IThe social movement and political turmoil surrounding the pension reform in France is an expression of a phenomenon that affects all representative democracies in the Western world: the increasing difficulty of making decisions that are considered legitimate by public opinion.
In most Western representative democracies, which vote by proportional representation, difficulties often begin as soon as governments are formed, sometimes with very long processes. Then, the difficulties increase in making decisions and sticking to them. Finally, public opinion, or some part of it, does not hesitate to question, sometimes with violent demonstrations, the legitimacy of adopted laws.
The direct cause of this phenomenon lies in three notable developments since the 1970s: the electoral decline of the main government parties, the decline in electoral participation, and the increase in electoral volatility. The decline of major governing parties makes coalition governments more necessary and harder to achieve with more partners. This makes their training longer and longer and makes decision-making time consuming.
On the other hand, increased electoral volatility makes election results more unpredictable, political life more tense, and political concessions that allow for compromise less likely. Finally, declining voter turnout weakens the legitimacy of rulers and assemblies, and thus their decisions.
A more demanding population
The root causes of these three phenomena (the decline of the main parties in power, participation and the increase in electoral instability) are several. First, the decline in economic growth over the past fifty years. Strong growth from 1945 to 1973 made it possible to accumulate significant increases in living standards and social security. On the contrary, economic difficulties and declining growth have significantly reduced budget margins and forced governments to multiply unpopular decisions.
Then, the major cultural change that began in the 1960s, characterized by the development of a consumer society and a sharp increase in the level of education, made the mass of the population more demanding in terms of expectations, especially economic and more critical. , less honest, towards all kinds of government.
Source: Le Monde