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Category Archives: Democracy & Citizenship

France 2017: La grande coalition

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Ever since I started to talk to the French about their political system and listened to their perceptions of what was going wrong in the Fifth Republic – a little more than three decades now – I had this impression, unbacked by any robust statistical evidence, of a quite large majority at the centre of […]

France 2017: The Charisma Bonus

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It’s time to take your good old Max Weber out of the shelf again. His definitions of sources of authority are as pertinent as they have ever been. What did he write about ‘charisma’ again? ‘The exemplary character of an individual person’, ‘endowed with specifically exceptional qualities’, and by whom ‘new normative patterns are revealed’ […]

France 2017: It’s the semantics, stupid!

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Emmanuel Macron’s entry on the diplomatic scene – from the NATO and G7 summits last week to the meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday – may already be regarded as a positive and very encouraging achievement, but everybody, in France and elsewhere, agrees that the new President’s real and primordial challenge is the capacity to […]

France 2017: The end of ridicule?

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For over forty years, since Maurice Duverger coined the expression in 1974, ‘The Republican monarchy’ has no doubt been the most frequently used metaphor for the Fifth Republic. In countless books, essays and articles, the presidential system and all its corollaries –power, pomp and protocol – have been portrayed as a legacy of pre-Revolutionary, absolute […]

France 2017: Disruptive

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Emmanuel Macron had no chance of winning the presidential election. Every textbook on French politics or contemporary history will tell you so. He had no chance, and he seized it. After his first large-scale rallies, in Strasbourg in October 2016 or in Paris in December, all serious commentators indulged in gentle mockery. Partly because his […]

France 2017: Old fault lines, new salience

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‘France has voted like it never did before’, was the headline of Spiegel Online on Monday morning, and many other foreign observers expressed similar views on the manner in which the traditional parties of the Left and Right were kicked out of the competition by an overwhelming desire of renewal of the political class. But […]

France 2017: That ‘pschitt!’ feeling

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‘Pschitt!’ is – at least in colloquial French – the disappointing sound of flat champagne, a deflating balloon, or a damp firecracker. It is also a good description of the feeling that many French voters will inevitably have on Sunday evening in front of their television screen. With an unprecedented degree of uncertainty, with virtually […]

France 2017: Ready for the Fake Presidency?

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Oops – they did it again! They made us believe that the Fifth Republic provides its president with a particularly wide array of prerogatives, little constrained by checks and balances, and reigning well above the heads of a weak parliament. And with all the hype around the presidential election, this highly personalised ‘encounter of a […]

France 2017: Disappointed, disillusioned, disgusted. A geography lesson.

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Six weeks ago Brice Teinturier, whose face is well-known to the French from numerous election evenings on public television as the polling pundit who explains the gains and losses of the different parties, tried to introduce a new acronym named ‘PRAF’. In a book based on many previously published IPSOS polls and coming dangerously close […]

France 2017: Where have all the flowers gone?

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Over the last twelve months the Greens have had quite a few celebrations across Europe: Winfried Kretschmann was re-elected as minister-president of Baden-Württemberg in March 2016; in December Alexander von der Bellen succeeded in stopping the rise of the Austrian populists in the presidential elections, and in the Dutch general elections, Jesse Klaver quadrupled the […]

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