Saturday, December 9

Macron prepares for a tidal wave of social protest and economic crisis

Correspondent in Paris



The president with the most modest parliamentary majority in the history of the Fifth Republic, Emmanuel Macron, faced dog face with a very strong opposition from the populist extreme left and extreme right, it must urgently confront flammable social and economic crises.

The Ministry of the Interior warned days ago of a string of strikes and protest movements to come, in hospitals, in public services, with threatening crises of a very diverse nature: the increase in the cost of the ‘shopping basket’, the degradation of purchasing power, the rise in fuel prices…

Faced with this feared risk of profound social protest movements, of the yellow vest type, Élisabeth Borne, head of government and prime minister, hastened to announce immediate emergency measures: the granting of a “food check” for the most modest families, a “premium” against inflation, the first round of negotiations (companies, unions, government) to “rethink” the reform of the national pension system, the great reform promised national five years ago…

Postponed reforms

Macron was elected president, in 2017, promising the “Revolution”, the title of his book and program: “Reform France to refound Europe”. Between 2017 and 2022, Macron had an absolute parliamentary majority of 338 deputies. But the “revolution” was postponed indefinitely. Between November 2018 and the first sanitary confinement of 2020, the yellow vests of the extreme left and extreme right mobilized hundreds of thousands of protesters. The reforms were postponed.

Re-elected president last April, Macron finds himself today with a parliamentary majority, relative, of 245 seatsin a National Assembly (AN, first chamber of Parliament), where the extreme left and the extreme right promise a radical opposition.

Marine Le Pen, president of the National Association (AN, extreme right), claims a vice presidency of the Assembly and the presidency of the Finance Commission. The New Popular, Ecological and Social Union (Nupes), dominated by La France Insumisa (LFI, populist extreme left), led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has begun by presenting a motion of censure on July 5.

Arithmetically, that motion has little chance of succeeding: but it confirms exceptional fragility of the new parliamentary balances and the complexity of the Government of the new France, distressed, divided and fragmented at all levels, social, cultural and political.

The motion of censure will foreseeably be supported by the various parliamentary groups of the parties that make up Nupes: La France Insumisa (72 seats), the PS (26 seats), the ecologists of EELV (23 seats) and the PCF (12 seats). However, it will undoubtedly be rejected by the parties that support President Macron and his government: Renaissance (160 seats), MoDem (48 seats), Horizontes (28 seats) and several other small groups that have another 9 seats.

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Will the far right support the far left’s no-confidence motion? Even with the 89 far-right MPs, the motion would only count with about 200 deputies, when Macron’s relative majority is 245 deputies. Will the 64 deputies of Los Republicanos (LR, traditional right) support the motion of censure by the extreme populist left? It doesn’t seem obvious. It would be a union ‘against nature’, when a good part of the traditional right aspires to become Macron’s wild card, condemned to govern with variable geometry alliances.

mortgaged government

The motion of censure has a pedagogical virtue: Macron has a modest relative majority in the AN, and is the president with the least parliamentary support in the Fifth Republic. But for now, there is no alternative.

All government projects and gestures they are literally mortgaged. Macron and his government will have to negotiate with centrists, reformists, liberals and conservatives, when Le Pen and Mélenchon will use each project to support all kinds of street protests.

The fragility of each other runs the risk of fueling demagoguery. Macron seems willing to sign checks without known funds, charged to the public deficit and debt, as is the case in Italy, Spain, Greece and Portugal, to try to stop social protest.

Mélenchon and Le Pen do not hesitate to resort to outright demagoguery, calling for “exceptional” measures such as retirement at age 60, four-day working week, net minimum wage at 1,500 or 1,600 euros, price and border controls, the “primacy” of national legislation against European legislation, hostility to Ukraine’s entry in the EU, France’s “distancing” from the EU and the Atlantic Alliance…

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