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Accompanying popular and effective sovereignty

From February to August 2017, IRG dedicated its blog to democratic innovations under the title « elections at home ». Our objective was to report on their diversity starting with an account of the actors, in order to understand the needs to which these initiatives are responding and in what forms. These posts also had the objective of shedding light on challenges raised by the electoral debates in France. In this way, we humbly highlighted different points of view (including those different from ours) in order to better illustrate the expectations and needs expressed behind discontentment, whether towards Europe, social cohesion, solidarity, elected officials, the « State » or democracy, as well as the proposed responses, notably by citizens themselves. It is important to place each experience in its context and to research how these experiences help recode, or not, the DNA of our democracy. Informing us about these new ideas, as Séverine Bellina and Loïc Blondiaux do in the above text, is also a way to reconnect citizens with the big challenges to which they must collectively respond and, above all, to provide analysis of these mutations in terms of crisis. This brings the elections home, and above all makes all future elections begin at home. In this way we are accompanying popular, effective (and active) sovereignty as a foundation of our democracy.

The campaign for the presidential and legislative elections showed two contradicting needs of the French people : the desire for democratic change, along with the comfort and security of a known situation expressed by extreme conservatism. If the choice of Emmanuel Macron characterises well this pull, it clearly maintains the distance of citizens from the final decision. Despite this, we are able to see work already begun at the local level. During our interview with the mayor of Saillans, Vincent Beillard, we noted that local democracy could make policies move forward. The village of Drôme has, in effect, chosen to live with participatory and collegiate democracy since the municipal elections of 2014. A collective of citizens  presented itself to contest the total lack of transparency of the preceding team. Since then, Saillans is living with thematic commissions and action-project groups. The DNA and legitimacy of the approach resides in its collegiality.

At the national level, the context of defiance towards politics has fed the emergence of citizen initiatives for several months or years. Charlotte Marchandise-Franquet, who presented herself at the presidential elections without obtaining the 500 necessary sponsors, spoke to us of a « citizens’ despair » with completely fossilised politics. The same assessment exists for PolittY Blog which regrets political immobilism and what it entails for new generations. This prevailing immobilism motivated the manifesto of Let’s Dare# Happy Days. This collective attempted to mobilise political forces on the left with 25 concrete propositions. Despite this, the gathering together so hoped for didn’t function, so we must ask if the French people are really ready to turn the page. If we believe the psychotherapist Françoise Tachker-Brun, the French « always need an all mighty protective figure » and, even if they are sensitive to the emergence of new practices, they always prefer the comfort of situations that they know. This is why it is difficult to undertake big reforms, especialy ecological ones. Despite this, steps towards citizen participation have clearly been taken. These initiatives are laying the foundations for future citizen success. Despite the COP 21 and the presence of Nicolas Hulot in the Ministry of Environment, Bruno Villalba reminds us to what extent ecological and democratic transitions don’t work well together : « As long as we remain in the context of competition of territories, ecology is not a priority. »

« Elections at home » showed that despite the abundance  of citizen initiatives, they still don’t find a systemic echo in transformation of our democratic DNA. Thus a solution lies more in the local, where concretisation proves to be decisive. But whether they be local, national or European political spaces, what is eagerly awaited and what is set up are practices of power-in-common and horizons for ways out, restrained but existing, of the neo-liberal model. Citizens who reinvest in an active citizenship do it with a voluntary perspective and find solutions to their problems and often, above all, wish to recreate social ties. In this point of view, social innovations in solidarity at the local level re-create social ties, above all else. Young people from generation Y are less and less interested in the modern way of life, or invent new democratic modalities with the tools of their time. The mutation of democracy will not happen without change in the treatment of information, and the mutation of media for active citizens is more difficult to satisfy than that of consumer citizens.