The former President of the Constitutional Council, Jean-Louis Debré, ex-investigating judge, deputy, Minister of the Interior, and President of the National Assembly, now at the head of the Superior Council of Archives, is also an ardent women’s advocate. Since September, he has been on stage at the Théâtre de la Gaîté-Montparnasse and then the Théâtre de Passy, ​​before a national tour starting in October, to present the play adapted from an essay (Fayard) co-written with his companion, Valérie Bochenek , These women who woke up France. Between his retrospective knowledge of the lives of pioneering women, particularly in politics – Olympe de Gouge, Louise Michel, Simone Veil – and a personal experience of more than forty years, Jean-Louis Debré evokes the hope of a government more in tune with society, while inviting vigilance despite the appointment of Elisabeth Borne.

Le Point: What was your reaction to the announcement of a woman as Prime Minister?

Jean-Louis Debré: On the one hand, I’m happy about it. It clearly shows that our society is changing. A society initially focused on people. We must not forget that it was necessary, for example, to wait until the year 1900 for a woman to become a lawyer, or the Liberation for women to have the right to vote. We now see society opening up. And within society, the political class. Slower, but she’s getting there. But, on the other hand, you have to realize that we are making an event of what shouldn’t be. We make it extraordinary that the Prime Minister is a woman when it is perfectly normal.

Why is the political class “slower” to evolve, as you say, than society in general?

It is much slower because, in other sectors, a law was enough to impose change. While in politics, in addition to a law, it was necessary to change mentalities. Let voters vote for women in positions that have long been the preserve of men. But things are changing, and that’s good.

How did you perceive this slowness in change?

For example, in certain rural constituencies, where we are still very marked by the family unit with the head of the family. But the rule then was to take a substitute of the opposite sex and I always had, for my part, as substitutes, elected women.

Can we speak in politics of persistent misogyny?

Yes, except that misogyny is not the prerogative of political society. It exists in all sectors or all companies. Simply, as politics is a performing profession, it appears in a more conspicuous way. However, we must beware of blaming everything on misogyny. To be a minister, or to be Prime Minister, are extremely difficult functions. There are capable men and women who succeed, and there are men and women who fail. One cannot claim that the failure is due to misogyny.

I do not subscribe to commonplaces that want the woman to be softer.

However, when a politician is considered “bad”, it is not specified that he is a man, unlike women…

The only marker that is worth, to know if one is good in politics, is to be elected, and especially re-elected. However, I note that, in the political world, we have had quite remarkable women who have awakened our society, such as Simone Veil, Minister of Health in 1974, then President of the European Parliament. I could cite many other women who, in governments, whatever their political affiliation, have shown that they have as much capacity as a man to lead the administration and impose their mark.

So women would have a mark, in politics, in your opinion?

I don’t subscribe to commonplaces that want the woman to be softer, etc. No. On the other hand, I do think that there are women of authority, who know how to lead the teams of civil servants perfectly and you have others who are not able to do so, because they are too authoritarian, or not enough, like men ! What makes the difference is competence. There have been a legion of ministers who have been totally incompetent and useless, both men and women.

How do you explain, in this case, that there were only two women in the post of Prime Minister under the Fifth Republic?

First, because they have to impose themselves in political parties and these are places where competition is extremely tough. Then, we see women who have been recognized as being very good presidents of regions, departments or mayors of large cities, who have shown their ability to lead and innovate. But you also have to be able to resist. Because politics is also about resisting attacks.

For me, it is very important. I come from the body of the judiciary where women have a prominent place. We have had very, very great magistrates. It is a corps which today, in its recruitment, has reached almost parity – that is to say, there are even a few more women! So I believe that to be legitimate, political society, like any society, justice for example, must reflect our society. And what surprises me is that it still poses a problem. Le Point shouldn’t even ask me about a subject like that. Because it shows how slow evolution is, if it’s still surprising. I hope that in a few years it won’t be surprising at all. Moreover, other European countries have been faster than us, such as the United Kingdom with Margaret Thatcher or Germany with Angela Merkel.

Precisely, how do you explain that France is behind its neighbors? Are we more macho?

We are mostly slower! Because of a culture where everyone had their role, their place. To man, politics; to wife, family and children.

This should not become a political slogan.

The question of parity often leads to the question of quotas. Are you in favor of it?

I find that when it comes to quotas, there’s a failure. I fully understand that people say that it is necessary, but, in my opinion, it is a bit degrading to come to this. And that the legitimacy of a government also comes from its representativeness. And if it is made up of men and women, it is to better represent our society, which is divided between men and women.

One had the impression, these last days, that it was absolutely necessary that the post of Prime Minister is occupied by a woman. Isn’t it in a way detrimental to its legitimacy, to have a directed choice?

Yes, it sounds like a choice oriented. And it should not become a political slogan. This is what bothers me the most, because it would be a regression. “Vote for me, because I nominated a woman”, no. “Vote for me, because I have a government led by a competent woman, with whom we agree on a number of issues, who will tackle the reforms necessary for the country”, this is what we waits. When we have to choose a person for a function, we look to see if their profile is suitable. What is the ambition, what are the problems, what will we face? Is this person best suited to resolve these issues? What we ask of the Prime Minister is to be competent. Male or female, it doesn’t matter. And so much the better if it’s a woman.

Do you define yourself as a feminist?

No, not as a feminist, as a republican. The Republic is freedom and equality. It’s that we don’t make distinctions based on gender or other characteristics. I strongly believe in this parity, as a necessity in today’s world. The government must reflect our society.