French President Emmanuel Macron promised a “profound transformation” of the country’s political system in a rare address Monday to both chambers of Parliament at the Palace of Versailles.
The 90-minute address, which drew comparisons to the U.S. State of the Union, laid out proposals Macron said would serve as a roadmap for his five-year term, including shrinking the number of lawmakers in both houses of the country’s parliament by a third. “A smaller parliament, but strengthened in its means, is a parliament where work becomes more fluid, where parliamentarians can surround themselves with more trained and more numerous collaborators,” Macron told members of the National Assembly and the Senate, which have 577 and 348 members, respectively. “It’s a parliament that works better.”
In addition to giving citizens the right to petition to get key topics discussed in parliament, Macron also pledged to add a “dose” of proportional representation to the country’s winner-take-all electoral system and called for imposing shorter term limits to MPs.
Although such proposals are seemingly aimed at making the legislative body more efficient and representative, it could have adverse repercussions. As Dr. Rainbow Murray, an associate professor of politics at Queen Mary University of London, noted, reducing the number of lawmakers could result in an influx of more unelected officials at the legislative level, as well as in a more inexperienced parliament.
In my interviews, French MPs said it took at least 1 elected term (5 years) to learn all the unwritten rules, unless already an insider— Rainbow Murray (@RainbowMurray) July 3, 2017
Macron’s address comes weeks after his La République En Marche (LREM) party earned an overwhelming majority in France’s legislative elections, in which LREM and its small centrist ally, Democratic Movement (MoDem), won 350 of the National Assembly’s 577 seats.