France: Erosion of the Republican consensus and calls for a coup de etat before the coming Presidential elections
Their last battle will serve to defend “Western civilization” in France. Twenty retired generals have made a high-profile appeal that denounced the “laxity” of those in charge of politics in the face of the threat posed by Islamism and, literally, “the hordes in the banlieue”. “France is in danger. We remain soldiers and cannot ignore what is happening to our beautiful country, ”they write. The appeal was signed by more than 100 officers and 1,000 other military personnel. He belatedly upset the French defense minister. „That’s a slap in the face for thousands of soldiers,“ Florence Parly told France Info radio station. She resisted the impression that the signatories reflected the mood in the army. She apparently reacted so nervously because the appeal published last week in the right-wing national magazine “Valeurs actuelles” after the recent Islamist terrorist attack on a policewoman in Rambouillet received a wide response. President Macron wants to attend the funeral of the killed officer on Thursday. On Monday, police officers across the country paid their last respects to the terrorist victim by observing a minute’s silence. Hundreds of uniformed law enforcement officers attended an act of mourning in Rambouillet.
Since 2015, soldiers have been deployed on the home front in anti-terrorism missions in France, supporting the police and monitoring train stations, airports, churches, synagogues and other Jewish facilities. That is why many members of the army who were deployed for Operation Sentinelle (“sentry posts”) now have an unadorned picture of the threat in their own country. The defense minister announced “tough sanctions” for the signatories who violated their duty of political restraint. She wants to check whether there are any active soldiers among them. “These retired generals are calling for a coup d’état, or at least fanning a climate of division,” she said indignantly. „What shocked me most is that Marine Le Pen asked them to support her,“ Parly said indignantly. Industry Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher scoffed at „a handful of generals in slippers“ who had called for an uprising. The call was initiated by officer a. D. Jean-Pierre Fabre-Bernadac and appeared on the 60th anniversary of the coup attempt by French generals against Charles de Gaulle’s Algeria policy on April 21, 1961. Fabre-Bernadac runs the “Place d’Armes” website. and has long had sympathy for the Front National. According to press reports, he is said to have belonged to the party’s security service. He evidently managed to win over a considerable number of officers and generals for his theses on the threat of uncontrolled immigration and the Islamization of France.
In the appeal, the signatories take a clear stand for the “yellow vests” demonstrators, who “only expressed their hopelessness”. „Those in power have sent the law enforcement officers as scapegoats before the French,“ it says. “Brotherhood has given way to hatred,” they complain. “Who would have predicted ten years ago that a teacher would one day be beheaded in front of his school,” they write. Should the politically responsible continue to hesitate, then there is a threat of “growing chaos” and ultimately a “civil war” with “thousands of dead”.
The call comes shortly after the right-wing politician Philippe de Villiers published a pamphlet with the title “The day after, signal for the overthrow”. For a long time, Villiers was one of the politicians who advised President Macron. In his book he turns away, disappointed, from Macron, who surrendered to mass immigration and wanted to “deconstruct” French history. Villiers ’brother Pierre, who served as Chief of Staff until July 17, 2017, is the secret favorite of those dreaming of an authoritarian restoration in France. Pierre de Villiers did not sign the appeal. Marine Le Pen, on the other hand, tries to make political capital out of the generals‘ appeal. She sent a “reply” to the magazine “Valeurs actuelles”, calling on the signatories to join her in the presidential election campaign. „It is a battle for France,“ she said.
However, the so called “Republican consensus” among the French left and conservatives is also eroding and can´t be taken for granted anymore. One of the birth defects of the Fifth Republic, which emerged in 1958, is the majority voting system with single-constituencies that is still in force today. It disadvantages small parties in the name of a „republican front“ based on anti-fascism, which has long since become a political phantom and which is or should be formed by conservatives (Gaullists), liberals, the presidential party La République En Marche (LREM) and socialists. In relation to the current parties, Les Républicains (LR) and the Parti Socialiste (PS) are the poles of that spectrum. After 1945, this front nullified the democratically legitimized ambitions of the Communist Party (PCF), and for over 30 years the claims of the moderate right, such as the radical Ultras of the Rassemblement National (RN) of Marine Le Pen, to parliamentary representation through the right to vote have become a hopeless undertaking. Thanks to this electoral system, President Macron got 29 percent of the votes for his LREM together with the allied Mouvement démocrate (MoDem) in June 2017, 75 percent of the parliamentary seats, while Le Pen’s party with 13.2 in the first and 8.8 percent in the second Ballot only won eight seats. “Democracy works differently,” they say outside of France. This may also have prompted Marcon to make his election promise to introduce “a dose of proportional representation” for future votes.
At the end of March, however, he and his parliamentary allies – the Agir group and the Mouvement démocrate – announced that they would not fulfill this promise. Accordingly, the electoral law will no longer be reformed in the current legislative period and before the presidential election next year. This is not entirely surprising. Macron and his style of government stand for a lot, but not for more democracy. On the other hand, he often conjures up more „verticalité“, a ruling from above that was just as effective against the movement of the yellow vests as it has been against the corona pandemic for 14 months. Macron’s rejection of an electoral reform seems like an attempt to secure the next election victory for 2022. The president hopes that La République En Marche will retain its parliamentary majority under these conditions. Should there be another runoff election against Marine Le Pen, the power of the phantom of the republican front will be trusted. But Macron could miscalculate exactly.
The informal alliance to protect the republic is anything but stable, for at least three reasons. First of all, politicians on the right wing of the conservatives are flirting with the Rassemblement National, and not just at the local level. However, many conservative Macron voters like the imagined republican front would have to jump off and go over to Le Pen. Second, the conservative Republicans‘ contribution to Macron’s re-election, which is classified as safe, is by no means guaranteed. Weeks ago, Xavier Bertrand, ex-minister and president of the Hauts-de-France regional council, publicly announced his ambitions to run himself. Ex-Prime Minister Édouard Philippe also went public with his book Impressions and Clear Lines. In it the author reminds President Macron of General de Gaulle and his business basis for the constitution of 1958, according to which presiding and governing are two different things. In Philippe’s book it is spelled out like this: “The Fifth Republic is a dual power with two heads, the President and the Prime Minister, who ultimately cannot do anything without the other. You have to communicate. ”That failed thoroughly between Macron and Philippe, whereupon the latter offered to resign after losing the local elections in June 2020 and left.
One can confidently interpret Philippe’s book as an indication that the conservative Republicans want to renounce the Republican front. The rumor that he will not run against Macron in 2022 was rejected by Philippe with a sentence that leaves pretty much everything open: „I am not sure that I have said that publicly.“ Unlike other Macron ministers, Philippe was never that He had joined the presidential party LREM, but instead emphasized: “I am a free person.” Not a provincial politician, as the recognized mayor of Le Havre he enjoys a reputation and popularity across party lines that the current head of state can only dream of. Like no president before him, Macron has literally run down his office and gambled away credibility. If there were a common, politically convincing candidate from all left parties, his election chances would decrease significantly in 2022. Just think of the remarkable 19.6 percent for Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of the left-wing party La France Insoumise (FI / Unyielding France), in the first round of the presidential vote in 2017. At that time, that was almost enough to make it into the runoff election.
Unfortunately, the third reason for the imponderability of the coming election year arises from the desperate state of the left, which has clearly weakened the left wing of the republican front. Among the socialists – more precisely: the pathetic remnants of the once proud party of Jean Jaurès, Gaston Defferre and François Mitterrand – there is a grotesque confusion that can pose a threat to Macron if he is re-elected. Half a dozen local or regional politicians from the Parti Socialiste (PS), which now has less than 100,000 members, are trying to distinguish themselves as presidential candidates. The diffuse and discouraging situation could cause many left voters to drift towards abstinence from voting and thus indirectly harm Macron. Some left-wing aspirants may also win Macron’s votes in the left-wing liberal-urban electorate. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, for example, who left the “old house”, as he called it, the republican front in 2008. He will by no means encourage his supporters to vote again for Macron as the “lesser evil” in the second round of the presidential vote of 2022 – whether or not Marine Le Pen will run against him in the runoff election. This could significantly reduce the incumbent’s chances. And the republican front would once again prove to be what it really is – a fiction with the only realistic aim of obstructing small parties and keeping them beyond the National Assembly.
The longed-for recovery seemed to be in sight at the end of 2019. Suddenly the French economy grew faster than the German. The Banque de France forecast an increase of 1.3 percent for 2020 and 1.4 in the two following years. In the rating of the consulting company A. T. Kearney, France reappeared in the group of the five most attractive economies worldwide for the first time. The trend towards declining industrial production appeared to be broken. And then the pandemic came and threatened what had just given hope for better times. At the end of 2020, the gross domestic product (GDP) had fallen by eight percent, not quite as much as initially feared. However, the national debt grew to the unprecedented level of 116.4 percent of GDP, another increase compared to the 114.0 percent for the first half of 2020, which were already rated as dramatic. In the mid-1990s, this benchmark was still 56 percent. Such a triumphant election as the neo-Gaulist Jacques Chirac won on May 5, 2002 with over 80 percent of the vote in the runoff election against the right-wing radical Jean-Marie Le Pen, will not be repeated. Left-wing voters in the Republican camp in particular feel they are being instrumentalized by Macron. Their help in his election as President in 2017 did not pay off for her in any way. On the contrary: At the local and regional level, conservatives turned to Le Pen and disavowed the supposed unity of the democrats against the right. For this experience it seems of secondary importance that Marine Le Pen’s right-wing nationalists have stagnated for years, persist at around 25 percent and have no real prospects of finding an ally, at least not at the national level.
It is possible that Macron will not be reelected, but that the second round of the Presidential election will be decided by a conservative candidate like Phillipe or if the Republican front is really eroding and yellow vests and parts of the security apparatus vote for Marine Le Pen. However you have a polarization away from the traditional democratic. consensus of the Republican consensus
In the worst case Marine Le Pen could become new French President, establishing an authotarian dictatorship, leaving the Euro and NATO and possible helding a referendum about a Frexit which might be not that successful as the Brexit supporters were in Great Britain. However it would change the geopolitical situation, especially in Europe. France as Great Britain as only European UN Security Council members, nuclear powers is also with the German-France axis the engine of the EU. Germany and the rest of the EU would have a French Trump at its own borders and Le Pen might ally with Putin-Russia and form an Eurasian axis against the liberal democratic West. Maybe also with China. This could lead to the break up of the Euro, a financial and economic crisis and might even dissovle the EU in its existing form.
The journalist of the German weekly newspaper Zeit Michael Thumann already declared in a Global Review interview in 2017:
“If Le Pen wins, Putin will win an historic victory over the EU in a completely unmilitary way. If Emmanuel Macron wins, stays Merkel or takes over Schulz himself, then he knows that this annoying EU will continue as before. I can’t predict what he’ll do then. It is astonishing that Russia does not see the alienation of Europe from Trump’s America as an opportunity and approaches the EU. Apparently, Le Pen’s magic is being used so much that he is missing the historic opportunity to ensnare the EU in a time of transatlantic turmoil.”
It remains to be seen if Le Pen receives Russian help like before when a Russian oligarch close to Putin gave the Front National a 40 million Euro credit.