What is democracy? Quoting Abraham Lincoln during his Gettysburg Address, the “government of the people, by the people, for the people” could be a faithful definition. The word comes from Greek “demos” (“the people”) and “kratos” (“the power”). It appeared a long time ago during antiquity like in the first Greek city-states like Athens. Now, it represents an important part of government systems: among the 195 states recognized by UNO, 88 are considered as democracies.
But what about France now? Our country is considering itself a symbol of liberty and democracy, waving the French Revolution as the best proof of our attachment to people’s liberty and of the end of monarchy. But is it really? There are plenty of systems in the world: is the French one so fair?
Today, in France, in the Vth Republic, we are using representative democracy: it means that people are not deciding directly, they elect people to represent them to decide for them. French people are voting for two kinds of representation: the president and the national assembly. The first one is in charge of the executive power. He appoints ministers (and especially the Prime Minister as a member of the major marty elected at the national assembly) who propose laws to the national assembly. The national assembly is composed of 577 deputies elected from all districts and votes the laws. Here are the two tools we have: to decide who names those who propose laws and who accept them. But is it enough?
The true question is maybe “Are we well represented?” and the answer is not as simple as it seems. Let me give you some figures: people aged 25-40 represent 19% of the French population, nearly one in five citizens, whereas only 4% of the ‘députés’ – French MPs — are, almost one in twenty-five! And conversely, 32% of the MPs are aged 60-70, whereas they represent only 11% of the French population. Can we imagine that the decisions taken actually reflect our opinion if people who vote for us are much older? And what about Senate, elected by only 0.3% of the population and constituted by 80% of men, and where 75% of the senators are older than 60? We can also talk about plurality of offices: if the new law will make it illegal in 2017, for the moment, almost 40% of MPs are assuming several offices. Less representatives for less of people’s opinion. Considering all these facts, you can really wonder if the people who are passing laws for ‘the sake’ of our country are so close to what you’re expecting. Even if we can understand that elected people with a certain experience should be useful, we also perfectly know that they are not considering things the way we do.
What are the tools to express our disagreement ? During the latest elections, abstention was at its highest. Is it a way to make our voice heard? Apparently not, compared to a blank vote in Colombia or Peru, which is taken into consideration in those countries where a majority of white ballots can result in the election being canceled whereas no participating rate is required in France (where the blank vote is just null) to validate a vote. Other countries have also invented alternative ways to express: in Switzerland, the people can demand a referendum if they disagree with a law voted by the Federal Assembly, simply by collecting 50,000 signatures within 100 days after the law has been voted. People can also directly suggest a law by collecting 100,000 signatures within 18 rolling months.
Our democracy is slightly limited, and growing abstention proves that politics is becoming pointless when reducing people’s voices. Maybe is it time to think about our system and to rebuild it differently to allow every citizen to be well-represented, to express their opinion and ideas for the future.