France: Political and institutional effectiveness

Content Type
Country Data and Maps
Institution
Economist Intelligence Unit
Abstract
No abstract is available.
Topic
Politics, Background, Forecast, Political and institutional effectiveness
Political Geography
France

There has been an improvement in political and institutional effectiveness since the Macron administration took office in 2017. First, the parliamentary election resulted in the replacement of three-quarters of deputies in the National Assembly, resulting in an unusual degree of political renewal, given often long parliamentary careers. Second, the government made substantial policy progress in the first half of its term, proving more successful than recent predecessors in preventing its agenda from being derailed by strikes and demonstrations. Third, after the scandals that brought down François Fillon, the presidential candidate of Les Républicains in 2017, the new government pushed through new measures to strengthen the judiciary in its handling of affairs regarding politicians. Financing scandals have in the past been brushed quietly under the carpet (as in the case of Nicolas Sarkozy, a former president), but this is now much less feasible.

There are still a number of challenges to political effectiveness, however. Public dissatisfaction with the government remains high, as is typical in France, and protests against controversial reforms still have the potential to bring the legislative programme-and the country more broadly-to a halt. This was seen at the start of 2020, when industrial action against the government's planned pensions reform resulted in the longest transport strike since 1968. The opposition then submitted over 29,000 amendments to the bill in order to stymie discussion in parliament. In an indication of the government's determination to make progress, the bill was passed by presidential decree, using the controversial 49-3 constitutional clause; but with the coronavirus outbreak just beginning in France at this point, Mr Macron put the reform on hold (until late 2020). Public opposition will remain powerful, and in the context of a much less supportive economic environment for the remainder of the government's term, legislative progress will slow, and controversial changes to the country's public finances or business environment are off the table.

Ongoing reforms aim to streamline the large French public sector

Efforts to modernise and streamline the unwieldy French state are an ongoing area of reform focus. A multi-year "simplification shock" was introduced in 2013 by Mr Macron's predecessor, François Hollande, which brought in hundreds of measures to reduce red tape on state policies affecting businesses and households. In 2016 there was a reorganisation of the country's internal administrative structure, reducing the number of regions from 22 to 13, to simplify the bureaucracy and cut costs. In 2019 the government approved Mr Macron's dramatic proposal to substantially reduce the number of deputies in both houses of parliament and introduce a degree of proportional representation in elections to the National Assembly, by way of constitutional reform. However, given the shift in policy priorities forced by the pandemic, as well as fierce resistance in the Senate (the upper house), this is unlikely to pass.

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