From: Filia den Hollander <email@example.com>
Date: Mon Nov 27, 2006 15:03 pm
To: Democracy Europe <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Albano Cordeiro <email@example.com>, Miroslav Kolar <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Mark Antell <email@example.com>, Abraham de Kruijf <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: (Ségolène Royale) Newropeans 20.11.2006 - More participatory democracy, what for? A look at Ségolène Royale's and Newropeans approach
Written by Luc Roullet
Monday, 20 November 2006
EDITO - Ségolène has been widely acknowledged as the first French woman in the position of becoming president. This is certainly a true revolution in a country that so often fails to recognize the extent of its machismo.
But beyond her gender and going beyond her limited exercise of power (in the last 20 years other French women have held higher positions than her) Royale's popularity stems from her new approach to politics and democracy. Her style and methods constitute a break away from the decades - if not centuries - of highly centralized, Paris-based, closed-door party politics. One can claim that the one-ruler approach to politics is more a rightwing tradition, from de Gaulle's establishment of a "monarchic 5th Republic" to Sarkozy's UMP through Chirac's RPR. But the Mitterrandian socialist party has certainly been also shaped as to provide a strong man (if not a woman) to the French presidential democracy.
Is the new leadership style of Royale a genuinely new way of doing politics in France? Or is it just a consequence of the lack of a strong man/woman in the socialist party, which has led to primary elections and innovative more participatory approaches? Beyond the success of providing Royale with the official socialist party candidacy, will these style and tools be sustainable as new ways of doing democracy, or would Royale as a president be just another 5th Republic monarch, hiring and firing her prime ministers, and caring more about holding to power than listening and answering to French needs? Future will give us answers to these questions.
For those familiar to Newropeans, a transnational and European citizen movement, there are striking similarities with Royale's methods and themes: - usage of interactive Internet to reach out (see Ségolène's Désir d'Avenir website on the one hand, Newropeans' online Website and Intranet for its Newropeans' members, on the other), - give back the voice to the citizens, pass the widespread frustration with politics and unfold the latent political creativity and will to get politically engaged.
One of the differences though is that Newropeans position itself as a multilingual and transnational European movement, while Ségolène's approach is for the French citizens only, and by the way tends to ignore European themes, sticking to the usual Franco-French politics.
Another difference is that Newropeans new approach to democracy is anchored not in the objective of an election (even though in 2009 Newropeans will run for the European Parliament), but in the objective of "democratizing the EU", a 15-year project that shall reform the European institutions and political habits.
For a reminder of the possible directions for change: as per its founding fathers' design, the European Commission shall represent the European interests, while the Council the nations', and the Parliament the citizens'. This common European house where the Commission's interests are perceived as different interests than its citizens' is outdated to many Europeans (they have probably been adequate at the time when it was feared that the citizens were ready to go back to war against each other). As every European learns in his or her history classes, democracy is made for the people, by the people, and the sovereign and legislative power of the people rests on the Parliament: so, rather than 3 distinct interests, it is high time for the EU to move like any modern democracy to a clear distinction between three powers (executive, legislative and judicial). However, as the debate on the European Constitutional treaty has shown, Europeans are still a long way from being ready to clarify their institutions: where European citizens demanded clarity of purpose and accountability, our current European leaders have answered with the most complex ever written constitution, and a blurry mixture of legislative and executive power among the Commission and the Council.
The resounding success of Ségolène has shown the extent of the demand for a more participative democracy, and therefore the political success than can be captured from this demand. However, one can bet that if participative democracy is just a tool for politicians to grab power, it will be short-lived. In the case of Newropeans, participative democracy is an integral part of its purpose: "democratizing the EU" has to be done using democratic processes, fostering understanding of the European institutions among citizens and providing space to invent the institutions and political tools that fit with the various needs and traditions of 300 million people. Whatever is the political future of Ségolène Royale, Newropeans' members are engaged for the years to come, in the invention of new ways to engage or re-engage Europeans into politics, for the citizen-led democratization of the EU.
Luc Roullet is member of Newropeans' CD