National holiday in France: the president is under pressure

Status: 07/14/2023 10:22 PM

On July 14, French President Macron already wanted to leave the days of pension protests. But after several nights of rioting, the country entered crisis again. Political pressure is increasing.

Julia Borota

President Macron and his government could not wish for anything better. Blue sky, smooth military parade, dignified celebration. After the parade on the Champs-Elysees, Defense Minister Sebastien Licorne invoked the country’s hard-hit unity. “Today, in front of these shocking images from France that have shocked the entire nation and part of the world, we have put together the true image of France,” Licorne said.

The army is the place where social divisions can be overcome. “You only need to look at the young soldiers who deserted here today to understand where these young men are coming from. Social progress works in the military. This is about meritocracy, about appreciation for each individual’s commitment. Thus, the armed forces are part of the solution, not the problem.”

Macron gives up his rhetoric

But how to resolve the social conflict with suburban youth who simply don’t have a sense of belonging or respect is an open question. The President decided not to give a speech today. Political scientist Chloe Morin finds it understandable in a radio interview with France Info: “A presidential address like that is usually supposed to end a period. But we all know there could be new riots tonight. If that’s the case, we’ll only be talking about riots tomorrow.” So his speech will be erased.”

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So it is better to wait. Macron wants to comment in the coming days. What will he say in which direction will he go? Will he drift more toward the right to answer the calls for “law and order”? Will he invest more in the suburbs, as the left demands? Or will he end up doing both at the same time – “en même temps” – according to the formula that has been Macron’s trademark since the start of his first term in office.

Macron swap prime minister out of place?

It has been rumored for a long time that the president wants to replace his cabinet team and, above all, Prime Minister Elizabeth Borne. Political scientist Maureen doesn’t think that’s likely. “According to opinion polls, 65 percent of the French want Prime Minister Bourne to go. I interpret that to mean that 65 percent want Macron to have a different policy. Replacing Bourne will only make sense if he makes a political change.”

And it doesn’t seem like that. But Macron has to think of something. Because the tectonic plates of French politics continue to drift to the right. Conservative Republicans are pressing the president with new, tougher demands against criminals from immigrant families, nearly eclipsing the far-right National Assembly in the process.

New riots must be prevented

In the meantime, his visionary Marine Le Pen can sit back and relax, explains Matthew Gallard of opinion research institute IPSOS. “Marine Le Pen has remained relatively secretive. She has let others on the right – like Republicans – do the talking because she knows she is seen as having the most say on security and immigration issues.” Historically, the NCA has always benefited when everyone talks about immigration—the NCA itself doesn’t have to say anything anymore, Gallard says.

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130,000 police officers are on duty this weekend to prevent new riots. But no matter how the coming night turns out: France has lost its feathers and must find answers to the question of what liberty, equality and fraternity still mean today. Wonderful parade or not.

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