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Monday, July 15, 2024
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Macron pours petrol on the flames

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RISHI Sunak must have thought that he had got away with the appalling palace coup he mounted on behalf of mega business interests in autumn 2022. He had connived for months to replace Boris Johnson, but lost out to Liz Truss. An interesting financial crisis then put paid to her, and Sunak entered No 10 without even a vote of the Conservative Party membership. Just 20 months later, the electorate took back control and ousted the usurper. What’s more, 4.1million people voted for Reform UK, now the third-largest party by vote share. What Sunak inadvertently achieved politically was the division of the right-leaning electorate, sending Sir Keir Starmer into No 10 with a vote share of one third at 9.7million, far fewer than loser Corbyn in 2017! (I see this as judgment from on high . . .)

The mega-financial-interests man in Paris also believes he can enforce his agenda on the French electorate. President Macron called a snap general election to put down the insurgent Rassemblement National (National Rally) the night of the European Parliament elections last month. Why? Well, we all know that Brussels and Big Business do not like nationalist parties with heretical ideas about real democracy and the will of the people. God forbid that a European government should act in the interests of the people.

Result: Macron has made things worse – much worse. In persisting in attacking the straw man fascist RN, Macron has succeeded in promoting the real threat posed by the hardline left in France, personified by Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Ever since the elections were called on June 9, the hard left have been protesting on the streets of France against their ideologically obsessed image of the Rassemblement National. To them, Nazi-collaborating Vichy France is again at the gates of power, ergo everything (and I mean everything) must be done to stop them. Now, politics is indeed ‘the pursuit of war by other means’and the ballot box is the mechanism by which we settle our disagreements, not violence. Notwithstanding this fundamental fact of democracy, the hard left have demonstrated against the RN, and even organised a demonstration outside the National Assembly building at 8pm last Sunday to coincide with the first estimates of poll results. Such was the threat of violent disorder that 30,000 police and gendarmes were on duty across France on Sunday evening.

Now, contrary to expectations, but in line with the agreements between centrist and left-wing parties to keep the RN out, the second round and final result put the RN bloc in third place with 143 seats, Macron’s ‘centrist’ coalition second with 165 seats, and the left-wing alliance of Socialists, Communists, Greens and Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise in first place with 182 seats. There was general relief in France that it was not now going to degenerate into the violence which the Left had been threatening. At no time was there any intimation at all in the French media of any violence coming from the Rassemblement National, the supposed fascists who had to be kept out of power, nor indeed from any right-wing source.

What we did get at around 8.05pm across national news media was Mélenchon demanding the keys to Matignon (the prime minister’s residence) for the Nouveau Front Populaire (NFP), the left alliance, because they came top of the poll. Now let’s just recall, ‘his’ bloc got just 182 seats – you need 289 to have a majority of just one in the 577-seat national assembly. Marine Le Pen was calling this time last week for allies to join the RN to support them in government because the polls were suggesting that the RN on its own would get only 270 seats maximum. The stark reality is that none of the three main blocs can form a government. Mélenchon himself is seen by too many people, even on the left, as toxic. He wants to be Prime Minister but for that to happen, he needs a range of support which is just not there. 

In fact the real threat to French democracy is Jean-Luc Mélenchon, not Marine Le Pen. Melenchon is considered by many to be an Islamo-Gauchiste (referring to a political alliance between leftists and Islamists). He seeks the Islamic vote in the suburbs: he and his party got into real difficulties by persistently pleading the Palestinian cause against Israel in recent months (parallels with George Galloway here). This is a man who views criminality among immigrant communities as merely symptoms of social deprivation; who sees nothing wrong with mass immigration; and who dreams of the day when the population of France will not be white, but entirely mixed race.

Mélenchon is a forceful, politically astute thinker and operator, and he and Macron face the same problem: there must now be a coalition agreement. There are two major hurdles. First, who will lead this coalition – who will be acceptable across the centre-left? Mélenchon is not acceptable to far too many people. Second, what will be the programme? The divisions within the left alliance, the NFP, are serious; they are even more serious when the possibility of allying with the centrist second bloc is considered. Remember these blocs are agreements between individual parties with distinct outlooks and agendas. It may well be that these parties will have to realign to achieve some sort of coalition to form a government. The only alternative to such a realignment is the Italian precedent, a government of technocrats as happened in Italy with former European Central Bank president Mario Draghi in 2021/22.

At time of writing, Macron has not grasped the nettle and no national television appearance is programmed for the President; sources at the Elysée have indicated that Macron awaits the outcome of negotiations between the parties which form the parliamentary groups, those groups to be determined formally on Thursday evening.

The man who fancies himself as the Great Leader of Europe – the Saviour of France back in 2015/17 – has lost control of the agenda and is waiting on events. Even so, I would not put it past him to use the instability he has precipitated to make the sort of move he readily criticises the leaders of Russia or China for doing.

Watch this space!

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Graham R. Catlin
Graham R. Catlin
Graham R. Catlin is a teacher. He has lived for several years in France and takes a keen interest in French politics and media. He is editor/ commentator of an edition of Edmund Burke's famous assertion of Conservatism, Reflections on the Revolution in France.

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