Sunday, June 18, 2017

France: The Legitimacy of the Fifth Republic Called in Question by the high abstention rate in French Elections

The first round France’s National Assembly elections have been marked by record abstention of 51.29% of the electorate.

French polling institute Elabe is predicting just 42 percent of potential voters will cast a vote in Sunday's parliamentary elections in France leaving the abstention rate at 58 per cent.

If the predictions hold true, this will be the lowest voter turnout in French parliamentary elections under France's Fifth Republic, which began in 1958. 

In total, 47 million people were called on to vote but if the polls are right many millions have stayed away.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon speaking about the abstentions said that the French had “entered a form of civil general strike”.


"Representative democracy" is a more than ambiguous term. It conveys the false idea of an already-constituted people that expresses itself by choosing its representatives. Yet the people is not a given that pre-exists the political process: rather, it is the result of this process. This or that political system creates this or that people, rather than the other way around.

Besides, the representative system is founded on the idea that there is a class in society that represents the general interests of society. In the minds of the American founding fathers, that was the class of enlightened landowners. This system creates a people that identifies its legitimate representatives as coming from within this class, periodically reconfirming as much at the ballot box.

The representative system gradually became an affair for professionals, who then reproduced themselves. But in so doing this system generated its own reverse, the mythical idea of a people not represented by these professionals and aspiring to provide itself with representatives who really do incarnate it. This is the piece of theatre — of constantly declining quality — that each election now reproduces.

 Jacques Rancière


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