Macron's state of denial

23 June 2022

5:36 AM

23 June 2022

5:36 AM

Crisis? What crisis?

Emmanuel Macron emerged from his bunker tonight to speak to France for the first time since his party’s humiliation in Sunday’s legislative elections. In an eight minute television address – the briefest I can recall from the usually loquacious president – he had absolutely nothing substantive to say.

There was not an ounce of contrition. Indeed he claimed that his portmanteau party Renaissance, née La République En Marche, had actually won the election by remaining the largest group in the Assembly. This is despite losing 150 of his deputies and his presidential majority. But there were plenty of bromides and temporisation. He said the situation would be clarified in coming days:

‘We must compromise…we must govern differently,’ he declared. ‘I hear and am determined to take charge of the desire for change that the country has clearly expressed because it is my role as the guarantor of our institutions.’

But there was nothing concrete. It’s impossible to conclude anything other than that he is in a state of denial. Reaction to his speech was contemptuous. This evening, he was being torn apart by his political opponents and even his normally tame media allies.

Various speculations as to what he might do were dashed. He rejected a national government, he didn’t sack his hapless prime minister Élisabeth Borne, who has no authority or credibility, as expected. That still remains inevitable.

On Thursday, Macron will flee the country for a series of international commitments, including the European Council in Brussels. He has only days left as its president. In his six months in post, which he began with huge ambitions, he has achieved nothing. His beloved EU remains hopelessly divided.

Next he will attend the G7 and Nato summits, which are equally unlikely to achieve anything more than photo opportunities.

Wittingly or not, he is giving off a strong signal that he remains more interested in preening on the international stage while French voters are left with a dysfunctional government incapable of addressing the cost of living crisis, social disorder and galloping inflation.

Throughout Wednesday, Macron spent the day receiving, among others, Marine Le Pen of the Rassemblement National, the national secretary of the Greens, the socialists, centrist Républicains, François Bayrou of the centrist Modem movement and the hard-left movement of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who sent a subordinate. Nothing of substance appears to have been achieved.

Macron’s best hope is that the opposition in parliament proceeds to tear itself apart. The cracks are already appearing. Macron’s own party was simultaneously roiled today by allegations of sexual assault after recently appointed Secretary of State for Development, Francophonie and International Partnerships Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, a former gynaecologist, was accused of two counts of rape.

Anyone imagining that Macron would pull a rabbit from his hat will have been disabused. Tonight, France remains in political crisis and the president has so far offered nothing. The Republic is in danger and so is the political credibility of its president.

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