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The French Constitution & the Interior Minister: Resignation Before Revision

Last updated on 28th July 2019

The accumulation of violations of fundamental freedoms since the beginning of this five-year period has precipitated into the heavy fault of the Minister of the Interior this 1st of May. The question arises of his resignation. It even appears as a necessary and preliminary act of the institutional revision desired by the President of the Republic.

This type of individual resignation of a minister is the translation of the principle of political responsibility that governs the exercise of governmental power in democratic regimes. As Max Weber wrote in 1919 (Politics as a Vocation), “the honour of the political leader, of the leading statesman, however, lies precisely in an exclusive personal responsibility for what he does, a responsibility he cannot and must not reject or transfer”. If this rule is respected almost everywhere (exceptions opening crises), it is not respected in this form in the 5th Republic. It talks about a “fuse”, that is to say forced resignation when it comes to protecting the president at the top of the chain of a decision that could involve him. This was the case, for example, for the resignation of the Defense Minister Charles Hernu in the 1985 “Rainbow Warrior” case. The President François Mitterrand couldn’t not be have intended a counterintelligence operation of this level. His very close minister was sacrificed in the name of national interests.

If we ignore the resignation “motu proprio” in France it is because it is impeded by the general transfer of irresponsibility that spreads “from above – the President – to all the rest of the state apparatus”, as Jean François Revel observed in 1992 (in Ineffective Absolutism). Since the departure of General De Gaulle in 1969, political responsibility has disappeared from our institutions and their summit. Ministers are irresponsible even in front of Parliament. As Roland Dumas, Minister of Foreign Affairs (implicated in the Habache affair in 1992), theorised in the National Assembly: “I only obey the injunctions of my conscience and the will of the President of the Republic”. Since he decides everything and is absolutely irresponsible, his irresponsibility extends to all members of the government (and to their associates, as we understood in the Benalla case). Beregovoy-Balladur jurisprudencehas come to mask this scandalous deficiency. It wants a minister to resign if they are indicted. An examining magistrate can therefore dismiss a minister for facts that do not necessarily relate to the management of his ministry. This criminalisation of responsibility is a plaster on a wooden leg. It leaves open the political question of the irresponsibility of ministers, an exorbitant privilege that silently feeds a movement like that of the Yellow Vests.

READ:  Report: Act 23 of Yellow Vests

Obviously Castaner is the other name of a general policy covering police violence, injustices made to simple protesters, illegalities of any kind and at any time. Linked to the worsening of a draconian legislation, one could easily demonstrate that we are in a situation of violence against rights and people without precedent since May 1968.

He must therefore be allowed to resign, a statement that is addressed to the President of the Republic in person for the aforementioned reasons. This would be an essential event in the practice and history of the Fifth Republic. This is in any case a prerequisite for the sincerity of the presidential statements justifying a revision of the Constitution. We will return to the announcements of Emmanuel Macron during his press conference of April 25th. They still deserve debate over and over again. But this is possible only if pledges are made here and now concerning the will to rebalance democratically the powers of and in the state: “the first orientation is to change greatly and deeply our democracy, our organisation, our administration,” said the President of the Republic. This future begins now with the resignation of the Minister of the Interior.

Paul Alliès, Mediapart



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