New Seats on Constitutional Council All Filled by Women

Nicole Maestricci, one of the three women appointed to the Constitutional Council. Photo: alainelorza

Nicole Maestricci, one of the three women appointed to the Constitutional Council.
Photo: alainelorza

For the first time in history, three women have now have seats on the Constitutional Council. This past week, François Hollande, Jean-Pierre Bel, and Claude Bartolone have appointed three nominees to sit on the council. On February 12, Hollande named Nicole Maestracci as the replacement for Pierre Steinmetz. Maestracci was the first president of La Cour d’appel de Rouen and former president of the interdepartmental mission to fight drug use and abuse. In a statement from the Elysée, the appointments will be made official, after passing Assembly and Senate commissions on March 9 with a full debriefing of their new duties and responsibilities on the council.

Jean-Pierre Bel, the president of the Senate, announced to the press his nomination of 57 year-old Nicole Belloubet to replace Jacqueline de Guillenchmidt, who was originally appointed in February 2004. Belloubet is currently the senior vice-president of Parti Socialiste (PS) of the regional council of the Mid-Pyrénées and the PS municipal councilor of Toulouse.

Belloubet served as the president of the Academy of Limoges between 1997 and 2000, followed by the Academy of Toulouse from 2000-2005. From that same period, she was the president of the interdepartmental committee on gender equality in the education system. In 2001, she issued a report named “30 measures to counter sexual and gender-based violence in educational institutions.” The following year, under direction of Jack Lang, the Minister of Education at the time, she followed up with another report “30 steps to the future of school.”

The President of the Assembly, Claude Bartolone, reappointed an existing member of the Constitutional Council, Claire Bazy-Malaurie. She was originally appointed by Bartolone’s predecessor Bernard Accoyer in August of 2010 after the death of Jean-Louis Pezant.

The Constitutional Council, which previously had two female members, now consists of three women and six men. It is the first time in twelve years that the left has gotten to appoint members to the council. In the history of the council, created in 1958, members nominated by the left would sit on for an average of nine years.

The nominations play a symbolic for the women of France. Najat Belkacem-Vallaud, the minister of Women’s Rights, commented to the associated press that “with these three appointments, the Republic is upholding her promise of equality: it’s a breaking of the glass ceiling from the very top.” She continues to say that is acts as a “beautiful message of confidence” for all of French society.

Often referred to as the sages (the wise), these council members play a critical role in policy making. There are several important issues that these sages will face in the months to come. This upcoming Tuesday, they are scheduled to make a decision on the constitutional rights of gay marriage as adopted by the National Assembly. They will also vote on former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s appeal against the rejection of his presidential campaign financial accounts.

The new balance of the council marks an overarching change in French political slant. These sages will be pivotal in making key decisions in controversial matters for many years to come. However, some have gone public with their concerns about Belloubet, criticizing her for being overly liberal. Only time can tell if the concerns are valid or whether new female perspectives were just what the doctor ordered.

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