If your political system keeps on delivering abysmal results, how long before you have to seriously question that system itself?

French presidential approval ratings at standardised points during their terms
French presidential approval ratings at standardised points during their terms

With the exception of Jacques Chirac, who left office in 2007, French presidential approval ratings have tended to hover around 35% or lower...

Francois Hollande appears to have once achieved an approval rating of about 13%...

Is a system, which allows such abominable mediocrity to reach the top really sustainable, or is it past its sell by date?

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Most Helpful Guys

  • This is an interesting debate.

    The French presidential elections obviously have two rounds, allowing candidates with approval ratings like 20% to eventually become president. They'll have to do a great job to prevent their approval rating from sliding down to 20%, since 80% before the elections already did not approve.

    However, would changing the political system even help? If you make it one round, you could have 5 different candidates with all of them having approval ratings of 15%-25%. Doesn't really help either.

    To prevent the head of state from getting such an appalling low they could of course shift towards a parliamentary system where just the leader of the main party gets the position of prime minister with little power (like here in the Netherlands).

    But an important debate is also whether the French just have an attitude where they are more strict towards political leaders, which would definitely affect the changes in approval as well. But I know little of that.

    Next to that, it's of course important whether political developments have been bad or good for the general populace. However, the timeframe would point out that this low approval rating has been prevalent even in economic booms.

    So yes, it might be time to change their political system since someone can be president with just a 20% approval rating before the elections. However, other factors of course play a significant role as well.

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  • The French political system is built around a lot of parties and a runoff election where most voters pick between two choices that weren’t their first choice.

    Tbh if you consider how primaries work in the USA we can conclude the actual president is never many peoples first choice either.

    But the French seem to continue to wish their candidate was in vs rallying to team democrat/republican.

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Most Helpful Girls

  • I questioning my system right now. The politics don't give anything about what the people want. They only what more money, more restriction and more power. It's sad really. We trying everything we can but it's little what we can do.

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  • The people should always question things. But if there's a political candidate who is running against "the system," that's usually just all talk as they using that system to get money & power!

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  • People would still proceed questioning the bureaucratic system, regardless of the favorable or unfavorable 'approval' ratings, primarily due to the tendency that voters are partisan. Hence, 'approval' ratings are not supposed to be the sole basis of feedback for a political leader in office.

    Here, the number of respondents to surveys and polls determining approval ratings is customarily minuscule relative to the number of registered voters in the country, making the ratings trivial to many citizens.

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    • Once you go over 80-100 respondents (the precise number is debated), you get into statistically significant results.

      These polls seem to be fairly accurate, and even if they're not, there's no real doubt that the last three incumbents have been deeply unpopular.

    • I see; that sounds plausible.

      However, sampling methods employed by these data gathering entities must also be considered, and the geographical location of respondents is another factor influencing approval or disapproval. If one data gathering entity collects most of its data in one vicinity, then results may not be that representative of the voters for the entire nation.

      As for the French setting, it does seem that the dwindling approval ratings somehow reflect the public's response to political instabilities there.

    • Yeah, the established polling companies make sure it's nationally representative, in terms of locality, demographics etc.

      I'd say the poor ratings significantly precede the current issues, though. This seems to have been going on for about a decade.

  • You are skipping over a lot of history and even more nuance. With France in particular, is it so much that the "system" does not work, or that the people have a penchant for being ungovernable. As ever, it is less obvious than it appears.

    Starting with France, it comes with a history of three royal families - though I snobbishly don't call the Bonaparte's royal, it is only for reasons of good manners that I do here. (Corsican brigands are NOT royalty.) Five republics. Numerous uprisings and a revolution so cataclysmic that, in the 1970s, when Henry Kissinger asked Chou en-lai what he thought of the French Revolution 189 years after the fact, Chou responded that it was too soon to tell.

    Burke famously said, “Kings will be tyrants by policy when subjects are rebels from principle.” Suffice to say, the French public, the inheritors of a revolution based on hopelessly utopian ideals dreamed up in the minds of men like Rousseau, may have made it that only tyrants can hold the reigns for any length of time.

    It is arguable that France has just produced mediocre leaders by the crop. However, there is no way to make straight the crooked timber of humanity and even the best leaders are apt to be flawed. Set against a utopian revolutionary tradition, any leader is apt to come up short and fail to meet expectations. Low approval ratings - and head rolling - to follow.

    Indeed, among the list of French leaders who got the boot, was George Clemenceau, the man who saved France in 1917. He goes on to run for President and is summarily rejected. Then there is Charles DeGualle, the virtual embodiment of France, who in 1968 gets practically run out of town on a rail, literally briefly flees into exile.

    Indeed, the most famous Frenchman not to get dumped was Napoleon. He is defeated and sent to Elba, there only to be welcomed back with acclaim for another 100 day stint. All it took to remove Napoleon from French hearts was massive allied armies, Russian armies in Paris, bloodshed by the ocean and the Duke of Wellington. (An interesting confirmation of Burke's point.)

    Suffice to say, there does appear to be a pattern here and it is one deeply rooted in French culture. A tradition of upheaval and promethean pretensions being fertile ground for failed political leaders and constant turmoil.

    It is, indeed, the genius of the British political system with its famously "unwritten constitution." The system better maintains the balance between the culture and the necessity for well established political institutions that can maintain social order and stability.

    As Disraeli famously said, "A nation's freedoms are embodied in its institutions. The march of intellect is not enough." A more resounding rebuke of the French culture's approach to politics has never been better said.

    This is not to say that institutions do not need periodic rejuvenation. Given human nature, economics, culture and all the rest, political institutions can, eventually, get to out of sync with the society over which they preside and govern.

    Indeed, there is at least some cursory evidence that this may be happening to the American constitutional system. See also the increasing calls for the abolition of the electoral college - and in extremis, even the Senate.

    The American constitutional system is not well suited to a populist culture. That said, the United States has gone through periods of populism before and its system has proved adaptable and endured. That, however, given changes in technology and all the like, is not an assured outcome. (See also the Civil War.)

    That all said, to point to a succession of political leaders with low approval ratings is to miss the forest for the trees. It may be that imperfect leaders lead imperfectly, or it may be that the culture is to prone to passions and a hopeless utopianism that it would best learn to temper and restrain.

    Besides, polls wax and wane. That does not make the judgments they measure objectively right.

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  • In my country we tend to laugh out and talk bad about whoever politician is in charge, so our approval ratings are a joke.

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    • So you think it might be a cultural thing? It's possible.

    • It could very well be.
      I noticed that especially on the socials, our premiers always gets mocked and raged on, no matter the alignment: Renzi, Gentiloni and now Conte.

  • I believe we always need to question everything, there's always room for improvement.

    And if you support a politician, party or plan , you gotta be the first to criticize it/them when things go wrong. You're the one that put your people in there. You gotta demand them to deliver and hold them accountable, not be fanatic and excuse them.

    I'm from Venezuela.

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  • I've already been questioning the system for several years already. In fact, I've been questioning for more than a decade. I know just about for a fact that the political system is in shambles, and we need to tighten it up from corruption so that life will improve down the road.

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  • I think the French are just really critical of leadership since they sort of sparked the whole Anarchist movement around the world. I think that mentality is still there and so they are rather difficult to please.

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  • What are you proposing? Dictatorship? Or a two man system?

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    • I'm not directly proposing anything, although I've put my thoughts in a reply to @MarketData below.

      I'm more asking if, and at what point, there should be a debate about whether the current system is working or not. It seems to me as if the vast majority are pissed off, but I'm less clear on what they propose to do about it.

    • Fair question. Though that is the thing, in a big business there is a rule, you only take an issue about a system or process to your boss if there is a feasiable solution to it. Otherwise suck it up and shut up.

      Now most people don’t work in a business, that’s why we have protestors.

      In terms of an improvement, I would only suggest for a country like the uk to have two stage election system. So first round is open to everyone, but instead of coalition government, I would create a second round whwre unless the top candidate gets over 50%, I would create a second election for the top two.

      What if In the first round Theresa May gets 40% top vote, but on the second vote everyone votes for Corbyn and he wins by 52% to 48%.

      See what I mean?

      Apart from that do not see a proper change to this system.

    • What you've described is pretty similar to the system that the French currently have.

      It seems to produce an unpopular centrist time after time. I think this has a lot to do with why people over there are so pissed off.

      I do agree with your point about them knowing what they don't like, but apparently not proposing any solutions, however.

  • Honestly I don't think you can do much better thanthat approval rating in France. French people seem to love being oppositional to their government

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  • Well I would say that we should firstly examine the usefulness of measuring approval rate in the first place. If people dont approve, who cares? People in power only care about a thing like approval rate when their power is challenged.

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  • Typically, people wait until society completely falls apart. Examples are the Weimar Republic, Russian Revolution, Spanish Civil War, Italian fascism, Meiji Restoration, etc.

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  • "presidential approval" isn't the benchmark for a "political system". it's maybe a benchmark for the individual leader himself if even that.

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    • I'd agree with you, if this was just a one off, with one particular president.

      But when it's been a pretty much continual feature for more than a decade, no matter who's been in charge, you really do need to question why the system reliably delivers such mediocre results.

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    • I'm not dissatisfied enough with the system in my country to want to radically change it, or overthrow it.

      Having said that, I think some systems are objectively better than others. The French system seems to be being openly questioned more than most.

    • the systems are not inherently any better or worse. it's the people conducting those systems that make it bad.

      take for example Marcus Aurelius or Frederick the Great vs. Adolf hitler. dictatorship isn't inherently a bad political system and so isn't democracy or pairlamentarism or any other for that matter. the fault isn't in the system. the fault is in the people.

  • I already do, the billionaires and corporations have rigged it and we need to unrig it and put those fuckers in jail

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  • Because we tried the whole having no representation thing, didn't like it, started a war over it

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    • I saw your response to Market Data, and I have to say from an American Point of View, it really doesn't matter if the head of state would be apolitical (though our head of state is also our head of government) there is a very basic philosophical problem with Monarchy.
      Let's start with the opening of the Declaration, We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."
      See the words, All men are created equal, even a Monarchy that doesn't have any legislative power goes against that very idea, so having your nations symbol be of a King or Queen but then saying all are equal is hypocritical.
      Our First President, George Washington actually had the opportunity to be a King and start a Monarchy, he refused on philosophical grounds.
      We as a nation both admire greatly that decision and are taught the significance of that act.

      There is a book series i like called The Powder Mage series, about Mages whose magic revolvers around Gunpowder in a flintlock era fantasy world.
      But the quote on the cover of the first book, A Promise of Blood comes from a character named Field Marshal Tamas (One of the protagonists) here it is,
      If your political system keeps on delivering abysmal results, how long before you have to seriously question that system itself?

      Now the only person in real life history who could say "The Age of Kings is Dead... and I have Killed it." And have it be undisputably true is George Washington with his actions to create this nation and to deny himself absolute power.

  • You have King Trump I.
    Why aren't you happy?
    If your political system keeps on delivering abysmal results, how long before you have to seriously question that system itself?If your political system keeps on delivering abysmal results, how long before you have to seriously question that system itself?

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    • He doesn't have king trump.
      He has Queen Elizabeth

    • Jacques, your reading comprehension is evidently continuing to deteriorate OR you're absolutely unable to stop yourself from posting tiresome memes, with extremely tenuous links to the question.

      Which is it?

      As an aside, somebody with your life experience could actually contribute in a positive way to a site like this. Why do you not try harder to do so?

  • Once all dependent variables show negative results

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  • Do you have a better system? I'm just asking.

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    • That's a fair question.

      The French system is fairly unusual, in that it provides for an elected Head of State, with particularly wide-ranging powers and prerogatives. Notably, something similar was recently introduced in Turkey.

      Where the French system is different to most, is that there are two rounds, where, unless one candidate secures the majority of the vote, all but the top two candidates are eliminated, so you can have a candidate with pretty minimal support getting into the second round (Jean Marie Le Pen got through on less than 17% support in 2002), and then a landslide for somebody who most of the electorate really don't want.

      I only picked on the French system because the approval ratings for their presidents are so bad, and have been for years. So I'd say that the system itself really should be called into question.

      I think a parliamentary system would be an improvement on this. As would an apolitical head of state. There were three royal pretenders last time I checked, and any one of them would arguably be better than Macron, Hollande etc. Of course that's a question for the French, but to answer your question, I'd say that wouldn't be the worst place to start...

  • Well counting back from 1993..

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  • What would be better?

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  • As long as I got my Netflix Account...

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