Question asked by Thomas on July 5th,
A minister in office indicted under the five-year term of Emmanuel Macron, it is still unheard of. But if the situation arises, should this member of the government resign? The question arises then that the Minister of Justice, Eric Dupond-Moretti, should know such a fate following his summons, on July 16, before the Court of Justice of the Republic (CJR), for suspicion of “illegal taking of ‘interests”.
No obligation to resign in the texts
Article 8 of the Constitution provides that the President of the Republic appoints the members of the Government and terminates their functions, each time “On the proposal of the Prime Minister”. But no text lists the reasons that would lead the Head of State to require a minister to leave office. For some thirty years, however, an unwritten rule has required that any minister under examination resigns, on his own initiative or at the request of one of the heads of the executive.
Previously, a minister resigned if he was convicted and not just indicted or in the process of being. The first to have paid the price is Philippe Dechartre who, in 1972, was forced to leave the government of Jacques Chaban-Delmas after his conviction. in a real estate business. But in a few decades, the tolerance towards the ministers was reduced, leading to their departure for less and less serious facts, and following more or less advanced procedures.
In 1992, Pierre Bérégovoy was the first to sanction a minister not yet convicted: then Prime Minister, he asked Bernard Tapie to resign, a few days before he was charged (ancestor of the indictment) with abuse of social goods. Edouard Balladur follows the same line, and successively pushes to the departure three members of his government, with the approach of their indictments. The firmness of the two heads of government gave birth to the “Bérégovoy-Balladur case law”, expression since consecrated to designate the implicit rule according to which any indictment leads to resignation.
While trust in institutions is eroding, the tendency is even to harden this principle. An indictment is no longer necessarily required: simple accusations, the launch of a preliminary investigation or a judicial investigation can lead to the resignation of ministers – something that politicians of all stripes deplore in the name of the presumption of innocence.
Of the twenty departures that took place under the Fifth Republic, more than half date from the last three presidencies (Nicolas Sarkozy, François Hollande and Emmanuel Macron). Among the most emblematic is that of Georges Tron, who left the government in 2011 at the request of Prime Minister François Fillon, due to accusations of rape and sexual assault brought against him by two former employees. of the town hall of Draveil, of which he was mayor. But also the resignation in 2013, during the Holland five-year term, of Jérôme Cahuzac, following revelations about his hidden bank account in Switzerland. A judicial investigation had been opened the same day when the Minister of the Budget of Jean-Marc Ayrault had to leave his functions.
Emmanuel Macron, champion of exemplarity
In the wake of the “Exemplary republic” advocated by his predecessor, the presidential candidate and then President Emmanuel Macron has always defended a “Irreproachable Republic” and expresses its determination to moralize public life. “We want responsible, exemplary and accountable leaders”, he proclaimed during his first campaign meetings in 2017. “Any minister indicted should resign”, then hammered Edouard Philippe, Prime Minister until July 2020, in his interviews with the media. A rule that did not have to apply, no minister in office has to date been the subject of an indictment.
On the other hand, from the start of Emmanuel Macron’s mandate, a handful of ministers left on their own, as soon as they found themselves in the midst of scandals or court cases. Four personalities thus left their ministries in June 2017. The departure of the Minister of Territorial Cohesion Richard Ferrand, implicated in the case of Mutuelles de Bretagne, was closely followed by the exit of centrists Sylvie Goulard ( Armies), then François Bayrou (Justice) and Marielle de Sarnez (European Affairs). Their party, the MoDem, being suspected of having used for its own activities in France several assistants of MEPs, paid by Brussels. These four resigning prime ministers were then all indicted in the course of 2019.
The revelations in the press were decisive in the departures of several ministers, generally decided on their own initiative, within the governments of Édouard Philippe. The chained Duck and Mediapart had thus revealed, after the surprise resignation of Laura Flessel in September 2018, officially for “personal reasons”, that the Minister of Sports was in fact the subject of an investigation for tax evasion. The Minister for the Ecological Transition François de Rugy, for his part, did not resist the scandal caused in July 2019 by two investigations by Mediapart on his sumptuous dinners at the National Assembly when he was president, then on work in his official apartment at the ministry. Latest resignation to date linked this time to the transparency of public life, that of the High Commissioner in charge of pensions, Jean-Paul Delevoye, who left the government in December 2019. In the space of a few days, several media had pointed out his multiple parallel functions, not mentioned in his declaration of interests.
But not all are in the same boat. Labor Minister Muriel Pénicaud, part of the government during a reshuffle, was heard by a court in May 2018 as part of a judicial investigation on suspicion of favoritism, as a former leader of the Business France agency. His status as an assisted witness nevertheless enabled him to avoid resignation. More recently, in June 2020, an appeals court ordered the resumption of investigations targeting Gérald Darmanin concerning an accusation of rape, sexual harassment and breach of trust. The one who was then Minister of Public Accounts, now Minister of the Interior, has never been worried. Since the first rape complaint filed against him in 2018, Gérald Darmanin even enjoys the support of Emmanuel Macron, in the name of the presumption of innocence. The Minister for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Alain Griset has been under investigation for “breach of trust” since November 2020. The High Authority for the Transparency of Public Life has taken legal action after discovering, on one of his personal accounts, a sum belonging to the National Confederation of Crafts and Services (CNAMS) – which he chaired. Despite these serious accusations, the minister is still in office.
What about Dupond-Moretti?
As for Eric Dupond-Moretti, he could be exempted from “Bérégovoy-Balladur case law”, even though he has a good chance of being indicted. Immediately after his summons to the CJR, the Minister of Justice informed the Elysee, specifying that an indictment should ensue. According to information from Europe 1, Emmanuel Macron directly sided with his minister and would have assured: “We will do everything to keep Eric Dupond-Moretti, he will not leave the government.”
As a reminder, the Minister of Justice has been subject, since January 2021, to a judicial investigation that the CJR – the only jurisdiction empowered to try ministers for offenses or crimes committed in the exercise of their functions – opened after to have considered admissible the complaints of the three magistrates’ unions and the Anticor association. The Court seeks to determine whether the Minister took advantage of his functions to intervene in cases in which he was previously involved as a lawyer. But in the process, “Some close to the executive” considered that in the event of an indictment, Eric Dupond-Moretti should not be forced to leave his post, reported The world in January, because “The investigation relates here to a ministerial act”.
After the long search carried out in the premises of the Ministry of Justice, Thursday, July 1, just before Eric Dupond-Moretti was summoned, he declared himself “Extremely serene”. Above all, he denounced a union maneuver to “Obtain a new Keeper of the Seals”. “One of the magistrates’ unions which lodged a complaint declared, after my appointment, that she was a ”declaration of war”. The same union said Thursday that the complaint was only filed for the sole purpose of being indicted. Everything is here”, defended the former lawyer in Sunday Newspaper. And to sweep aside the possibility of a departure with the back of the hand: “This is not what the Constitution provides … It is from the Prime Minister and the President of the Republic that I derive my legitimacy and from them alone.”