The curse of second presidential terms

Did Emmanuel Macron make a fatal mistake by not openly campaigning for the renewal of his presidential mandate? By not giving impetus to the re-election he was aiming for in May 2022, did the outgoing President of the Republic compromise his second lease at the Élysée?

Voluntarily or involuntarily, the Head of State has transformed the five-year term which began in 2017 into a mandate of ten uninterrupted years. Such a diagram is long, too long. And it doesn’t fit the spirit and the letter of the Constitution… without breathing space.

Subscribe to’s daily newsletter for free and never miss an article again!

I subscribe

This breath, which constitutes an electoral campaign, the voters imposed on it during the legislative elections, giving it only a relative majority in the National Assembly. In a way, he then gave the opposition yards to get whipped.

Impression of legislative immobility

It turns out that France is not Germany, where alternative majorities and variable geometry can be formed. It also happens that the two main opposition forces – the extreme right with the Rassemblement national (RN) and the left of the left with La France insoumise (LFI) – are not very inclined to seek compromise solutions.

If we add to this that the Les Républicains (LR) party – which has also been going through a serious identity crisis for several years – does not show unfailing reliability in its compromise proposals, we get a cocktail which fabricates alliances of surreal circumstances between these different oppositions and, consequently, gives the impression of legislative immobility and institutional paralysis. Even if texts are, despite everything, voted.

From there to imagining that the second five-year term has never really started and is going into a tailspin, according to the wish openly expressed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon through the noisy campaign started since the promulgation of the very controversial pension reform, there only one easy step to take. Especially since at the other end of the political spectrum, Marine Le Pen is patiently waiting for the fruit to fall into her beak.

The constancy of a curse

Is this inability of Macron to properly start his second five-year term definitive? This is obviously the wish of the opposition, especially at LFI. The rebels hope that the intense prevention campaign they have been leading since the validation of the pension reform by the Constitutional Council will lead to the dissolution of the National Assembly. And therefore to new general legislative elections.

The Élysée probably sees things differently. As long as the New Popular Ecological and Social Union (Nupes) remains in working order (if one can say so), despite recurring upheavals between the partners of the left (on Europe, on Putin, on aid to Ukraine, on the attitude of the Chinese regime towards the Uyghurs, on the European elections, etc.), the Head of State has no interest in carrying out such a dissolution.

Basically, the current situation is not entirely new, even if it takes unprecedented and exacerbated forms in violence and hatred, raising questions about the state of our democracy. There is even a kind of consistency in the curse on all the second presidential terms since the beginning of the Ve Republic. Let’s examine this.

General de Gaulle shortens his mandate

Elected by a college of electors in 1958, General de Gaulle was re-elected by universal suffrage in 1965, after the constitutional reform of 1962 approved by referendum. Everyone knows that this second mandate did not go to completion since the founding father of the Ve République voluntarily left power, as it had preventively announced, following the failure of its referendum on regionalization and the disappearance of the Senate in 1969.

From the start, was the second Elysian mandate cursed? We will never know for Georges Pompidou who, therefore elected in 1969 following the General, died prematurely of illness at the age of 62, during the exercise of his seven-year term, in 1974. On the other hand, we knows that his successor, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (VGE), was unable to exercise this second presidential term.

Winner of the 1974 presidential election against François Mitterrand, VGE, the first liberal president who broke the Gaullist chain that had been at the helm of the state for fifteen years, was both the victim, in 1981, of the “affair of diamonds” (a gift from Jean-Bedel Bokassa, an operetta emperor of the Central African Republic), the explosion of unemployment and inflation following the oil crisis of the mid-1970s, and a revenge simmered by the neo-Gaullists under the impetus of Jacques Chirac and his influential advisers, Marie-France Garaud and Pierre Juillet.

Two cohabitations for Mitterrand

He was beaten by Mitterrand on May 10, 1981, and therefore could not exercise a second seven-year term. Unlike his predecessors, the first socialist president of the Ve Gaullian Republic – a regime that he had constantly fought and denounced under the name of “permanent coup”– managed to renew his seven-year term, being re-elected for a second term in 1988.

This re-election came after a period of two years of cohabitation (1986-1988) with Chirac at Matignon and thirty-five National Front deputies who entered the National Assembly thanks to the introduction of the proportional ballot… to save the day. of a presidential term that has become chaotic after five years in office.

Mitterrand’s second seven-year term (1988-1995) did not leave a great memory for political analysts as it was marked, in particular, by the politico-financial affairs of financing the Socialist Party, the revelation of the troubled reports of the head of the State with Vichy and a new cohabitation (1993-1995) which saw Édouard Balladur (Rally for the Republic, RPR) become Prime Minister.

Chirac shoots himself in the foot

Dismissed from the Élysée for twenty-one years, the neo-Gaullists returned there with Chirac in 1995. The leader of the French right entered it on his third attempt. But he shot himself in the foot, in 1997, by practicing a so-called “comfort” dissolution of the National Assembly on the very unwise advice of the secretary general of the “Château”, Dominique de Villepin.

This dissolution, which was not justified on the constitutional level, had the hidden aim of giving a majority to the hand of the President of the Republic who feared having to face a cohabitation with the left in the legislative elections normally scheduled for… 1998. Result of the operation: Chirac offered himself this dreaded cohabitation a year in advance.

Leader of a PS which still dominated the left, Lionel Jospin was called to the Hôtel de Matignon after the victory of the opposition in the early legislative elections. He will govern at the head of the “plural left”, which includes communists and environmentalists.

The second lease of the “lazy king”

Among the emblematic measures of the government, there is the establishment of 35 hours and Universal Health Coverage (CMU), the establishment of the Civil Solidarity Pact (PACS) and the reduction of the presidential mandate from seven to five years renewable once. This last institutional measure was adopted by referendum (73.2% “yes” and 69.8% abstention) in 2000.

Despite good economic results and a favorable global situation, Jospin who ran against Chirac in the 2002 presidential election only came third in the first round. THE “thunderbolt” April 21 sees Jean-Marie Le Pen take second place behind the outgoing president. This is the first warning shot from the extreme right at the highest level of the state.

Easily re-elected against Le Pen senior, Chirac performs the first five-year term of the Ve Republic (2002-2007). But this second term will not remain, either, in the annals of presidential history. As proof, the allusion to “lazy king” of his successor at the Élysée, Nicolas Sarkozy, in 2009. Everyone understood that he was targeting his predecessor with whom he had had conflicting relations.

No renewal for Sarkozy and Hollande

But Sarkozy himself (2007-2012), like his successor, François Hollande (2012-2017), will not have the opportunity to spend a second presidential term on the bench. The first will be beaten by the second in 2012 and the second, aware of his abysmal unpopularity at the end of his mandate, will give up running for a second Elysian lease.

All of Macron’s predecessors struggled with their second term… when they were able to do it. From Giscard to Holland via Sarkozy, they did not even have the time to obtain it. The difficult situation in which the current tenant of the “Château” finds himself is therefore not really a novelty. As if a chronic curse fell on presidents over the years. Will Macron extend the history written before him? Will it, on the contrary, defy time? The question remains open.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top