Protocol, image, and discourse in political leadership competition: The case of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, 1997-2002

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This article examines the relationship between Prime Minister Jospin and President Chirac in the period 1997 to 2002. It is concerned in particular with symbolism, discourse and protocol, and how these have mediated the political competition between Chirac and Jospin. We develop a framework of analysis with several main strands. We consider the effects of the institutions of the Fifth Republic upon the political conduct of Prime Minister and President. We observe the perceived character traits of the individuals concerned, as well as the character traits expected of the offices of President and Prime Minister. We investigate the influence of the past upon the behaviour of Chirac and Jospin in the present, both in terms of notions of regime crisis which configured the institutions in the first place, and in relation to the image of previous holders of the offices (especially Charles de Gaulle and François Mitterrand).

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... 42 Th e President declared that "wished to see him on his return", thus reproaching the Prime Minister publicly and reminding him, that foreign policies belong to the head of state's domaine reservée. 43 Th e President preserved also some infl uence on law-making, because the right had still a majority of seats in the Senate. Th is is why the RPR and its allies managed to block some reforms in the second chamber: the most important, they prevented prohibition of combining parliamentary and government positions with local authorities' posts by single politicians. ...
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The political system of the French Fi€fth Republic is referred to as “semi-presidentialism”. This is is to indicate its mixed nature – of a system presidential and parliamentary at a time. The Constitution grants broad prerogatives – and assigns serious tasks to both the head of state – le Président de la République – and the chief of government – le Premier ministre. When the prime minister represented the pro-presidential political camp, the head of state gained very serious in! uence on governing the state and political strategy (first, when the French political scene was dominated by the right – 1958–1981; then by the le€ – 1981–1986 and 1988–1993; and finally by the right again 1995–1997 and since 2002). As early as during Charles de Gaulle presidency (1958–1969) the idea called domaine reservée came into existence. According to this political concept, the widelyinterpreted external policies – including foreign affairs and defence were recognised as presidential prerogatives, regardless the of literal construction of legal provisions. Relations within the executive changed radically with the end of political unity. During the so-called cohabitation French political practices were different and they ultimately led to an amendment of the Constitution.
Die Auseinandersetzung mit dem Gegenstand der politischen Führung in Frankreich ist so alt wie die V. Republik selbst. Sie stand meist im Zusammenhang mit der typologischen Einordnung des Systems. Seit 1958 fragen sich Wissenschaftler, ob es sich beim französischen System um eine monarchie présidentielle oder eine dyarchie parlementaire handelt. Der erste Präsident, Charles de Gaulle, gab der Diskussion zusätzlich Nahrung, da er die Kompetenzen des Präsidenten über den Verfassungstext hinaus ausweitete. Zum Kreis dieser Wissenschaftler, die sich mit dem Verhältnis zwischen Staatspräsident und Premierminister auseinandergesetzt haben, gehören etwa Jean Massot (1987, 1993, 2001) oder Philippe Ardant (1987). Neuen Auftrieb bekam die Diskussion jeweils während Phasen politischer Cohabitation. Anders als befürchtet zerbrach das System an dieser Belastungsprobe nicht, auch wenn der Premierminister die politische Führung übernahm und die Rolle des Staatsoberhaupts stärker auf ihre repräsentativen Funktionen reduziert wurde (siehe etwa Ardant 1999; Rouvillois 2001).
The 2002 Elections In France Were A Gripping Drama Unfolding in four acts. Each act has to be understood as part of a whole, as each election was ultimately dependent upon the results of the first round of the presidential election on 21 April. However untypical in the context of Fifth Republican history, the first round of the presidential election strongly inf luenced the peculiar course of the subsequent contests. The outcome of the first election on the 21 April – at which the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen won through to the second ballot against Jacques Chirac, narrowly distancing the outgoing premier Lionel Jospin – created an electric shock which reverberated around the streets of Paris and other French cities and sparked a civic mobilization without parallel since May '68. The end-result of this exceptional republican mobilization was to secure the easy (initially rather unexpected) re-election of Chirac as president at the second round two weeks later. The election of 5 May was unlike a typical second-round election. Rather than a bipolar contest pitting left and right over a choice of future governmental orientations, it was a plebiscite in favour of democracy (hence Chirac) against the far-right (Le Pen). Chirac was re-elected overwhelmingly as president, supported by at least as many leftwing as right-wing voters. This enforced plebiscite against the extreme right allowed a resurgent Jacques Chirac to claim a renewed presidential authority. At the parliamentary election of 9 and 16 June, the Fifth Republic reverted to a more traditional mode of operation, as a new ‘presidential party’, informally launched just weeks before the elections, obtained a large overall majority of seats to ‘support the President’ in time-honoured Fifth Republican tradition.
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