14 January 2008

Electoral packrats

In France, municipal elections are coming up in March. The leaders of the Socialist Party are hoping for a good showing, and they are making a lot of noise about how Sarkozy and his government have not followed through on their electoral promises from last spring. The cost of living is rising and salaries are stagnating, the socialists say.

There are more than 36,000 majors of cities, towns, and villages in France. All stand for election at the same time.

One of the arcane features of French political like, at least for Americans, is that many officials are allowed to hold more that one office at a time. The system allows le cumul des mandats — accumulating electoral mandates. Jacques Chirac, for example, was both mayor of Paris and member of the national assembly (the parliament), and even prime minister, at the same time. A lot of members of parliament are also the mayors of cities and towns.

Members of the president's cabinet aren't allowed to hold a seat in the assembly concurrently with their cabinet job, however, because that would have them straddling the constitutional line between the executive and legislative branches of government.

Now, several of Sarkozy's cabinet ministers are running for mayoral posts, or for re-election to municipal offices they already hold. The minister of culture, Christine Albanel, is running for mayor the the 4th arrondissement in Paris; the minister of finance, Chrisitine Lagarde, for mayor of of the 12th; and the minister of justice, Rashida Dati, for mayor of the 7th. Holding all these offices concurrently is a way of consolidating a political party's power.

Last summer, when parliamentary elections were held, Sarkozy declared that any cabinet member who lost an election bid would also be required to give up his or her cabinet post. It was a controvesial move, since a cabinet minister who won a seat had to give either it or the cabinet position up anyway. As a result, one of the most experienced members of his cabinet, the controversial ex-prime minister Alain Juppé from Bordeaux, had to resign a fancy cabinet job that had been created just for him.

There's no word yet whether Sarkozy will do the same this time. Maybe not, since he risks losing a lot of his most stalwart ministers if he does.

I started my Today in France sidebar a few weeks ago, but now I realize some of the subjects covered there are ones I would like to keep on the blog for longer than 24 hours. So I'm putting this topic here instead of there. I'm not sure what to do with Today in France.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy your Today in France segment. It makes me feel more in touch with the day to day of France. I hope you can find a way to save it.

    I also am enjoying learning more about French government.


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