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The last fires of the Fifth Republic?

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Alexandre Malafaye

This French election might spell the end of the current republic, argues Alexandre Malafaye

The sickness runs deep and has been festering for some time. In 2012, we established Synopia and advocated for the right of the French people to be well-governed, as detailed in our manifesto entitled „Let’s Take Back Power.“ Regardless of the quality of political projects and proposals, the art and manner of governance and its implementation are equally essential. As Napoleon once said, „War is a simple art, all in the execution.“

After five years of observing French political life, it became clear that simply winning elections would not be enough to restore the faded fundamental legitimacy of the Presidency. This legitimacy is crucial for inspiring the trust of the electorate, sharing a vision with the French people, giving meaning to political action, and leading the country towards sorely needed renewal. In our magazine, we emphasized the need to revitalize democracy, a stance that isolated us at the time. I recall a prominent figure from a major left-wing political foundation telling me that „a concern does not constitute a vision.“

By December 2021, our country was on an increasingly worrying trajectory, with growing societal divisions and multiplying political fractures. It was evident that the process of obtaining the consent of the French people for political action was too often neglected. There was an urgent need to reestablish and rebuild the republican social contract based on its foundational values of liberty, equality, fraternity, and secularism, in order to restore the desire and confidence of the French people and open a new chapter of social and economic progress.

Under Macron, the executive adopted the idea of a “National Reconstruction Council,” but while the „R“ was changed to „Refoundation,“ the rest of the concept was stripped of its substance. The outcome of that is evident today with the results of the European elections on June 9, 2024. This represents a collective failure of governance, built over successive administrations, through denial, and reckless advances.

However, the recent electoral cycle had one notable benefit: for the past two months, we have witnessed an actual, genuine election campaign. This is a stark contrast to the 2022 presidential election when the incumbent president Emmanuel Macron chose to enter the race at the last minute, avoiding any debates with his opponents before the first election round. This time, the campaign will continue through the legislative elections on June 30th and July 7th.

If promises are not fulfilled, the next “R” may not stand for Refoundation or Reconstruction but for Revolution.

And, unless something unexpected happens, the wave of political upheaval we currently see will persist, highlighting the deep crisis of trust in our leaders. These leaders are bearing the brunt of the responsibility for various issues: the “Yellow Vest” protests, the contentious pension reform (which we’ve just learned will fall back into deficit faster than anticipated), the impact of the conflict in Ukraine on commodity prices, numerous restrictive and often contradictory regulations, broken promises, the frustration of farmers, and the neglect of essential workers. The disenfranchised will not hesitate to express their dissatisfaction at the polls.

Ultimately, the French people expect their leaders to listen, respect, protect, and guide them. Many can no longer tolerate the gap between political rhetoric and reality, whether directly experienced or perceived. They also expect a certain sobriety in the exercise of power.

This is a paradox because, in comparison to the rest of the world, France’s situation is improving, particularly in economic terms such as employment statistics and investment flows, and not just a façade. Yes, the national debt is immense, but realistically, who is thinking about repaying it? The real problem here lies in the interest on this debt, a looming financial crisis for the future.

Money spent, but nothing to show for it

Despite the vast amounts of money poured into the day-to-day functioning of the state as well as social budgets, inequalities keep widening, and more and more people are struggling to make ends meet. A statement by the Minister of Economics and Finance Bruno Le Maire that „we have defeated inflation does not put food on the table. A statement by the Minister of Economics and Finance Bruno Le Maire that „we have defeated inflation” does not put food on the table.

Furthermore, in the face of these multifaceted challenges, the rise of dangerous ideologies that go against our society’s core values has left many feeling alienated and deeply concerned about politics. This is especially true when witnessing the resurgence of anti-Semitism due to the situation in Gaza, toxic debates in the National Assembly, the rise of extreme “woke” ideologies, and Islamist-leftist sentiment. Add to this the widespread decline in public security and the accompanying fears in both urban and rural areas.

Over the years, anger has been simmering, and no one has wanted to address it

No one can predict the outcome of Sunday’s legislative elections, but it is likely that our political landscape will solidify into three main factions: a small centrist group (the current presidential camp) and two opposing sides—on one side, the right-wing party Rassemblement National, and on the other, a fragmented left-wing coalition. Whether any winner of the election will be able to govern effectively is uncertain. It is likely that no clear majority will emerge, making coalition building even more challenging.

Whatever the outcome, immense pressure will be on the next leaders. They will need to match their actions to their words and meet the high expectations of the public. Effective governance will be key. They will likely need to abandon self-centered rhetoric and stop making empty promises. This will be a daunting task, as state resources are depleted and the challenges are numerous.

Ultimately, if the results don’t meet expectations, if promises are not fulfilled, the next “R” may not stand for “Refoundation” or “Reconstruction” but for “Revolution”, leading to a potentially violent change to the status quo. Some are already calling for one.




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