The dust has barely settled from the presidential election, but the legislative campaign is in full flood, with rumors swirling everywhere in the accelerating currents. Macron has “put a target on the back” of Édouard Philippe and his fledgling Horizons movement, reports Libération. Why? Who knows? Jealousy, perhaps: Philippe emerged from his term as PM with a far higher approval rating than the president who plucked him from obscurity and transformed a previously little-known mayor of a middling city into a national figure and présidentiable. And this despite the fact that Philippe stood staunchly behind some of the more unpopular measures of Macron’s first term. Rumor also has it that relations were strained between the Élysée and Matignon during his tenure, and that the two don’t get on personally.
Lest this become a gossip column, I move on to more verifiable news: Éric Zemmour has given his blessing to the most Reconquête-compatible of Les Républicains, Éric Ciotti, against whom the Zemmourians will not run a candidate. Ciotti will still have to contend with the RN, however. Meanwhile, within LR, there is grumbling concerning the fact that Republicans who align with Macron will be sanctioned or expelled, while Ciotti will suffer no consequences for cozying up to Zemmour.
Meanwhile, François Hollande–remember him?–is trying to forestall any agreement between the PS and Les Insoumis, on the grounds that giving in to Mélenchon’s conditions in exchange for
a mess of pottage a few seats in the AN will result in the disappearance of the PS. True enough, but not giving in is also likely to end in the disappearance of the PS. Hollande himself may not be slated for disappearance as quickly as some of his former comrades might like, however: another rumor has it that Macron may tap him for some related to a projected institutional reform. But for all I know, that rumor may have been started by Hollande himself.
Still, if Macron takes my advice of staffing his new government with some figures from the left, whether from political circles or civil society, bringing in a flailing has-been would certainly minimize the danger of any revolt from within, however much Hollande might be dreaming of pulling off a palace coup like the one that Macron so successfully launched against him in 2016.
Meanwhile, Macron has the luxury of naming a caretaker government to see France through the next two months of interregnum, which gives him an opportunity to make a strong statement about the direction he wants to move while allowing himself room to correct his aim after the legislative results are in. We will soon see what lessons he has learned from his missteps–as I see it–in the first months of his first quinquennat.
All of these considerations of la politique politicienne may seem extremely petty in light of the worsening situation in the east. The war in Ukraine seems in danger of spinning out of control, as rhetoric on both sides escalates in the wake of increasing deliveries of arms from the West and mounting Russian atrocities inside Ukraine’s borders. Russia has imposed the first “reverse sanctions,” blocking gas deliveries to Poland and Bulgaria because of “unfriendly actions,” while the apparent readiness of Uniper and OMV to comply with Russian demands for payment in rubles raises questions about the solidity of the Western front. The EU is warning, however, that the payment scheme would be in clear violation of the sanctions regime. Whether this impending crisis will strengthen Macron’s hand domestically by triggering another rally-round-the-flag boost, or weaken it by unleashing a wave of price increases, remains to be seen. And we should also be watching to see how Putin-friendly politicians like Le Pen and Zemmour respond to these provocations.