Glossary 3: Political Context

This glossary of terms relating to the political context of our projects will be added to as and when references appear in the articles...

 

75% tax rate: One of the key manifesto pledges of François Hollande is an income tax rate of 75% on all taxable earnings above one million euros per year. Conceived to appeal to voters attracted by the firebrand rhetoric of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the proposal suffered a setback when the National Constitutional Council ruled it unconstitutional in December 2012. 

 

500 signatures: when universal suffrage for the French presidential election was instituted in 1962, a regulation was enforced to limit the number of candidates. To be able to run for President, a candidate must gather 500 sponsorships (i.e. signatures) from elected local representatives: mayors, députés, senators, departmental or regional councillors, MEPs… a total of around 47,000 people. The sponsorships are not anonymous. There is a closing date for submission of the signatures. This year it was March 16th. For more information: read this article from the New York Times.

 

Agrégation: a civil service competitive examination for teaching positions in the public education system. The laureates are known as agrégés. Agrégés can teach at University as well as secondary school. They work fewer hours than teachers with the CAPES and are paid slightly better.

 

April 21st (2002): FN candidate Jean-Marie Le Pen qualified somewhat unexpectedly ahead of PS candidate Lionel Jospin for the second round of the 2002 presidential elections. Polling techniques were called into question and thousands took to the streets all over France to protest against Le Pen. Right-wing incumbent Jacques Chirac was re-elected by a landslide.

 

Bettencourt Affair (The): A political scandal centred on allegations that illegal payments were made by billionnaire L’Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt to Éric Woerth (then UMP treasurer) to fund Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign. It has also been alleged that clandestine cash payments continued to be made to members of the government during Woerth’s time as Finance Minister (2007–2010). The story was broken by Mediapart on 16th June 2010.

 

CAFEP (Certificat d’Aptitude aux Fonctions d’Enseignement du Privé): similar to the CAPES but for positions in private schools under State contract. These schools follow the same curriculum as their State-funded counterparts.

 

CAPES (Certificat d’Aptitude au Professorat de l’Enseignement du second degré): a civil service competitive examination for secondary school teachers. The laureates are known as certifiés. A certifié teaches 18 hours per week. The CAPES (and CAFEP) have recently (controversially) been reformed and integrated into the system of university master’s degrees to bring them in line with the EU’s Bologna Process.

 

CMU (Couverture Maladie Universelle): free health care for people on low incomes.

 

Conseil des ministres: the French cabinet. It is closer, in constitutional terms, to the US, rather than the UK, cabinet. It is appointed by and anwerable to the President, rather than Parliament. It is chaired by the Premier ministre.

 

Conseil d'Etat: the highest administrative court in France, which passes judgements on constitutional matters and points of administrative law. It has a website in English.

 

Conseiller général: departmental/county councillor.

 

Conseiller municipal: local/town councillor

 

Conseiller régional: regional/provincial councillor. (Central French administration subdivides its territory (including its overseas territories) into “departments”, analgous to counties. In mainland France, these are also grouped (usually two or three departments at a time) into the larger “regions”, which are somewhat similar to the Irish provinces. Plans have been mooted to do away with the departmental level of administration altogether, and to retain only the regions.)

 

Copé, Jean-François: provisional leader of the UMP since November 2012 and self-styled inheritor of the Sarkozy legacy. His defeat of former Prime Minister François Fillon in the leadership election (after the election loss of Nicolas Sarkozy) was so narrow that the result was contested and Fillon formed a substantial breakaway group in the Assembly. Copé has agreed to a new election in 2013 in return for Fillon disbanding his dissident group.

 

Député: Member of the National Assembly. Analagous to a British MP or an American Representative/Congressman.

 

The Elysée (Palace): the official residence of the French President in Paris, it is also where the Council of Ministers meets.

 

ENA (Ecole Nationale d’Administration): elite graduate school providing professional training for senior civil servants.

 

First / Second Round: the French electoral system allows an indefinite number of candidates (or lists of candidates) to stand in an initial ballot. If none of them receives an outright majority (i.e. more than 50% of the total vote), then the two candidates (or lists) with the largest number of votes stand in a second “run off” ballot two weeks later. Deals are often struck in the intervening period between the remaining candidates and those excluded after the first round, sometimes resulting in coalitions or pledges of support.

 

HADOPI Law (Haute Autorité pour la Diffusion des Œuvres et la Protection des droits sur Internet): an internet copyright and intellectual property law similar to SOPA.

 

Karachi Affair: A complex political scandal involving the murder of 11 people by a suicide bomber in 2002, which allegedly resulted from multi-million euro bribes that had been paid to secure a Pakistani submarine deal for French arms suppliers. Some of this money is alleged to have found its way into the failed presidential election campaign of Edouard Balladur in 1995, whose election spokesman (and former Budget Minister) was Nicolas Sarkozy. The story was first broken by Médiapart. There is a very useful Q&A guide here.

 

Observatoire de la laïcité: A government body, within the prime minister's departement, which monitors the implementation of the principle of rebulican secularism and advises the executive on measures to imrpove it. It also regularly expresses opinions on local cases and rulings regarding laïcité. In recent years it has consistently supported a more liberal approach and tends to be tolerant of expressions of religious belief as long as they don't directly undermine the neutrality of public officials and institutions.  

 

PACS (Pacte civil de solidarité): the French civil partnership which gives a legal basis to a partnership between two adults (of any gender). Unlike the English and Scottish models of civil partnership, it is fairly common for heterosexual couples to enter into a PACS and then to get married later. The fact that this happens (and is obviously not possible for same sex couples) seems to support the portrayal of the system as unfairly two-tiered.

 

Pacte républicain: the principle of universal natural rights is conceived as a theoretical consensus or 'pact' in the French constitution. This is probably due to its association with the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau on the 'social contract', in which Rousseau argues that a democratic republic is the only form of social contract capable of defending the inaliable natural rights described by, for example, John Locke, after Thomas Hobbes.

 

Pasqua, Charles: UMP politician and businessman with close links to Edouard Balladur and Nicolas Sarkozy. He is alleged to be implicated in a number of corruption scandals, including the Iraqi Oil-for-Food payments, and was convicted in 2009 of involvement in the illegal sale of arms to Angola.

 

Poujade, Pierre: populist politician, very popular in the 1950s, who gave his name to the Poujadist movement, aimed at defending the interests of shopkeepers and small business owners against the elite, and characterised by its anti-parliamentarism and anti-intellectualism.

 

Préfet: an administrative office in the executive branch of French local government. The préfet is the presidential representative in the administration of the départements and the regions, and is therefore not locally elected.

 

Préférence nationale: phrase characterising a vague cluster of nationalist policies focused upon giving priority to people with French nationality in the workplace and denying social security to foreigners, etc. It is principally associated with the Front National but is increasingly employed by members of other political groups.

 

Premier ministre: the position of 'Prime Minister' in the Fifth Republic is not as powerful as its British (or even Irish) equivalent. Except in the case of a cohabitation, the Premier ministre is appointed by the President and his or her freedom to control the administration (via control of the Conseil des ministres) depends very much on the leeway granted by the President within their particular relationship. In order to avoid misleading the reader, therefore, the terms 'Prime Minister' and 'PM' are regarded as inaccurate in this project, and they are not used.

 

RMI (Revenu Minimum d’Insertion): income support/welfare.

 

RSA (Revenu de Solidarité Active): social welfare/benefit. Replaced the RMI in 2009.

 

Sciences Po (also known as IEP, l’Institut d’Etudes Politiques): a group of selective universities of political science in Paris and other major French cities.

 

SMIC (Salaire Minimum Interprofessionnel de Croissance): minimum wage.

 

Valls, Manuel: The second Premier ministre in the presidency of François Hollande, having formerly been the interior minister and before that Hollande's presidential campaign manager. Of Catalan origin, he was born in Barcelona and his full name is Manuel Carlos Valls Galfetti. He is widely considered rather authoritarian and identified as a representative of the right wing of the PS.

 

Vigipirate: The French security alert plan, introduced in the 1980s by President Giscard d'Estaing. It is implemented on a regional basis and has four alert levels, from yellow to scarlet. Most of France has been on permanent red alert since the attacks in January 2015.

 

ZEP (Zone d'écucation prioritaire): Educational priority zones, geographical areas in deprived neighbourhoods in France in which schools and colleges are given extra resources and a certain amount of autonomy to improve educational standards.

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