mercredi 31 décembre 2008

Jour 602

Vu d'Allemagne

Der Spiegel, 8 décembre 2008 :

"Suddenly, such fundamental historical achievements like the separation of powers, freedom of the press and the protection of minorities are at stake in France today. The old-fashioned concept of virtue, which the French political philosopher Charles de Montesquieu defined, almost 250 years ago, as the principle behind every republic, is now being called into question. Without virtue, Montesquieu writes, the state can fall prey to despotism. [...] To illustrate this point, let us consider four different scenes from today's France. Scene 1: Hervé Eon, a protestor who, during a Sarkozy visit to a rural area, carried a sign around his neck that read "Get lost, you imbecile," was brought to trial and found guilty of "insulting the head of state." Sarkozy, for his part, used the same words to reproach a citizen who had refused to shake his hand: "Get lost, you imbecile." Scene 2: The daily newspaper Le Figaro, owned by Serge Dassault, an arms merchant and friend of Sarkozy, published, on its front page, a retouched teaser photo of Justice Minister Rachida Dati. A €15,600 ($20,000) ring on the minister's hand was airbrushed out. Scene 3: After a demonstration by Corsican nationalists on the property of another friend of Sarkozy's, actor Christian Clavier, the region's police chief was sacked at the behest of Paris. Scene 4: A former managing editor of the leftwing daily Libération was taken away in handcuffs early one morning because of a letter to the editor published two years earlier, addressed as "scum" by police officers and subjected to multiple body searches. [...] Such unpleasant anecdotes abound in the France of 2008, year two of the Sarkozy administration. The country is now the subject of some news stories that could easily have originated in 1970s South America. After paying a visit to French prisons, EU Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg described conditions there as "unacceptable" and accused Paris of pursuing a justice policy that contradicts "fundamental human rights." In the summer, the organization Human Rights Watch gave a dark account, based on strong evidence, of the brutal approach taken by the French police, and of its even more brutal interrogation methods. Something is happening in France, and that something is utterly disconcerting. [...] under Sarkozy, a political style has quickly taken root that harms the country's great democratic culture. A brutalization of political discourse is underway, as if Sarkozy and his team had taken pointers from US President George W. Bush. Their creed, like Bush's, is simple: Whoever is not with us must be against us. Sarkozy even has his own version of Bush's axis of evil, except that his is inhabited by trade unionists, journalists, lawyers, students, scientists and immigrants. In the worst of cases, Sarkozy's enemies are given a vigorous taste of the new spirit in courtrooms and police stations. [...] The institutional reform recently adopted in France can only amplify this concern. The French constitution, originally drawn up to give the parliament more rights, has done just as much to strengthen the president's overwhelming role and trim the powers of the government. That government, elected by the people and independently of the president, now acts as a private cabinet at the Elysée Palace, a place almost as brimming with power as the Versailles of France's former kings. [...] In this intoxication of power, Sarkozy feels responsible for everything, giving speeches about Alzheimer's disease and psychiatry, automobile manufacturing, residential construction and urban development, presenting plans to promote sustainable growth and combat homelessness, unveiling his visions on Africa's future and Quebec's prospects, and airing his ideas on wind energy, Tibet and rugby. And when he has nothing better to do, he applies for French cuisine to be awarded UNESCO World Cultural Heritage status. His speeches and projects are rarely earth-shattering. An eternal campaigner, he is constantly searching for the next sudden crisis. As a result, the French political system lacks, in these uncertain times, an important calming influence, a reliable frame of reference, a neutral authority. [...] Nowadays no one in France doubts that Sarkozy has abandoned the principle of equal treatment of all citizens. Instead of acting as the "president of all Frenchmen," he is more like the head of a clan who has finally worked his way up to the big leagues. [...] The forces of disintegration are tearing away at France more sharply than elsewhere, because, even though its society is a diverse mix of ethnicities, religions and refreshingly progressive citizens, the glue that holds it all together is crumbling. Although this process did not begin under Sarkozy, the president has also done nothing to curb it, bring calm to the situation, or perhaps even find new common ground. On the contrary, he only undermines the cohesion of the nation with his policy of "division instead of reconciliation." And that policy, in its current form, provides a lesson on how democracy and the constitutional state cannot be taken for granted, but instead must be secured, carved out and developed, day in and day out, and filled with meaning, intent and virtue."