UNEL : An association for local democracy

Just three months after writing an open letter to the President of the Republic denouncing the despotic management of certain mayors, Solène Le Monnier, local councillor in Berric (56), and a number of others, have created the Union Nationale des Élus Locaux (UNEL). Their aim: to improve local democracy.

Marianne has a bust in every town hall (DR)
Marianne has a bust in every town hall (DR)

Local councillors now have their own association. It’s the Union Nationale des Élus Locaux (UNEL), chaired by Solène Le Monnier, town councillor in Berric (Morbihan). Here is the UNEL press release.

“France today has more than 520,000 local elected representatives. The vast majority of these elected representatives do not hold decision-making positions. They invest themselves voluntarily, sometimes at the cost of personal sacrifice, to carry the voice of their fellow citizens in all local bodies. In this way, they ensure that the entire population is represented, according to the means at their disposal and the local democracy tools available.
This role is fundamental: in France, every citizen has the right to be represented, and this representation is expressed through the plurality of viewpoints held by local elected representatives. Every local representative must be able to express his or her views, be heard and listened to, and perform his or her duties.
To date, no association brings together all local elected representatives, whatever their functions. With this in mind, the founding members of UNEL decided to create the first association open to all local councillors to meet their needs for expression and representation.
UNEL’s aim is to help local councillors achieve their full potential and to support the development of local democracy tools.
The crisis of commitment and vocations is real! We urgently need to take action for our democracy and help local elected representatives break out of their isolation. UNEL will be organizing commissions to address various issues with its members.
The association’s aim is to ensure effective representation in the work undertaken by government bodies”.

Founding members of the association

Useful addresses

I’UNEL head office: 101 rue de Sèvres, lot 1665 – 75272 PARIS cedex 06

Solène Le Monnier: “Making visible the invisible of politics

Solène Le Monnier, President of UNEL (DR)
Solène Le Monnier, President of UNEL (DR)

The Union nationale des élus locaux (UNEL), which you and others have just set up, is, you say, “the first association open to all local elected representatives to meet their needs for expression and representation”. Does this mean that, until now, France’s 520,000 elected representatives have not had sufficient visibility?

When the press talks about local elected representatives, it’s mostly about mayors. However, out of 520,000 local elected representatives, only 34,945 are mayors. As for the latest developments in local office, these mainly concern mayors.
And yet, local elected representatives who are not mayors are also, and above all, on the front line. It is they who, on a daily basis, receive the word of citizens, often with a cheerful word thrown into the conversation: “Well, you’re an elected official…”. Whether they have a complaint or a kind word to say, they are the first people they talk to.
They give of themselves voluntarily to carry the citizens’ voice.
But they are the ones who resign the most, eventually tiring of investing themselves without recognition.
Our aim with this association, in addition to working to improve the conditions in which they exercise their mandate, is to give them the opportunity to break out of their isolation.
There is the Association des élus de France (AEF), which brings together all elected representatives, like us, and which is also committed to democracy, “a guarantee of better representativeness of political currents and ideas with a view to better living the Nation together”. So we have a lot in common, and we complement each other, since our aim at UNEL is above all to make the invisible visible in politics.

A few months ago, you wrote an open letter to the French President denouncing the despotic management of certain autocratic mayors. Is local democracy so badly damaged in France?

It’s the way the current system works that creates this autocracy.
Over the last few years, the government’s aim has been to move away from a top-down policy towards a two-way policy, with a marked improvement in the way feedback from the field is taken into account. But that stopped with the mayors.
And changes in legislation have given even more power to the mayor’s level, without taking into account that this has taken power away from councillors. Today, a mayor has a very large number of delegations, he is protected, he has privileged contacts, he often – and often alone – represents his commune in intercommunal bodies… And the municipal councillor has only his vote, on deliberations decided by the mayor, to carry the voice of the citizens he represents. They are no longer actors in communal life.
It’s an autocracy induced by the fact that all executive powers are concentrated in the hands of a single person.
And there are, unfortunately, people in the position of mayor who have understood this and abuse it.
This is true whether you belong to the majority or not.
And this observation can also be made by mayors at inter-municipal level or by other elected representatives in other bodies.
If a decision can be taken without the agreement of a majority, then democracy is not being respected. We want to give local democracy back its full meaning.

La démocratie locale menacée par des maires autocrates !