Wednesday, June 19, 2024

French President Macron is ‘gambling with people’s lives’ – political commentator

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Our presenter and Europe editor Matt Frei speaks to Salomé Saqué, a political commentator and author, and Hélène de Lauzun, from The European Conservative.

Matt Frei: It is extraordinary, especially to many people in the UK, that so many young French men and women have flocked to the far-right. How do you explain that?

Salomé Saqué: First of all, I would like to nuance it a little bit because there was a lot of abstention. Many young people didn’t go to vote, almost 60%. So in reality, it’s one or two people out of ten who voted for the far-right, but still, it is huge and very much more than it was before. And I think it is due to several things. First of all, the ability of the far-right to manipulate social media to be successful in. Especially on TikTok.

Second of all, it’s the president himself who set up this scenario where the far-right is the only opponent. And we saw that with the debate between [National Rally President] Jordan Bardella and Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, who was not the candidate on the list. And all of this had consequences.

And the third thing is that there was a lot of anger inside the youth who can’t stand Emmanuel Macron anymore and who felt that the far-right was an answer to all their problems.

Matt Frei: Hélène, is this gamble going to pay off for Macron, or will it backfire?

Hélène de Lauzun: I would say it’s a dangerous game. In the history of the French Fifth Republic, the choice of a dissolution by the president has always been a dangerous choice. Of course, as French people, we have in mind of the choice made by Jacques Chirac in 1997 to dissolute the National Assembly.

Matt Frei: And got a socialist prime minister.

Hélène de Lauzun: And he got a socialist prime minister. So it’s dangerous. And I think that President Macron is a very clever man. He’s conscious of that, and he’s gambling in a way. And some people say there is a kind of calculation behind all that. Perhaps it is a way for him to push the far-right to the government and to prove their inability to govern the country. And perhaps he’s preparing, in fact, the presidential election of 2027. And by saying to the French people, ‘you’ve seen what it is to have a far-right government. So please don’t make the same mistake a second time.’ But it might be dangerous because perhaps it’s going to work, or perhaps not.

Matt Frei: But it’s interesting, because there was a lot of criticism for the immigration bill that the president introduced in the winter, using some of the language of the far-right already. So there’s a sort of normalisation of the far-right going on in French politics, whether the far-right get into power or not.

Salomé Saqué: Emmanuel Macron is the author of this normalisation. He used, during almost seven years, he picked up some little things here and there, into the far-right program, like the bill for immigration.

Matt Frei: But it hasn’t worked right?

Salomé Saqué: And then all of a sudden he presents himself as the only alternative to the far-right. He did that in 2017. He did it again in 2022. He’s doing it again in 2024. But this time it may not work. And as a journalist and a citizen, I’m really worried about this dangerous game he’s playing. He’s gambling with people’s lives.

Matt Frei: But other people would see this as an opportunity. This is the opportunity for France to rise again, as a strong nation state.

Hélène de Lauzun: I agree with Salomé about the fact that Macron is playing all the time, and that’s why he’s paying for it today with this vote because you cannot play all the time. And for example, we were mentioning the immigration bill, he played a game by saying ‘we want more firmness. We want to control our borders, et cetera.’ And he’s exactly the same guy who devoided the law of its content just after passing it, by using the weapon of the constitutional council. So I think we are arriving at the dead end of this momentum by Macron.

Matt Frei: Where’s the centre-right on this? They’ve been completely eviscerated. Is there enough of them left, centre-right and centre-left, to reconstitute and provide a challenge to Marine Le Pen?

Hélène de Lauzun: They haven’t been able to propose a credible alternative because, they say we are criticising Emmanuel Macron, but we don’t want to break with him.

Salomé Saqué: I think Emmanuel Macron knows he cannot win and he wants us to try the far-right. But you don’t try the far-right. You don’t play with the far-right because you know when it comes to power, but you never know when it leaves it.

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