Je ne vous ai pas compris

30 June 2024

Emmanuel Macron, who may have imagined himself in de Gaulle’s shoes when he dissolved the National Assembly, might consider now coming before the French and announcing, “Je ne vous ai pas compris.” Because clearly the sursaut he was counting on did not materialize. Apparently, he still retains hope of averting the ultimate disaster: before any other political leader could react to the results, he announced, somewhat ambiguously, that he hoped for a broad alliance to prevent the RN, which led the first round results with 34% (vs. 28 for the New Popular Front and 20 for Macron’s Ensemble), from gaining an absolute majority of seats in the AN. But he stopped short of calling for Ensemble candidates to drop out if the best placed candidate in a district belongs to La France Insoumise, which he regards as a party of the extreme left, outside the “republican arc.”

Macron’s former prime minister, Édouard Philippe, was less ambiguous. He is willing to countenance désistements in favor of the “democratic” elements of the New Popular Front but not in favor of LFI. This is also the position taken by Jean-François Copé, who cannot speak for Les Républicains (the so-called “courant historique,” that is, not the Ciotti faction, which has joined the RN), because the leadership has not yet met. But this is likely to be the LR position (as already anticipated by Bellamy, Fillon, Lisnard, and others).

The number of triangulaires, where these party choices may make a difference, is estimated between 275 and 320. I do not yet know how many of those seats might actually be wrested from the hands of the RN. But what is clear at this hour is that an absolute majority for the RN cannot be excluded.

In short, Macron has not only lost his bet. He has lost it in shattering fashion. Édouard Philippe took note of this when he said that the results of this election have erased the results of the 2022 presidential election. In other words, Macron has lost his mandate and will henceforth be a president branded with the sign of illegitimacy. If Macron were really de Gaulle, he would draw the inevitable conclusion and retire to Colombey. The next week will be a somber one.

ADDENDUM: You have to respect the RN’s mastery of video imagery. Instead of having Bardella announce victory at the party HQ, Marine Le Pen spoke there while Bardella traveled to the Salle Wagram followed by a swarm of journalists on motorcycles, as if he had just won a presidential election. The staging was masterful.

Bardella, 28, never graduated from college. He became a party operative at the age of 18 and has held no other job. He is thus the precise antithesis of Emmanuel Macron.

It comes as something of a surprise to see the RN spokesperson reprimanding M. Dupond-Moretti, the justice minister, for “lack of serenity.” To which Dupond-Moretti responded that the RN is employing la stratégie de la cravate, insinuating (accurately, by my lights) that the RN’s newfound respectability is nothing but a façade.

The remarkably large turnout did result in a slight drop in the RN’s vote share compared with the final predictions (37 vs 34 %), but at the same time it confirms that the RN is now the first party of France. Its victory in the European Parliament election left some doubt about its significance for French domestic politics. That doubt is now dissipated. The RN has made good on its wager to win via the ballot box.



1 Comment

  • Anonymous says:

    Dear Art:
    Well, note the figures on the Left who fell or are compromised: Fabien Roussel of the Parti Communiste who will not be in the second round in his « circonscription »; François Ruffin of the PS who will be in the second round but needs a « désistement » from the Renaissance candidate if he’s to have a chance of beating the FN, in the lead.
    What is interesting is Macron’s hasty attempt (he has only until 18H15 Tuesday for the « désistements » to be registered), to get past the shattering results by forming alliances « circonscription » by « circonscription », to ally with Left-leaning candidates coming in second to the Rassemblement Nationale, shifting third-place Renaissance and associated votes to the Nouveau Front Populaire candidates (exclusive of those of « La France Insoumise) to score a kind of win —keeping Jordan Bardella as far as possible from the magic number of 289 deputies for an « absolute majority » in the Assemblée Nationale
    First, there is the hurdle of the « persuade-abililty » of third-place Renaissance candidates. That isn’t too high a hurdle —political activists of established parties should understand the rules of the game and step aside
    Second, and a higher hurdle, are the voters. « Will those who voted for Renaissance candidates realize the menace the Rassmblement Nationale poses and vote strategically for PS or Modem candidates —or will they abstain from voting in disgust at what is being asked of them?
    A significant number of the 67% of registered voters who voted were highly motivated —33% to vote for the Rassemblement Nationale. Were any of those voters trying to « send a message » to the Élysée, but planning to vote for either Renaissance or Le Nouveau Front Populaire in the second?  Or have they become a « hard » Rassemblement Nationale electorate, unmovable?
    Let’s assume they are, which leaves 34% of those who voted in play —along with any eligible voters who did not vote in the first round, but after seeing the results, woke up and plan to vote against the Rassemblement Nationale in the second round.
    Are there enough of them thinking that much as they may detest Macron, if the Rassemblement Nationale is not relegated to being one more competitor —albeit a strong one— for ultimate power in France over the next three years, France will not renew itself, but sink into political chaos with Macron probable refusal to resign only stoking the fires.
    Macron reached out to the Right as his first term in office drew closer to the re-election campaign of 2022. Now he wants to appear to be reaching out to the non-La France Insoumise Left. Whether he’ll actually make progress on that front is belied by his track record with Les Républicains. Clearly, he’s a shape-shifter and a gambler.
    Yet in the last analysis, « Does France want to walk into the arms of the Rassemblement Nationale with all the upheaval that would entail? », or will the French enjoy making Macron suffer this week —but ultimately conclude « better the devil you know than the devil you don’t » and snatch an absolute majority from the Rassemblement Nationale.
    It may be satisfying at first to give in to spite directed at Macron, but the unpredictable consequences of the French doing so this election could have more serious repercussions than merely discomfiting the French head of state. There is a slim possibility that with the Rassemblement Nationale kept from power, the Left-leaning parties would rebuild themselves under the leadership of figures like Raphael Glucksmann and François Ruffin; maybe even « Horizons », under former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, will push aside Macronisme in favor of a center-Right position more conservative-leaning voters can feel comfortable with.
    These are all just speculations, of course. Come Sunday night, we’ll know whether democratic, Republican government in France still has a chance or has been overtaken by darker forces.

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