French commission to look into presidential immunity
FRENCH PRESIDENT François Hollande has set up a cross-party government committee to look into injecting greater morality into French politics.
The commission will examine the traditional presidential immunity from criminal prosecution and draw up guidelines covering the behaviour of ministers, deputies and others in public life.
It will also look at how to ensure gender equality in Gallic corridors of power and will consider the introduction of limited proportional representation in elections to both houses of parliament.
Mr Hollande pledged greater transparency and openness in government during the election campaign that saw him installed as president in May.
The commission will be headed by his one-time mentor, Lionel Jospin, the Socialist former prime minister who bowed out of national politics after his shock defeat in the first round of presidential elections 10 years ago.
The 14-strong committee for the moralisation and renovation of public life also includes the former health minister Roselyne Bachelot, who served in the previous right-of-centre government, as well as magistrates, judges, academics, political specialists and senior civil servants. It is under instructions to report back to the president by November.
In an interview on Saturday, Bastille Day in France, Mr Hollande said Mr Jospin was a man of “absolute integrity”.
“This commission will make proposals for the non-cumulation of [elected] mandates, the financing of [political] campaigns, the voting process . . . and everything in the ethical domain,” Mr Hollande said. “When one is an elected representative of the republic there should be rules imposed. No conflict of interest can be tolerated. Rules are required because we are in a difficult period and there is a need for moralisation and renewal.”
Mr Hollande’s predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, lost his presidential immunity on June 16th, a month after leaving office. Within a fortnight, police raided his home and his offices searching for evidence of alleged illegal funding of his successful 2007 presidential election campaign. Mr Sarkozy has always denied the allegations.
Presidential immunity meant it took the law at least five years to catch up with Mr Sarkozy’s predecessor, Jacques Chirac, who was convicted on corruption charges in December last year.
Mr Jospin met Mr Hollande for a briefing at the Élysée Palace yesterday morning. Afterwards he said it was an honour to have been given the mission.
“We must work at a rapid rhythm because the president is expecting us to give him our thoughts at the beginning of November,” he said. “The main fields of reflection will be to look into a better way of organising the presidential election, with a look in particular at the head of state’s legal status.” He defended the inclusion of Ms Bachelot, previously a member of Mr Sarkozy’s government, as evidence of his desire to “respect a diversity of opinions”. – (Guardian service)