What the French Constitutional Council really ruled.
The Constitutional Council of France ruled that since the French income tax is based on the Household, and not the Individual, the proposed plan to raise the tax rate on an “Individual’s” income rather than a “Household’s” income was unconstitutional, no matter at what rate or income level. The ruling by the French Constitutional Court was very narrow in scope and terse. Not the broad sweeping rebuke that it is being played up in the press.
Had President Hollande and his ministers proposed changes to the French Tax code had read that “Households” with income greater than 1 Million Euro would be subject to this new rate rather than “Individuals” it would have been very interesting on what the ruling would have been. French politics just like all politics are a weird form of Kabuki Theater.
President Hollande has the Council to blame for this set back. The narrow scope and terse ruling of the council is an attempt to deny cover to the President. The ruling also attempts to highlight the apparent ineptness of the President and his ministers, after all they have been out of power since 1995, and President Hollande prior to his election as President only held office at the local level or as a deputy in the National Assembly, never as a Minister or even as Junior Minister, although he was party secretary.
To paraphrase Chief Inspector Captain Louis Renault “I am shocked, shocked to find that one of my trusted and able ministers could have made such an error”
Some individual speculated that he was sabotaged by members of his own party in the legislature, in that no one really know how the verbiage of the bill came to read “Individuals” versus “Households”. But I am sure that the usual suspects are being collected at this time to determine how a blunder of this magnitude occurred, and I am sure that the appropriate innocent party or parties will be punished.
The best news for the President Hollande and the Constitutional Council is that all of this occurred between Christmas and New Years, and pretty much everyone in France has other things to occupy their time and attention (Family and Parties). Since I do not believe in coincidence I believe that the timing of the ruling was not a coincidence for both parties. After all everyone has to look like they are busy doing their respective jobs.
Based on the ruling it would be a simple matter for the President Hollande to have the measure corrected to insure that it applies to “Households” and have it presented for approval by the National Assembly and the Senate, and resubmitted to the Constitutional Council for a ruling as required by law. After all his party does hold a majority in the Assembly (295 of 577) and pretty sizable block in the Senate (132 of 348).
But the deputies are a fickle lot, and have been known to be unruly, and just how beholding they are to the President Hollande is questionable who is not to say that another small slight change to text might not slip into the legislation and the cycle starts again, after all it is France.
President Hollande power is limited at this point in time to persuasion he cannot threaten their positions in the National Assembly or the French Senate. The French Senate is even more insulated from the power of the president in that these individual are elected indirectly by grand electors who themselves are elected or appointed, he would have to wait until this summer to disband the Assembly and call for new elections, that pesky 12-month rule in the French Constitution. There is also a probability that his party could be swept out of office just as dramatically as it was swept in to office, after all the French people will have actually seen at least a years worth of performance out of his government and the fragrance of the bloom may have faded significantly, and he has yet to deliver the miracle.
At this time President Hollande is telling his supporter on the left that he and his government tried and that they tried really hard to make the rich pay, but the French Constitutional Council stood in their way. I suspect that the French Constitutional Council will continue to stand in his way.
The French Constitutional Council is currently made up of 12 individuals who each serve for 9 years. At least every three years three new members get appointed (Assembly, Senate and President), plus any former Presidents may serve on the Court provided that they are out of politics (What a crock). In the case of this court President Hollande does not have that many friends since most of the member if not all of the court were appoint by pervious National Assemblies, Senates and Presidents (and they were all right of center), and there three former Presidents of France currently setting in the Court (Sarkozy, Chirac, and d’Estaing (all right of center). It is really great that the individual you just defeated for office gets to sit on the council that determines whether laws are constitutional or not, is this a great system or what? Talk about sabotage.
The Constitutional Council of France is like the tail of a kite, in that it’s makeup will always be slightly out of step with the National Assembly and the current administration. It function is to act as a brake, to force change to take place at a slower pace. The Constitution Council of France is stacked against him, hence the ruling, and it limited scope, and tenor.
Get ready for Round 2. The judges have rule the first round to the loyal opposition.
Although it rained late on New Years Eve in Paris, there is nothing like it (The Food, The Wine, The People) anywhere else in the world, even with the rain.