Parliamentarians’ body face the virus

(pour la version française de ce billet, voir ici).

Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of presenting my thoughts on parliamentary representation in a pandemic context – which was the subject of my last few blog posts – at the 2020 Annual Conference of the Canadian Study of Parliament Group.

This event was entirely online, in a different format from what I had experienced so far. The video of our presentations had been put online two days before the conference itself, so everyone was free to find the time to watch it. When the day came, each participant was invited to present his or her contribution in a maximum of 2 minutes, so that the rest of the panel could be devoted to questions and collective discussion. I found this format very relevant in order to avoid exchanges (always too much) focused on one contribution or another, and to focus instead on what brings them together.

The panel where I spoke was entitled “Parliament in Extraordinary Times”. We debated on the theme of transforming the parliamentary institution, the role of scandals and crises and the weight of the executive in this process, as well as the relevance of the ordinary modalities of functioning of parliaments in the face of pandemic crises.

As a foretaste, here is the pitch I gave:

In this work I explain why the pandemic threat poses a structural, and even infrastructural, problem for the French National Assembly. My argument is based on the observation that the parliamentary world is both more vulnerable to contamination than any other, but also constitutes a privileged vector for contamination of the virus on a national scale. This means that it would be reasonable for the Assembly to do everything possible to keep the deputies as far away from the Palais Bourbon as possible in times of pandemic, for example by relying on modern communication tools, which the Assembly does not do. This paradox can be explained by the special place of the parliamentarians’s body in parliamentary life, which is central and which means that without flesh-and-blood deputies in the Bourbon Palace the legislative power would be significantly weakened. After posing the problem, I try to imagine a solution – a hybrid one – that could resolve the contradictory requirement to do without the parliamentarians’ body in the Palais Bourbon on the one hand, and to strengthen their effective presence on the other.

My presentation is available on the HAL archive platform, in French and English, at this address :

Thank you to the CSPG for organizing this beautiful event. Thank you to the Canadian Government Translation Bureau for the translation.

Enjoy reading!

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