Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National has stormed the French National Assembly with a politeness offensive, adopting unaccustomed decorum as a strategic weapon. Meanwhile, La France Insoumise, true to its moniker, has taken the opposite tack, disrupting proceedings and acting out like unruly teenagers, with one deputy stomping on a balloon decorated with an image of a ministerial head. In the old days, heads were carried about on pikes, now they are painted on balloons and spiked–first time tragedy, second time farce, as the saying goes.
There is no doubt that the RN’s sage behavior has–alas!–improved its leader’s presidential posture, while the LFI’s antics have sown further dissension in the already fissiparous NUPES, drawing rebukes from both the leader of the Green’s and the leader of the dissident Socialist faction, while PS leader Faure, who barely held on to his post in the recent party convention, molders in embarrassed silence.
Meanwhile, the government has suffered its first major setback in its stubborn effort to get its pension reform package through the AN. Having decreed that the French must work longer, it tried to answer the criticism that firms don’t hire seniors by adding a provision to encourage employers to do just that, the so-called senior index. But a substantial number of Renaissance deputies, joined by most of LR and some of both Modem and Horizons, sat out the vote, allowing the government measure to be defeated by the combined vote of the left and the RN. LR’s Aurélien Pradié has been making waves and raising his profile by working to scotch any tacit agreement between party leader Ciotti and the Macronist force, even if it means raising doubts about where LR actually stands on pension reform.
And of course this entire political circus is taking place against the background of continuing massive protests against the reform package. The president remains blissfully above the fray, convinced (despite polls showing the contrary) that he has won the battle of public opinion and that “the hateful and hysterical opposition of the extreme left precludes any compromise.” He has apparently taken to heart the words of his model, Charles de Gaulle: “Les Français sont des veaux.”