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President Macron of France Assumes Dictatorial Powers
Tue Jan 9, 2018 8:06am

PARIS—Weeks before President Emmanuel Macron took office, a business leader confronted him about his plans to sidestep Parliament and pass a sweeping overhaul of the country’s labor system by decree. Even in the middle of World War I, the business leader said, French presidents had sought the approval of Parliament.

Mr. Macron brushed him off. “He believes what people want are results, not debates,” the businessman said.

Eight months into his term, Mr. Macron has placed the exercise of unfettered executive power at the center of his presidency. From Jacques Chirac to François Hollande, presidents have long played the role of referee in French democracy. They have governed by consensus—settling disputes among factions in Parliament, shuffling their cabinets to forge or renew political alliances, and weighing in to calm tumultuous street protests.

Mr. Macron doesn’t negotiate with his opponents. He disarms them.

The biggest opposition party, the center-right Républicains, is in disarray because Mr. Macron poached its rising stars and gave them senior posts in his government.

His own party, the centrist République En Marche, moves in lockstep with the young president because he handpicked the candidates who became its members of Parliament. And he has tamed the most feared force in French politics—the waves of mass protests and strikes known as la grève —by sowing division among the unions that organize demonstrations.

These tactics have enabled Mr. Macron to launch an unprecedented blitz of economic measures, from laws that make it easier to fire and hire to the elimination of wealth taxes.

The goal: to reshape France in his own image, transforming a land deeply suspicious of free-market economics into one that fosters go-getters like the former investment banker who is now president. A workforce of upwardly mobile risk-takers, Mr. Macron says, is better suited to survive in an era of economic disruption than one defined by unionized labor that fosters class warfare.

“For our society to improve, we need people to succeed. We mustn’t be jealous of them,” Mr. Macron said recently.

In advancing his agenda, however, Mr. Macron has steamrolled opponents he may one day need to put his overhauls into practice and make them stick. He has kept the national media at arm’s length, granting few interviews. A top general who was critical of cuts to defense spending was publicly dressed down by the president in front of military brass, leading to his resignation.
[DFM: In my opinion, cuts in French Defense spending is very dangerous in today's political situation.]

“Passing a law is at best only half of the work,” Labor Minister Muriel Pénicaud said in an interview. “What matters afterward is how the stakeholders—the business leaders, the unions, the employees—take advantage of it.”

An aide to Mr. Macron said the president is confident the overhauls will endure. Mr. Macron ran on a pledge to shake up the system, the aide said, and voters gave him a mandate for the changes by electing him.

Despite the confrontational approach—or because of it—Mr. Macron has managed to bend the curve of public opinion back in his favor, a rare feat in French politics. Having fallen as low as 40% in August, Mr. Macron’s approval rating rebounded to 52% in December. The economy also is picking up, with the government estimating gross domestic product growth near 2% for 2017 after years of around half that pace.

Let me say that I agree with the goals of Macron's plan to reduce socialist influence in France, I am deeply contemptuous of his method: Rule by Decree = Dictatorship, and bypassing the French Constitution.

I am in sympathy with Macron and his frustration with traditional chaotic French politics. I am an avowed pragmatist, who believes in results. But I also believe that means matter, especially when establishing the precedent of dictatorial power. Even assuming that Macron is honest and incorruptible like George Washington (a VERY tenuous assumption), what would prevent future Presidents from using dictatorial power for unsavory purposes? Nothing!

What would I do if I were President of France today? I would attempt to establish his much reform program by Constitutional Means. If I could not do so with the current Parliament, I would make every attempt to hold new elections in which my sympathizers were elected. Failing that, I would resign.


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