It was a resounding slap in the face for the otherwise self-confident Minister of the Interior Darmanin. So violently that he immediately proposed his resignation to President Emmanuel Macron on Monday. He rejected the request, quite simply because it was he who had taken the initiative for a new, much stricter immigration law. And in this respect, it is also a clear defeat for the president himself: what should have been a liberating blow for his policies turned out to be a boomerang.
Sequentially. Macron has been announcing for weeks a major initiative for a new immigration law that should return the president to the role of key policy designer. On this basis and with this mandate, the Darmanin bill was developed.
Macron’s political credo says “at the same time”“ (“simultaneously”) should be reinstated. Social balance must be achieved through a balanced combination of repressive and liberal measures.
But the climate in which the debate is taking place is extremely tense. A clear majority of French people expect and demand a stricter immigration policy after the attacks of recent weeks. The assassination of a teacher in Arras in mid-October for Islamist reasons and the attack on the Eiffel Tower in early December are considered the latest examples in a long series and are shifting the discourse increasingly towards RIGHT.
As in Germany, the key words dominate the debate: more and faster expulsions, less support for refugees. In fact, much of it is nonsense. There are clear rules on expulsion that are also binding under international law, not to mention that France has taken in only a fraction of the number of refugees that Germany has. And state aid in France is almost zero anyway.
Medical care has become the focal point of the conflict. The left and all humanitarian organizations consider it as a human right, the right, in unison from bourgeois republicans to right-wing extremists around Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemour, describes it as a “pull factor » which should be abolished.
Crash test with announcement
The crash test of the Darmanin law was announced on Monday, because the Greens had long announced their proposal to reject the consultation and the NUPES parliamentary group, which otherwise barely exists, had promised its support.
It was also clear that Le Pen’s supporters would support anything that could result in the defeat of Macron and his cabinet. And Interior Minister Darmanin, originally from this party, must also have known that the conservative Republicans said goodbye to something like “responsibility for the fate of the country”.
The absurd interaction of left and right came together to create a predictable fiasco for the government. A shame. We have rarely seen Marine Le Pen smile as mischievously as when she left the National Assembly. Monday evening. She welcomes the rejection of the Minister of the Interior and for having “protected French territory (which only imperfectly translates into a national territory, but also a way of life)”.
Le Pen triumphs
She rightly views the entire process as her victory, on every level. He managed to simultaneously defeat the government, make the left appear completely irrelevant or even unimportant, and lead civil rights by the nose. Their boss, Eric Ciotti, has now so aligned his conservative, formerly bourgeois, Republicans with the theses of the RN that it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish between conservatives and right-wing radicals.
Voters are only rewarding Marine Le Pen. This drift produces devastating results for the Republican right in all elections. This is also the central problem of Emmanuel Macron, who does not have a reliable ally for the rest of his mandate.
He does not want to look left (more) and right, in chaos and submission to the reign of Ciotti’s ultra-right. The question arises as to how Macron plans to continue to govern without his own majority. There is no sign of the powerful innovator he once was.
France is designed for polarization, between two opposing camps, where the electoral system gives the strongest a majority that allows them to govern. Compromises, coalitions and exchanges are neither planned nor common.
On the contrary, we sometimes look with envy at the German aspiration for compromise, but most of the time we look with pity, and not only when the traffic lights struggle to find a compromise.
In exchange, Macron can theoretically continue to govern in the presidential system without a majority in Parliament thanks to emergency regulations and paragraph 49.3. But of course he knows how undemocratic that is and what devastating consequences it would have. Marine Le Pen would almost certainly win not only the European elections next June, but also the presidential elections of 2027. This would then be Macron’s ultimate defeat.
Or, he finally launches into the fight for public opinion, as the daily newspaper “Le Monde” advises him these days. After all, he says, he is not penniless because the French ultimately do not appreciate games and political maneuvering. And unlike his pension reform, the law on immigration benefits, according to all the polls, from a clear majority in the population: “It is the only asset that remains in his hands,” writes the newspaper.
But it is also essential for the fight that Macron finally begins to take citizens seriously and explain his policies to them. Communication is the magic word. And it’s more than just a speech on prime time television.