Sarkozy’s conviction a victory for the rule of legislation by Josef Joffe


From France to America, democratic international locations affirm the elemental precept of presidency by legislation and never by males (and ladies). That is the message of our time which ought to reassure the Cassandra who consider that despotism is on the march.

HAMBURG – The extreme sentence imposed on former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, convicted of affect peddling, as soon as once more confirms an previous political reality. Even on this planet’s most entrenched democracies, corruption stays a curse.

Energy all the time provides you extra energy. It really works its magic higher than greasing the palms with cash. The sturdy needn’t wave their purses. 5 hundred years earlier than the decision towards Sarkozy, Machiavelli declared in his Speech that “gold alone doesn’t get good troopers, however good troopers will all the time get gold.” In different phrases, weight trumps money.

Thus, energy is the toughest foreign money in politics, creating temptations that can not be exorcised, however should be contained and managed. That is why democracies have developed advanced checks and balances, particularly an unbiased judiciary – one thing that despots needn’t fear about. The three-year jail sentence imposed on Sarkozy, France’s strongest individual from 2007 to 2012, reveals that the French system is working as anticipated.

The sign despatched by the Paris court docket couldn’t have come at a greater time. In every single place, darkness is meant to descend on democracy. The COVID-19 pandemic is alleged to be undermining the separation of powers in all places, tipping the scales in the direction of a gripping govt, which threatens freedom within the identify of safety. Is not foreclosures step one in the direction of servitude?

As well as, authoritarianism is endemic in Jap Europe, and powerful males are in energy from Budapest to Beijing and Brasilia. Even in the USA, the world’s oldest democracy, former President Donald Trump spent 4 years attacking (and piling up) the judiciary and instigating a violent insurgency on Capitol Hill, the seat of the US Congress.

On this context, the decision towards Sarkozy, which he’ll attraction, units out a reassuring message in these troubled instances. The Lawyer Common of Finance, Jean-François Bohnert, underlined the symbolic significance of a case involving “a former President of the Republic who was as soon as the guarantor of an unbiased judiciary”. Because the court docket wrote in its determination, Sarkozy had “used his standing as former president … to reward a Justice of the Peace who had served his private pursuits”.

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Sarkozy isn’t the primary French president or senior official to face the bench. Jacques Chirac, president from 1995 to 2007, was convicted in 2011 for embezzlement of public funds whereas he was mayor of Paris. François Fillon, the previous Prime Minister of Sarkozy, was sentenced final June to 5 years in jail (three suspended sentences) for embezzlement. Christine Lagarde, now head of the European Central Financial institution, was convicted of “negligence with public cash” whereas she was France’s finance minister below Sarkozy. Jérôme Cahuzac, President François Hollande’s Finances Minister, was sentenced in 2016 to 3 years in jail for tax evasion.

Nonetheless, the frequency of those crimes – and never solely in France – suggests a miserable sample: the gradual erosion of public confidence within the Western world. These incidents reinforce suspicions that politicians are utilizing their power for themselves or for his or her events; therefore an limitless sequence of marketing campaign finance scandals rocking one democracy after one other.

The truth is, their residents ought to take coronary heart. On this facet of neo-authoritarian Hungary and Poland, the democratic vessel of the state doesn’t sink, however does darken, nevertheless sturdy the headwinds could also be. The rule of legislation and the separation of powers, enshrined in each Western structure, stay sturdy, even in perilous instances when financial and well being catastrophes torment the soul and strengthen the grip of the state that gives every thing.

The truth is, voters have grow to be extra delicate to the evils of excessive locations. It’s a believable speculation that through the Fourth French Republic (1946-1958), and even much less through the Third (1870-1940), the previous heads of presidency wouldn’t have been sentenced to 3 years in jail. “Transparency” and “accountability” are the brand new battle cries within the democratic enviornment.

Simply consider Italy, referred to as the nation of arrangiarsi – make do with, wiggle via. And but, Silvio Berlusconi, triple Prime Minister, has been indicted dozens of instances. Lastly, in 2012, he was sentenced to 4 years for tax evasion. Higher late than by no means.

After which there’s Trump, Berlusconi’s inheritor because the world’s chief populist, who has tried to defeat and outwit the judiciary and Congress. But when democracy was at stake, because it did within the months following the 2020 presidential election, even his personal Supreme Courtroom appointees spoke out towards him. The occupation of the Capitol by his followers on January 6 briefly delayed however didn’t disrupt Congress by confirming the election of Joe Biden as president. The establishments have confirmed to be extra highly effective than the group.

From France to America, democratic international locations affirm the elemental precept of presidency by legislation and never by males (and ladies). That is the message of our time which ought to reassure the Cassandra who consider that despotism is on the march. Some could argue that Sarkozy, if his attraction is rejected, will solely should serve one yr, then within the consolation of his dwelling, guarded solely by an digital bracelet.

But the best ethical of this drama of crime and punishment is the supremacy of the legislation, which dates again to the English Magna Carta of 1215. Its 63 clauses boil down to 1 command: no ruler stands above of the legislation.


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