Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

La droite déconstruite par les Constructifs

Thierry Solère has formed a new group in the National Assembly, Les Constructifs. This consummates the fracture on the right. Or, rather, one of the fractures. The usual dance of ambitions will ensure that other fissures deepen as well. Baroin vs. Wauquiez is one. The Juppéistes have already merged with the Macronistes, while Solère merely declares himself and his faction Macron-compatible.

Re Solère, here's an interesting tidbit from Wikipedia: "Thierry Solère y porte le surnom de Chihuahua donné par Isabelle Balkany afin de décrire, selon elle, son comportement attentiste et intéressé auprès de Jean Sarkozy, alors fils du président de la République."

Movement at Last in EU?

Angela Merkel is reportedly open to Macron's suggestion that what the EU needs is a common budget and finance minister. The details matter, of course, but this would mark a huge step forward and give Macron the early success he needs to keep his momentum going. Meanwhile, the Times reports that Laurent Berger is actively seeking compromise with Macron on labor-market reform. One is tempted to reply, What else is new? The CFDT is always ready for compromise. Still, it's another positive sign. As I wrote in my Foreign Affairs piece, the atmosphere has changed. There's a readiness to experiment that has been absent for a while. Pourvu que ça dure.

Blessing in Disguise

Has Macron ceased to walk on water? First he lost his right-hand man, Ferrand. Now he has lost the Old Man of the Center, Bayrou, the man who claims to have put him where he is today. And his Good Government renewal effort might seem to have become mired in a swamp of petty corruption.

But that would be a superficial reading of the situation. Actually, he has managed, without wielding the knife himself, to rid himself of a potential troublemaker. Bayrou was already acting like a man who imagined himself to possess more power than he actually had. He had exacted a significant price for his support, more deputies than the weight of his party merited. The 42 MoDem deputies will still matter in a legislature not as heavily tilted toward REM as predicted. But the situation is probably more manageable with a weakened Bayrou than with a Bayrou with influence over both justice and European affairs.

The balance of power in the government has now shifted considerably to the right, however. We do not yet know who will replace Bayrou, Sarnez, and Goulard, but the choice will say a lot about the future direction of the Philippe government.

One unfortunate consequence of the Bayrou mess is that Marine Le Pen is now free and clear. Whatever MoDem did with its parliamentary assistants, Le Pen can now claim, with perfect justice, that she was only doing what the others did. "Clarification" seems to be the watchword of the day. It's time for the EU to clarify what if any rules apply to the use of personnel paid by it ostensibly to serve as parliamentary assistant to MEPs.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

La moralisation moralisée

Richard Ferrand, secretary-general of REM and right hand of Emmanuel Macron, has been gently evicted from the government and shunted off to the National Assembly, where he is supposed to lead the REM group--unless, of course, he is indicted. Sylvie Goulard has excluded herself from the new Philippe government in order to prove her "good faith" in the affair of the MoDem parliamentary assistants--which the party leader and justice minister, François Bayrou, says isn't an affair at all, while describing Goulard's decision as "strictly personal." If there is as yet no smoking gun, there is plenty of smoke.

Bayrou, of course, was supposed to lead the effort to "moralize" government and restore public confidence--an effort he imposed on Macron as a condition of his support. Now, however, he seems to personify the problem. His reactions since the eruption of charges has been tone-deaf, not to say obtuse. He seems as clueless as Fillon.

And the atmospherics are not good for Macron and Philippe, whose flawless rollout has been compromised by the gathering clouds, may be on the verge of taking off into a maelstrom. The fresh face Macron put on government is in danger of looking a lot like the same old same old. And François Fillon must be wondering how things would have looked if the various improprieties that have lately come to light, including his own, had been revealed in a different order. A true Cleopatra's nose moment in French politics.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Legislatives, Round 2

I have a piece at Foreign Affairs. If you're in Korea, I'll be on the radio there tomorrow evening. If in San Francisco, I'll be on KCBS early tomorrow.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Legislatives--First Projections

BFM-TV predicts that REM will have a majority of 415-445 out of 570 seats. An unbelievable result for Macron. Both the FN and France Insoumise vastly underperformed compared to their presidential results. For the moment, Macron is in the driver's seat, although the record low turnout--around 50%--suggests that the opposition is silent and sullen rather than non-existent. But make no mistake: the political map of France has been redrawn.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Où sont les fronts républicains d'antan?

The Republicans are splitting apart at the seams. In part this simply reflects the traditional guerre des chefs, even if the chefs in question at the moment are both petits. Both François Baroin and Laurent Wauquiez want to become president, but for the moment they must battle for supremacy within LR. Hence Baroin has come out as the "Katy bar the door" candidate against the FN, while Wauquiez has gone all brownshirt-friendly. This is splitting the party:

Et puis patatras ! Tout s’est effondré le lendemain à cause de la cacophonie qui règne à LR où un certain nombre d’élus – comme le président de la région Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Laurent Wauquiez –, ont jugé prématuré voire carrément non avenu d’évoquer la question, ce qui est le signe d’une profonde fracture entre les modérés du parti et son aile plus droitière.
But the reason the leadership is divided is that the party base is divided. Plenty of LR voters, particularly those who stuck with Fillon, see no reason to shun the FN any longer. Especially in the south, where Marion Maréchal Le Pen is the face of the party rather than her aunt, the FN is seen as traditionalist and conservative, exactly the kind of right that Fillon embodied. And this rift in the base is ultimately driving the leadership contest. The results of the legislatives will be crucial in determining the outcome, and the resulting picture will most likely be geographically variegated.

Monday, May 29, 2017

L'Esprit Public Canceled

It is Memorial Day here in the US, and I was saddened this morning to learn that one of my favorite France Culture programs, L'Esprit Public, which Philippe Meyer has produced for the past 19 years, will not be renewed. Unlike many political discussion shows, this one was always exemplary in its sobriety and depth. I, for one, will miss the weekly podcast. I hope M. Meyer finds a home on another station.