President Calls for Reduced Term

photo: kiosque flottant, quai montebello

More terrace than bistro - the Kiosque Flottante at
the Quai de Montebello.

Mega Johnny Lights Mega Fire

Paris:- Sunday, 11. June 2000:- President Jacques Chirac was on TV last Monday evening, to say that he is 'in favor' of reducing France's presidential term from seven years to five.

This decision has confused the media - and me - for several reasons. The current president used to say he was not in favor of this constitutional change. As we all know, politicians have no 'right' to change their minds - according to the ever-watchful media.

There are two aspects to this shortening of the presidential mandate. One is constitutional and the other is political.

Taking the second first, the media wants to know what the political motive is behind such a change. Will a shortened term benefit this or that party, this or that politician?

On TV, President Chirac said, paraphrased, 'The term is long and probably too long, taking into account of the demands of modern democracy.'

It was not clear whether he was referring to the wear and tear on a person seeking a presidential re-election which would add up to a 14-year term in office under present rules. President Chirac has probably looked at his age, and thinks maybe another five years on the job would suit him better than seven.

From a challenger's viewpoint, this seems to make sense too. With five-year terms of office, the voters get more chances more often to effect changes at the top - meaning also, potential candidates get chances more often.

The five-year term was first proposed by ex-president Valéry Giscard d'Estaing some years ago, and he brought up again earlier this spring. His extra proposal is to limit the presidential mandate to two terms, but President Chirac is opposed to this.

In fact, he made is clear that he will veto any proposed change that exceed the simple change of term-length. He doesn't want the idea loaded down with a lot of other constitutional amendments as baggage.

Polls indicate that over 80 percent French voters favor a five-year term. Some politicians have other ideas and will be seeking to attach their various amendments as if they don't believe President Chirac meant what he said.

The president and Prime Minister Lionel Jospinphoto: fiat 500 of the week have agreed on the details for effecting the change and have put it on a 'fast track,' with the proposal expected to be presented for a first reading in the Assembly National on Wednesday, 14. June. The Senat will get to it on Thursday, 29. June.

This week's one and only 'Fiat 500 of the Week.'

The president said he wants a referendum organized so French voters get to decide the issue. This could take place as early as September.

There is one technical aspect that worries political operators. If the project for the five-year term passes, then the next presidential election will be shortly after the next elections for the national deputies. The pols would like the presidential election to be before.

One phrase often repeated, was the objection to a 'Presidential System.' By this, I think the French do not want any modification to the fact that the president is elected independently, de-coupled from the elections for legislators.

Some of this must be confusing for French voters, because many jargon-like terms are being used by all, including the new noun which sums it all up: 'Quinquennat.'

There are a handful of other constitutional issues that constitutional experts and some politicians would like to see modified - such as the present practice of holding multiple mandates - but President Chirac wants to 'keep it simple,' as well as quick.

The President's TV declaration, which was broadcast in prime time jointly on TF1 and France-2, was criticised for his lukewarm approach to the issue.

I don't know if he was expected to trumpet "Quinquennat! Rah! Quinquennat! Rah-rah!" instead.

Even though France has gone through enough 'Republics' to be experienced with inventing new versions, therephoto: rue des artistes are some more or less latent sectors of society who fondly remember the monarchy - as well as political figures who prefer 'no change' - if not an outright return to previous versions of the 'Republic.'

The obscure Rue des Artistes, in a slumbering 'village' part of Paris.

If all goes well, the 'nays' can have their say all summer long when the French will be occupied with important affairs - their holidays - and in September, when everybody feels pretty optimistic, then the French will vote 'Oui' for the Quinquennat.

If this happens, Jacques Chirac may well run for re-election; secure in the knowledge that he will have time left after a shortened second term to become a permanently 'sockless' ex-president.

This helps out Prime Minister Lionel Jospin too. Both men have high popularity ratings, but Jacques Chirac is probably a bit too popular now to be beaten for re-election. Then, after another five year term, Lionel Jospin will still be young enough get his chance.

Johnny Sells Out Free Concert

On Saturday night there was standing room only on Paris' Champ de Mars for Johnny Hallyday's 'gift' concert for his fans, to celebrate his 40 years of French rock-and-rolldom.

Normally the Champ de Mars does not accommodate many people other than police with whistles, tooting at people to get them off the grass.

But on Saturday night there was no grass to be seen, because it was underneath an estimated 400,000 or more hard-core Johnny - nickname 'Jo-Jo' - fans of all ages.

Estimates of possible crowd turn-out had ranged from 800,000 to 'millions,' but as big as the Champ de Mars is, it will hold only so many. Judging from overhead TV-views, it was filled to the edges.

The weather looked a bit dodgy from Friday evening on, but managed to hold off whatever it was planning until afterthe spectacle which closed down with a huge fireworks display, rivaling the one on New Years Eve.

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