“With the Covid-19, the presidentialization of the Fifth Republic has taken a radical form”

Tribune. The succession of sequences is now well established: a meeting of the Defense Council of which nothing is known, then the Prime Minister (or the Minister of Health), accompanied by the ministers concerned, who comes in front of the cameras, settles down at a stand, remove his mask and outline the measures to be taken (curfew hours, businesses authorized to open, exemptions for outings, etc.).

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The device, unprecedented, has become routine and draws a new decision-making space. The Council of Ministers is eclipsed by this Defense Council, created in 1906, activated during the First World War, constitutionalized in 1958 and reformed in 2002 and then in 2009, responsible, among other things, for planning “Responses to major crises”.

Another spectacular innovation that arose in the crisis: a scientific council, with a dozen members, very largely made up of hospital doctors, must equip political decision-making by ruling on the state of the pandemic, scientific knowledge and measures specific to put an end to it. The scientific council seems to have to summarize the scientific expertise on the subject, setting aside the skills of other administrations, health agencies and establishments, bodies trained in emergency, care or prevention.

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The emergency law, voted and extended by an anesthetized Parliament which struggles to exist in this decision-making process, completes this assembly.

Technocratic dream

The Covid-19 therefore leads to both a recomposition and a severe depopulation of the decision-making arena. The device, designed in the style of the general staff and inspired by military organization, is deemed to allow the return of an effective and rapid capacity for action by departing from the ordinary process, made up of interministerial meetings, compromises and bargaining between the administrative services of ministries, health agencies, bodies or representatives of the professions. We must move quickly, faster than the virus whose publication of contamination figures makes the dangerous progression visible every day.

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The device makes it possible to emancipate the Elyos figure; the defense council meets at the Elysee Palace under presidential leadership, major decisions are solemnly announced by the President of the Republic in television broadcasts reaching a large audience, more sectoral measures are presented by members of the government. Political hierarchies are thus staged. This results in a form of purification of the decision-making level, made strategic, rational, because placed at a distance from the government of things, freed from the necessities and vicissitudes of the operational or the logistics.

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