Macron Won’t Put Question of Resignation Up for French Referendum – Journo
You can listen to the full audio of the interview here: https://soundcloud.com/radiosputnik/the-french-people-want-more-power-in-policy-making-journalist
The first referendum in 14 years could take place in France in May as part of President Emmanuel Macron’s response to the ongoing series of weekend ‘yellow vests’ protests. The newspaper Journal du Dimanche reported that Macron was planning to organise the vote on the same day as European parliament elections: on May 26th.
According to the publication, one of the questions the French would be asked is whether they want to reduce the number of national lawmakers — a campaign pledge by Macron, as well as whether they favour imposing term-limits on legislators.
Radio Sputnik discussed the possibility of France holding its first referendum in 14 years with Ramin Mazaheri, PressTV’s Chief Correspondent in Paris.
Sputnik: What do we know about this proposed referendum and how likely is it to happen in your opinion?
Ramin Mazaheri: The Yellow Vests have no clear programme; there are literally dozens and dozens of demands which are associated with them and the reason that there are so many demands is because France has submitted to the dictates of Brussels for eight years and they have embraced far-right economic austerity, and austerity has totally created a lost decade of economic growth, high employment and suppressed wages, and reduce government services. So, you know, we should see why the Yellow vests have so very many demands. Austerity accumulates; it’s been eight years, so you always have to keep that in mind.
But the idea of more referendums, that this something that truly has risen to the top of the list of their demands… why is that? It’s because in the past decade, it has become painfully clear to the French that their politicians just don’t care a bit for the popular will. Macron, you know, he’s totally done away with the false promises of his predecessor, Francois Hollande, because he openly says he doesn’t care about public opinion at all. He says that public opinion will not affect his policy decisions whatsoever. This is obviously contrary to the modern idea of democracy. So this new demand for a referendum has to be viewed as a reaction to the dominance of the French elites in policy-making. The French people want more power in policy-making.
We have to keep in mind that out of all of the Western governments, the presidency of France has the most power, and we have to combine this reality with another one, that Macron has more power than any [French] president in recent memory, and that’s because he has an absolute majority in Parliament and because he also has total control over his own party, which is full of political novices, they owe their entire careers completely to Macron.
Macron is known for ruling like a Roman God, Jupiter; he’s also known as the president of the rich. So a referendum would reinject democracy into France’s Fifth Republic, that’s the background for this demand for the referendum. The French want direct democracy because their elected leaders, in their indirect democracy, they’re not only not succeeding, they’re not even listening to public opinion. There hasn’t been a referendum in France in 14 years, not since 2005, and French voters then rejected the Lisbon Treaty on the European Union Constitution, and what happened? The vote was totally ignored. So it’s important to keep in mind that Many Yellow vests view a referendum as some sort of cure-all for the French democracy. History proves that that’s not necessarily the case in France. The only country which seems to have incorporated referendums in an effective manner is Switzerland, and France clearly wants to emulate their neighbour in this respect, but these are two very different countries with very different political systems, so it’s not really that simple.
Macron has stated that the idea of a referendum is being discussed, it will be held on the same day as EU elections, but it’s not a done deal. I would say that a referendum is likely to happen because it’s avery attention grabbing way for Macron to say, “Look, I’m not ruling like Jupiter, I am being democratic.” However it’s something which, depending on the issues which are being voted on, this is something which could have very little political risk for Macron.
Sputnik: Let’s talk in greater detail about these issues that could be deliberated?
Ramin Mazaheri: Well that’s really the key question here, right? I mean, if you listen to the Yellow Vests, the most popular question would be: Should President Macron resign? But I think we can all agree that there is no way that Macron is going to put that question up for referendum. It’s really very ironic that Macron, I’m sure he’s going to refuse the hold new elections, because that is exactly what he ordered Venezuela to do. Macron and other EU leaders, they gave Venezuelan leader Nicholas Maduro just eight days to hold new elections or they will recognize someone else, someone who’s never received a presidential vote, as Venezuela’s new president, so it’s really a case of hypocrisy from France, but that is nothing new at all.
So what the government is proposing right now about the referendum is to have just one question and that’s to ask voters if they want to reduce the number of parliamentarians and limit the number of terms they may serve. I think that all of our listeners will immediately grasp that this is not a major interest for the Yellow Vests. It will not affect their purchasing power, it will not touch austerity, and we should see that this is really quite a neoliberal idea once again, because it’s a way to reduce the size of France’s government. So we see that Macron is actually trying to use the referendum, and it’s not decided yet, this is what he’s floating in the media, to push the very same neoliberal agenda. He’s not talking about putting up ideas which the average French person cares about, so it’s really a tone deaf move if he goes forward with just this one question, and France’s politicians have said exactly that. They’ve said that if this is the only question on the referendum, it’s going to be a total failure. Reducing the number of legislators actually is one of Macron’s campaign pledges, so it’s amazing that despite his massive unpopularity and the massive protests that have really undermined his international image, he’s on the precipice of sticking with pursuing his very, very unpopular political agenda.
Sputnik: What the Yellow Vests envisioned for a referendum is obviously going to be quite different. They want questions on a number of socioeconomic issues.
Ramin Mazaheri: You know, for example, Macron has rushed through many, many sweeping reforms which are so very unpopular and all of which are designed to make France more in line with the American system, the English system, the German system, and what is on the docket for this year is major right-wing roll-backs to the unemployment system and the social security system. So the Yellow Vests, they would want ideally those types of issues to be on the referendum, to really talk about public policy and the policies that really affect the average French person, the average French household, the pensioner, everybody.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.