“Let’s listen to the citizens’ words!  »

“Let’s listen to the citizens’ words! »

In a documentary broadcast in February by France Télévisions, you tried to raise awareness among deputies about the publication of the grievances of the great national debate. What forms does this fight that you have been carrying out for five years take?

Since the documentary, I have signed columns demanding their publication. I make them known within the Association of Rural Mayors of France, of which I am a member. I am lobbying for them to be published one day.

Emmanuel Macron was to publish on April 15, 2019 the results of the major national debate that he had led and of which the grievances were part. They are not there. Where are they ?

The texts submitted to the town hall five years ago, after the mobilization of the yellow vests, are today kept in the departmental archives. They are therefore secure and there is no risk of them disappearing. But this stock only represents part of the citizen returns. There are also the sending of emails and reports of local initiatives, the times of exchange of the great national debate. All these documents are extraordinarily rich.

Do words recur regularly in these corpora?

Already, we can note that when we ask people to write grievances, they play the game. They do it politely, starting with “Hello Mr. President” and with a “Thank you” at the end. Of course, there is also the expression of anger which returns from time to time with a call for “resignation”. Their content, varied, ranges from the situation experienced to a list of proposals. It is a literature of reality.

That's to say ?

It is often said that novels best describe reality. These grievances reflect this even more. Linguistics researcher Manon Pengam studied them, focusing, for example, on the terms associated with the terms “large” and “small”. Citizens talk about their “small pensions”, their “small villages”, and on the other side the “big bosses”. This notable difference annoys me: we should not use narrowing effects when there are precise terms to talk about these situations.

The themes of these grievances were also analyzed…

This work was notably carried out by Gilles Proriol. Mobilized with his consulting firm Cognito as part of the great debate, he identified seven hundred proposals. A hundred of them come up so often that we can reasonably assume that most French people share them. They concern tax justice, access to care and “power to live”, a term preferred to purchasing power.

Concretely, what does this mean in terms of political measures?

A significant portion of citizens are calling for the abolition of the Senate, more decentralization, a reduction in the Generalized Social Contribution (CSG) on the lowest pensions and more investment in schools and the environment. There is also a desire to introduce drawing lots into national representation, because the latter is perceived as not corresponding to the reality of the country. The exemplary nature of state representatives is also a strong demand.

Among mayors too?

Local elected officials are less targeted than government figures. I think that citizens differentiate between professional politicians and those who are not.

So the authors of these complaints still have faith in politics?

The grievance books were filled out by citizens who believe that the Republic still has meaning. Those who no longer voted did not speak. We see this in the analysis of the documents. Retirees, a category which goes massively to the polls, responded. With the non-publication of grievances, we therefore run the risk of further undermining the confidence of those who believe in the Republic.

This confidence in the Republic, persistent although fragile, motivates you to raise this subject?

Not only. As mayor, I feel betrayed. The President of the Republic asked us to open our town halls with lists of grievances. Whether we agree with his policies or not, he made a commitment. Emmanuel Macron has also made the most progress on the participatory dimension, for example with citizens' conventions, these assemblies of citizens chosen by lot. But mobilizing people is one thing, bringing the proposals they express to life is another. The risk is to kill the usefulness of these tools.

You could argue that there is little point in publishing these testimonies five years later.

Jean Jaurès had to be interested in the grievances of 1789 to see them shared in 1903. I don't want us to wait another hundred years. We can draw a photograph of the French which comes closer to the truth than a survey. By going through the grievances, we realize how little the migration issue and insecurity are present.

However, polls indicate that these are major concerns of the French.

When we spontaneously question citizens, it is not part of their immediate daily life. The difference between surveys and testimonials is that the latter are neither biased nor biased. We then understand that the priorities of our citizens are not those that we are told. This is probably the reason why Emmanuel Macron did not want to publish them. The content of these texts goes against his vision of reality.

A resolution on the publication of lists of grievances has been in development since January. Where is she?

This is a non-binding text, which could be presented on the agenda of the National Assembly. Almost all of the groups signed the resolution, which is therefore transpartisan. But there are two conditions for this to appear on the agenda: the group presidents must be in favor of it, as well as the government. However, if the former should support the resolution, we cannot prejudge the position of the executive.

Elected since 2001, what pushed you to get involved?

With elected officials, teachers and parents, I took action in 1999 against the closure of the village school, and we saved our local school group. With the people involved, we then thought about what we could do for the town. We ran in the 2001 municipal election and won. I then quickly perceived the exciting side of local politics. Especially since if we noticed that everything was closing in rural areas, we observed the signals of a new dynamism.

Has the Covid-19 crisis benefited the campaign?

The outlook on rural areas has changed with the health crisis. Confinement, for example, constitutes an urban phenomenon. In the municipalities, we did not experience this episode in the same way. Symbolically, Covid-19 has upgraded the image we had of the campaign. When we look at the existential crises on the meaning of life, the place of social bonds or the ecological transition, the rural model emerges strengthened. It was said a little too much for years: “Outside the city, there is no salvation. »

You are no longer affiliated with a party. Why this choice ?

Not included in the first years of my local involvement, I was from 2007, when I joined the Radical Left Party. I come from the countryside and, historically, this movement, very anchored in rural areas and attached to the Republic, works without sectarianism. But I broke with this partisan approach when my former party supported the merger of the regions during the mandate of François Hollande.

So what got stuck?

As the Republic considered itself winning its historical battles, it adopted a managerial approach. However, we do not manage a territory, we administer it. With this reform, our representatives thought that the State would achieve economies of scale as in the private sector, so they created large complexes. But this is an aberration: a territory is administered locally.

You arranged to meet us at the “Café Citoyen” in the village. What does this place represent to you?

This former presbytery, redeveloped with the inhabitants of the town, embodies the new dynamic that runs through rural areas. We wanted to meet in a place that creates connections, allows for activities and offers cultural programming. A place that shows that we can act collectively.

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