders of the Republic who had the intention of countering all arbitrariness, getting out of the logic of personal power and no longer serving the glory of the prince. It is on mistrust vis-à-vis the executive – seen as a simple executant – that the republican idea was built.

But what do you offer?

I plead for the right of dissolution to be transferred from the President of the Republic to the Prime Minister. Let him who has the right of life or death over parliament be the head of government. Faithful to the thought of Jaurès, Blum, Mendès France, I am in favor of the head of the executive also being responsible to Parliament and committing to a government program before it.

“If he is elected, the next candidate from the left will have to agree to deprive himself of part of his powers to find a part of our republican ideal.”

The risk is the return to instability of the IVth…

This is common law among all our European neighbours. And their regimes are no more unstable. But they are in a permanent dialogue with the representatives of the people. I am attached to the fact that governments can act. In particular because I am in favor of a left of transformation and not of simple management. This is the reason why I have always been very skeptical about full proportional representation and the dismissal of elected officials because there is no imperative mandate. We must allow elected officials to embody the nation, and to do so over time to be judged on a balance sheet, and not in the heat of the moment. But one could on the other hand imagine that a vote of no confidence could target a minister without bringing down the entire government.

So should the presidential function be weakened?

There is a democratic anachronism in accepting a president who is accountable to no one, who has all the powers and who can free himself from the majority opinion without ever being constrained. It’s Jupiter. And Jupiter, it’s over! Emmanuel Macron has pushed the system to the limits through his practice. We are the only democracy in the world where, constitutionally, the president concentrates so many powers and so few checks and balances. In the institutional pyramid, the president has power over his prime minister, his government, and over parliament. He appoints to the main public posts. He can bend his ministers to his decision like the Assembly, which he can dissolve, while he remains untouchable except in cases of high treason. With the tripartition of political life, the president can be approved by only 25 or 26% of the votes in the first round, and win in the second by default rather than by membership. And then live a solitary power for five years. This is no longer possible.

Do you really believe that would solve democratic fatigue?

There is no democratic fatigue, there is a fatigue linked to the absence of democracy. “Whatever our votes, nothing is taken into account. Everything continues as before”, that’s what I’ve been told all year. The image of the president parading on May 8, surrounded by a praetorian guard, after having emptied the Champs-Élysées of all public is terrible. She should make us all think. We have come to the end of the exercise. It is necessary to put back the democratic essence, that force is given back to the parliament. Under the Third, the major laws that founded the Republic – I am thinking in particular of freedom of the press, of association, secularism, etc. – have all been the subject of an in-depth dialogue, with the long duration of the debate. The law of separation of Church and State, it was two and a half years of debate! But it has become an inalienable pillar which adds to the triptych “liberty, equality, fraternity”. When I compare to the nine days granted to the Assembly for our retreats, I tell myself that we are walking on the head. I am also pleading for a citizen’s right of amendment which would allow unions, associations, an ordinary citizen, subject to a number of signatures to be defined, to put forward proposals in the debate which would be debated on an equal footing with those of the parliamentarians. It is not direct democracy, but a collaborative democracy which avoids an intermittent democracy.

We know the song. Mitterrand wrote “The Permanent Coup” before exercising an equally personal power.

He also said “Institutions were dangerous before me. They will be after me”. This is the reason why the next candidate on the left must be required to correct these institutions from the first year of his mandate, and to agree to deprive himself of part of his powers in order to recover part of our republican ideal and to draw the strength to govern from adhesion rather than from constraint.