What’s wrong with France?

This is an opinion article by an external contributor. The views belong to the writer.
What’s wrong with France?

The same that is wrong everywhere else. Politicians are defending their own short term interests before those of the people.

The French’ uprising about the raise of the legal retirement age from 62 to 64 can be quite surprising for an outsider.

The data shows that the French have one of the earliest average retirement ages while they have one of the highest public pension spending as a percentage of GDP. The only country fairing worse is Italy. So why the upheaval?

The French were already unhappy about the reform, but the fact Macron invoked article 49.3 to push the bill without a vote in parliament has exacerbated their ire. But why did the government choose this option? Basically, because a part of the legislators from the centre-right party (Les Republicains), which has been calling for pension reform for thirty years, decided not to support it because it was too unpopular.

Most probably France would still be in turmoil even if the law had been approved in parliament, however, the legitimacy of the government wouldn’t be in question. So what is wrong with France is the same that is wrong everywhere else. Politicians defending their own short term interests before those of the people.

Examples of such cynical behaviour abound. The Republicans in the US rallying behind a snake oil seller, because it assures them votes. All actors, all Tucker Carlsons pretending to believe in “stop the steal” while really knowing the absurdity of such claim.

Members of the Freedom Democrats (FDP) in Germany, the smallest partner in the coalition government, forcing it to step back from its engagement with its EU partners for stopping diesel vehicle production by 2035. Such reckless behaviour is explained because the FPD was recently trounced in regional elections and had to find a cause to rally its base.

Likewise, how many Tory members of parliament really believed Brexit was a good idea? Or how about one of the European Parliament’s Vice Presidents being prosecuted for receiving bribes from Qatar to defend its reputation in the European Parliament? If such examples of shameless behaviour by politicians proliferate in advanced democracies, what is there to expect from less developed ones?

The crisis of Democracy is reflected on its global retreat since 2006, with only 5,7% of the world’s population living in what can be considered “full democracies”. Aren’t we being too complacent with Churchill’s famous maxim that “democracy is the worst form of government  —  except for all the others that have been tried”?

If democracies want to win the battle against autocracies, it might be time to start updating the system. A good place to start an overhaul appears to be the legislative branches. In the United States and Latin America for instance, Congress is the most discredited of the three branches of government. Perhaps it is time to take a serious look into more direct forms of democracy.

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