France’s second prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, defied the experts and survived the summer holidays.
Now comes the difficult part for their minority government, where big and ambitious plans for change have to be negotiated on a case-by-case basis with a tough opposition in parliament.
The 61-year-old technocrat, who is most associated with advising socialist politicians, now sees her fate in the hands of the remaining right-wing Gaullist party, Les Republicains (LR), which has just 61 MPs in France’s parliament.
After a very disappointing presidential election in April, LR is now considering a long-term rebuild ahead of the 2027 presidential election and has therefore spurned any offers of a power-sharing deal with Borne.
A hot seven weeks have passed since she learned that her leader’s party, President Emmanuel Macron, had lost its previously large parliamentary majority in last month’s general election. This contrasted with a comfortable presidential re-election victory on April 24, and reinforced arguments that the victory was largely due to the rejection of Marine Le Pen of the far-right Rassemblement National (RN).
Even on a good day, the post of French prime minister is precarious, as he serves the much more powerful president at whim. Given the precarious position of her party and government, few assessed Borne’s chances of survival, and there has been much talk of her not being mentioned at all in the president’s grim response to the general election debacle. Predictions of an imminent exit abounded.
Last week the editorial clerk was in the right wing Le figaro The newspaper acknowledged that they were wrong in their predictions. But the author also noted that Borne had weathered the easy part as a €20 billion inflation support package made its way through Parliament.
Things would look different if government ATMs stopped giving out free money, Le figaro‘s leader remarked sharply. Despite the author’s lack of grace, there is a serious point here.
The French prime minister only survived an early vote of confidence against her earlier this month thanks to a tactical abstention decision by the two right-wing parties. Plunging the inflation support package through was no picnic, however, as the far left – led by surprise presidential election package Jean-Luc Melenchon – was highly critical, and it ended late last week after two raucous nights of parliamentary sessions.
In this case, France has done what it often does best, by throwing a huge amount of money at the problem. As the country faces soaring energy prices, inflation hitting 5.8 percent and warnings of social unrest, the €20 billion package of emergency solutions aims to ease economic pains.
These measures include extending existing gas and electricity price caps and raising pensions and social benefits.
With the end of the political holidays, the real challenges begin. The French Parliament will not return until October 3 to emulate Ireland’s old political ways. However, all political parties will get back to work in the last week of August with what they boastfully call their “universities” – the equivalent of pre-Dáil thinking.
September is billed as a time of arbitration between the parties, with Borne attempting to find an agreement on smoother parliamentary work. That’s a lot easier said than done, but she deserves credit for trying.
Tackling climate change and modernizing and improving France’s health and education sectors are on President Macron’s extensive fall political shopping list. He still sticks to the goal of a controversial pension reform, which should raise the retirement age from the current 62 to up to 65 years.
Making progress on any or all of these items requires tenacity, guile, luck, and the purchase of the help of other parties. But Elizabeth Borne can recover from her previous survival.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/flashing-the-cash-has-bought-frances-borne-enigma-a-brief-respite-41878150.html Flashing the money has given France’s Borne Enigma a brief respite