Daniel Amson

Lack of Clarity in the Republic Publication date : January 1, 2002

“The body politic does not like uncertainty. It needs rules. It is the duty of those who govern us, and especially of constitutional writers, to determine precisely and clearly the area in which citizens and administration will interact. In order to be respected, rules must first be strictly defined; likewise, duties must be precisely described if they are not to lead to arbitrary applications.
“As many of us know — and as the experts keep telling us — by a strange twist of fate, France, the homeland of Descartes, has survived under a totally nebulous constitutional system since 1875.
“The President of the [French] Republic, who should play a major role in government, exercised very restrained functions from 1875 to 1940. After the Liberation, the executive arm continued to play a nebulous role, while the lack of clarity of contemporary institutions dates from the beginnings of the Fifth Republic and its basic ambiguities.
“Today, after nine years of shared power between Left and Right, the respective duties of the head of state and of the prime minister have become completely blurred in the eyes of the French. Ultimately, who holds the power to make decisions? No one is very sure.
“This vagueness is not solely limited to the relations between the two heads of the executive. It extends to parliament and the judiciary, and even to the constitutional council which sometimes seems to function as an electron in a free state.
Numerous areas plunge us into uncertainties and contradictions, including the very structure of government, the limitations of law, various types of incompatibility, the distinction between administrative and judiciary disputes, the power of European courts, and the rules that apply to the various political elections. It can be said that our republic is a nebulous one,” writes Daniel Amson.

A doctor of law and barrister on the Parisian bar, Daniel Amson teaches at the University of Lille-II. He is the author of numerous works including La Cohabitation en France; Adolphe Crémieux, l’oublié de la gloire; De Gaulle et la Palestine; Gambetta ou le rêve brisé and Poincaré, l’acharné de la politique. He is a regular contributor to the French national dailies Le Monde and Le Figaro..