On 8 February 2007, Senator Jean-Pierre Bel, President of the French Senate’s Socialist Group, released his report on institutional reform. These proposals addressing all constitutional issues under the title “Pour une Nouvelle République,” have raised questions, doubts and concerns analyzed here by Frédéric Rouvillois.In this paper, the author provides an in-depth analysis of the Bel Report, whose findings provided much of the substance Socialist candidate Ségolène Royal’s speeches. He begins by highlighting the gap between this report’s stated objectives and the measures proposed. Although some proposals are not without merit—such as involving citizens in the making of laws by means of a right of petition, or by participation in the legislative evaluation process—others merely revive long-debated issues, such as rebalancing the regime by reinstating the Parliament. This report’s biggest “flaw” is no doubt the lack of an overall view, resulting in a few contradictions (particularly concerning the role of the French Constitutional Council), and a lack of courage, most evident when discussing proportional representation.
These findings are in stark contrast to the proposed procedure for implementing such reforms: nothing less than transitioning to a new French Republic by having recourse to Article 11 pertaining to public referenda, which permits bending the constitutional rules and bypassing both houses of Parliament. According to the author, the suggested move to a Sixth Republic would be a way of dressing up reformist discourse to offset the modest scope of the proposed changes.