“Thinking about the question of the responsibility of those who govern requires starting from constitutional law”

Dyears a column published in The world dated November 6the magistrate Denis Salas rightly considers that the trial of the Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti, raises the question of the political responsibility of ministers ». Starting from the principle that there is no mechanism in our country to bring into play the political responsibility of ministers »he pleads for preventive and ethical control which would be carried out by a High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life (HATVP) with reinforced powers.

We would like to re-examine these points in the light of constitutional law, on which this forum, like the current trial of the Keeper of the Seals before the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), seems to us to largely do so. ‘dead end. However, thinking about the question of the responsibility of those who govern requires starting from constitutional law.

First, there are obviously mechanisms in our political system for bringing political responsibility into play. You only need to read articles 49 and 50 of the Constitution to be convinced of this. On the other hand, there is no mechanism for bringing into play the responsibility of an individual minister, which we can only regret. It follows that, in a parliamentary system like ours, the opposition must have the strength and courage to overthrow the government as a whole.

But this difficulty inherent to the mechanism of political accountability, if it is real, does not justify denying its existence. Furthermore, this weakness needs to be qualified: it only appears if we equate political responsibility with the sole sanction, that is to say either the overthrow of the government or the dismissal of a minister. However, more broadly, the first and fundamental meaning of political responsibility consists of forcing those in power to be publicly accountable to the national representation. We have also seen that parliamentary commissions of inquiry have recently tended to ume this role better than in the past, which we can only rejoice in.

An acceptable stopgap

Then, within this institutional balance, “political-criminal” responsibility, which was formerly exercised through the high courts, then under the Ve Republic by the High Court of Justice and, since 1993, by the CJR, has always been conceived as being called upon to intervene only in exceptional circumstances and not as a response of principle to the question of the responsibility of those who govern. The principle, let us remember, is that of political responsibility before the chambers.

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