John Lichfield is the former foreign editor of the Independent and its correspondent in Paris for 20 years.
CALVADOS, France – Beneath the surface of the French presidential election, even harsher, a fierce battle is underway that will determine French politics for the next decade or more.
The most obvious symbol of this struggle to redraw the contours of national politics is Marion Maréchal, niece of Marine Le Pen.
Like some of the soccer stars she has transfer from her aunt’s far-right version to what she believes is a rising force around the xenophobic politician, Eric Zemmour.
However, Maréchal, ambitious and eloquent, would not be content to remain at number 2 in such a movement. She – significantly – has refused to join Zemmour’s new and possibly ephemeral party, Reconquête (The Hunt).
She is, in any case, just part of what French sports journalists call le merato – or transfer season – that’s playing out across the French political landscape right now.
President Emmanuel Macron seems certain of victory next month. The war in Ukraine rallied moderate voters to support him; His three main opponents are heavily armed with Vladimir Putin sympathizers.
Either way, the Macron side is busy consolidating its position with a series of transfers or arrests from both the centre-left and centre-left.
Senior “opposition” politicians declaring their support for Macron including the former centre-right Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin; Eric Woerth, a minister under conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy; and Renaud Muselier, the center-right president of the Avignon-Marseille-Nice region in southeastern France. From the left, Macron’s camp has been captured François Rebsamenmayor of Dijon, and Marisol Touraine, a minister of social and health reform under President François Hollande.
These and earlier transfers represent something more radical than conventional opportunism or turning away. They are the visible shocks of a profound reshaping of French politics – a process that began with Macron’s election in 2017 and will heavily influence the outcome of the general election. system in 2027.
The old ruling “families”, based on the Socialist Party in the center left and Les Républicains in the center right, are dysfunctional or almost nonexistent. The structures or patterns that seek to replace them are still poorly defined.
In a broad sense, however, France, like ancient Gaul under Julius Caesar, is divided into three parts. A new political trio is emerging: the Nationalists; the left is divided; and the Compensation Center.
Let’s get the National Rights first.
If it seems likely that centre-right candidate Valérie Pécresse does not make it to the second round of the election, then her party, Les Républicains, can also explode. One will turn towards the center of Macron and part towards the nationalist, anti-migrant, anti-Muslim and anti-European right-wing.
Another defeat for Le Pen would also hasten the decline of the far-right party and her family business, the National Rally (RN). Several RN leaders have dropped out of the party for Zemmour in recent weeks – although Le Pen mostly leads her far-right opponent in the polls.
The people recruited into “Zemmourism,” as they might appear, were not rats that joined a sinking ship, but ferrets who determined where their best career opportunities lie. .
I believe this also explains Maréchal’s strategy. She doesn’t consider herself a permanent lieutenant of Zemmourism. After betraying her aunt to join Zemmour, she will maneuver with him – or against him – in the years to come. She hoped to become the leader of a new, large, anti-European nationalist movement, including Zemmour’s new party, several of her aunt’s parties, and the hardline wing of Les Républicains.
Zemmour was permanently damaged by his cult of Putin. (He said in 2018 that he dreams a “Putin of France.”) Thus, Maréchal could succeed in replacing him – although she herself is also a fan of Putin partner for several years.
Next to the “new tribe” is the pro-European, socially liberal, progressive and pro-market Consensus Center. The bloc has a complex electoral geology that includes Macron and his party and its centrist allies, part of Les Républicains’ pro-European, pro-social and pro-social centre.
Some later turned to the new pro-Macron centre-right party, Horizons, founded by former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
There was a lot of jealousy and opposition in this large central tribe. Until 2027, its more or less undisputed leader is Macron. Before the next election, when Macron is unable to run for re-election, there will be much bloodshed before a new leader – possibly Philippe – emerges. It is possible that the Consent Center will not hold.
Finally, there are those who are left divided (including the Greens) who have split and re-divided themselves into those who cannot resist, now. A large portion of the old, centre-left pragmatists – the spiritual descendants of Lionel Jospin or Hollande – have emigrated to the centrist Macron camp. New departures, after Rebsamen and Touraine, can be expected.
When things settle down, no leader is likely to unify what’s left of the French – and it’s far from clear whether the French will leave would like to be united.
In terms of vote share (before the Ukraine war falsified the figures), I estimate that the three new French “tribes” split as follows: Far-right nationalism 37%; Consensual Center 36 percent; and Divide 27 percent.
The 2022 presidential election may not be voted on. The next plan could be a much closer one, with huge implications for the future not only of France but also of the European Union.
https://www.politico.eu/article/france-election-president-politics/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication A bad election in France? Not really - POLITICO