French institutional reform proposals

French Premier, Edouard Philippe, has outlined plans for institutional reform, according to the FT:

“…the number of seats would be reduced from 577 to 404 in the National Assembly, the lower house, and from 348 to 243 in the Senate.”

“Proportional representation would also be allowed for 15 per cent of the seats in the National Assembly.”

The reduction of the National Assembly would be to almost precisely its optimum under the cube-root law (population about 67 million, the cube root of which is 406). Obviously, 15% of seats by PR is very minimal (especially if they are non-compensatory).

The FT article is short on detail. If anyone is following the French press coverage on this, please share anything else you might have seen that would flesh out these plans.

10 thoughts on “French institutional reform proposals

  1. I came across an article published on Le Figaro last month – and available in French here – showing the distribution of seats under the existing system and the proposed alternative.

    As far as I can tell the new system’s proportional component would not be compensatory: the notional distribution of PR seats is in line with the parties’ first round share of the vote in last year’s legislative election.

  2. While president Macron earlier talked about 20-25% by PR, the ratio of 15% by PR apparently was a compromise with senate president Gérard Larcher (Les Républicains, opposition – the senate has a veto over changes of the constitution and of “organic laws” on the senate itself), frustrating “proportionalist” minister of justice François Bayrou (MoDem)
    http://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2018/04/05/reforme-des-institutions-larcher-en-total-desaccord-avec-la-reduction-de-30-des-parlementaires_5281287_823448.html

    Has anyone an idea how the 61 PR seats will be elected? (one national district, closed list, 5% threshold as with the EP elections?)

    This reduction of single-member districts (from 577 to 343) will entail a redistricting in almost every departement.

    • I thought France’s constitutional amending formula is by a joint sitting of the national assembly and senate by a 3/5 majority. Will the 2 round system be kept or changed or is this change a MMM system with a twist?

      • France has two de jure and one de facto amendment formulas:
        De jure:
        1. passage through both houses plus referendum
        2. passage through both houses and 3/5 majority of a joint sitting of the houses
        De facto:
        Proposal by the president, straight to referendum

  3. Sure, the proposed assembly size is in line with the cube root, but I think it is far too drastic of a reduction, especially in a system where the presidency and executive government are so dominant. If it were coupled with some adjustments to the balance in favour of the assembly it could be far more acceptable (e.g. concurrent elections, limit the number of areas that are legislated for by decree, scrap the limit on number of committees, abolish the rule allowing govt to pass legislation automatically unless defeated by a censure motion – Macron promised that last one, is there any news on that promise?)

    • Does the size of the assembly really have much of an impact on the balance of power between the president and the legislature? I would think that if anything, this package of reforms would slightly shift power to the legislature (given that the president’s party would have slightly less of an enormous bonus). I don’t know if the French National Assembly plays much of a role in scrutiny of the executive, and maybe that could be hurt by a cut in the size of the chamber.

      • The size of the assembly is the single biggest factor shaping the size of the largest party (Shugart and Taagepera, 2017*), so yes, the assembly size should have considerable impact on the executive-legislative balance. As JD notes, this should tend to make the largest party bigger; of course, that is “other things constant” and with the PR component (even a small one), they either things are not equal. I suppose I would not expect much net impact. The more important factor would be to get rid of the honeymoon election timing. But I’d hardly expect the president, who benefited so handsomely from the current timing, to propose that!

        ____
        * Although the predictive formula assumes a “simple” system, and the French two-round system is a complicating factor, we show that the result in France is, on average, pretty close to the model prediction.

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