June-August 2024 71
He will lose his bet and the co-cockpit
of the EU will fall to its most right-wing
government. As to the Presidency there
are reasons to be pessimistic — that
France may follow Trump
he European Parliament elections
held on June 6th-9th mostly
consolidated the centre but
subverted three member
governments. These are the
Austrian where Herbert Kickls Freedom Party
won its first ever nationwide election and the
German where the Social Democrats of
Chancellor Olaf Scholz succumbed to their
worst outcome in a national election in almost
150 years of existence. And above all the
French, where President Emmanuel Macron
responded to the pasting of his party,
Renaissance (18%), by the hard right which
obtained twice its vote (36% when you
combine the votes for National Rally (RN) and
Reconquest) by dissolving the French
parliament and calling a risky snap election.
The RN led by Jordan Bardella whom Village
is obliged to describe as young and
charismatic and, in Parliament, by Marine Le
Pen, who’s been around and is only the latter,
is likely to become the biggest force in
France’s Parliament in the elections to be held
on 30 June. On 19 June Bardella revealed his
strategy: “If I do not have an absolute
majority, then I will refuse to be appointed
Prime Minister.
A policy document seen by Le Figaro says
RN will “drastically reduce legal and illegal
immigration, as well as deport foreign
delinquents” which it also presents as a way
to help save public money. Bardella said
changes would be made “within the first few
weeks” of him becoming prime minister. The
RN platform has not yet been published but
the party’s 2022 promises included:
expulsion of more migrants, including
those unemployed for more than a year;
an end to family reunifications; aording
benefits, housing and job preference to
French nationals; privatisating French
public radio and television and
By Michael Smith
legislating for the “presumption of
legitimate self-defence” for officers
involved in cases of alleged police
violence aimed at “restoring authority
and boosting morale.
It pledged to reduce the retirement age
from 64 to 62/60, oer a zero-interest
100,000 loan to boost home ownership,
axe inheritance tax for many and exempt
the under-30s from income tax.
Together with RN’s planned VAT cuts on
energy and other measures such as the
renationalisation of France’s motorways,
economists in 2022 costed the hit to public
finances at €120bn a year, against just €18bn
in savings.
An Elabe poll on 12 June showed the RN
winning 31% of votes in the first round against
28% for an insurgent new alliance of left-wing
parties and the Greens, 18% for Macron’s
Renaissance party and 6.5% for Les
Républicains, the Gaullist party founded by
dodgy Nicolas Sarkozy whose leader was
expelled when he announced he was willing
to ally with the dread RN but who closed down
party headquarters in protest and got the
decision overturned by a court. The
diminished Socialist Party which obtained
only 1.5% at the last Presidential election
actually scored a creditable 14% in the
European Parliament election and will fight as
part of the leftwing alliance. Its lost former
leader Francois Hollande is running for it.
Reconquest, whose lead European Parliament
candidate was Le Pen’s young and charismatic
niece, is on 4%.
Six yers ago I wrote that Macron had shown
more leadership than the entire rest of the
Western world since his election: “He claims
to have found a political path between left
and right, has made clear in the most elegant
ways his disdain for Trump and has bowed to
nobody, least of all Vladimir Putin, in sharing
truths about international political thuggery.
Two years ago I noted that his policies
worked better in practice than in theory and
that he had history more than ideology on his
side: Village is no champion of liberal
centrism. There seems no reason to change
any of these views. Macron may have policy
successes but he will have failed, over a
decade, to staunch France’s rightward
In the past one would have given the benefit
of the doubt to Macron’s serial political
gambles and assumed that, while the RN
might form the next government, the French
people would recoil from their excesses. The
system will probably engineer the thwarting
by the President, and striking down by courts,
of some of the RN’s rasher legislation as
unconstitutional. Macron, the Jupiterian
strategist, the always-thoughtful disciple of
the philosopher, Paul Ricoeur. would then be
positioned to manipulate his succession as
President by the young and charismatic
Gabriel Attal, in 2027.
Sadly it seems more likely he will lose his
bet and the co-cockpit of the EU will fall to the
most rights-unfriendly, anti-immigrant and
right-wing government in the EU. As to the
Presidency, there are reasons to be
pessimistic. A much better hope now seems
to be the new Left/Green Alliance.
According to the Economist magazine,
which considers her more dangerous than
Italys Giorgia Meloni: “Ms Le Pen has tried to
rebrand herself as a mainstream figure, but
don’t be fooled. She is a firebrand with a long
history of xenophobia and sucking up to
Russia. She wants to create a mega-group of
nationalists that could yank Europe hard to
the right.
On 15 June half a million people protested
in France, the most unhappy country, against
the prospect of the far right coming to power.
More are needed.
Do not be deceived


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