Pro-Macron majority in crisis as close centrist ally walks

The pro-government majority in the French National Assembly was thrown into uncertainty late on Wednesday (7 February) as a key centrist ally to French President Emmanuel Macron slammed the door to future cooperation.

François Bayrou, French political heavyweight and president of the centrist Mouvement démocrate (MoDem) party, had sided with Macron since he first entered office in 2017.

The MoDem party plays a crucial role in the National Assembly, where they are in a tight partnership with pro-government lawmakers, giving Macron’s Renaissance the absolute majority needed in his first term in office (2017-2022) to legislate without conceding to opposition parties.

MoDem stuck to Renaissance’s side in 2022 as part of the ‘Ensemble’ coalition alongside five other small centrist and centre-right parliamentary groups. The coalition holds 249 seats in the National Assembly, 52 of whom are MoDem – and just 40 short of an absolute majority.

But the arrangement may be on the brink of collapse after Bayrou stormed out of government reshuffle negotiations late on Wednesday – and MoDem MPs seem split on whether to follow suit.

In a surprise declaration to the French news agency AFP, Bayrou said he had broken ranks with Renaissance, blaming “absence of profound agreement on the political line”, deploring “a right-wing turn,” and slamming the “gap” that has widened “between Paris and the rest of the country”.

This sudden move is due to Prime Minister Gabriel Attal’s refusal to bow to Bayrou’s demands that he gets the education portfolio – offering defence instead, which the centrist declined.

A government reshuffle earlier this year saw the appointment of Attal as France’s youngest-ever prime minister. While senior ministers have been confirmed, the junior minister’s list has been in the making for a month as Attal looks to find the right balance between Ensemble members.

Bayrou, who until Monday (5 February) was under indictment by the French judiciary for embezzling EU funds to finance party activities, was initially ruled out of taking on any ministerial post.

But the situation changed after he was found not guilty, leading to several media appearances where he made it clear he was willing to join the executive, ideally the education portfolio.

The current Education Minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, is currently under fire for lying about putting her children in a private Catholic school and is expected to be shown the door.

However, Attal pushed back against Bayrou. The two have not seen eye-to-eye lately, with Bayrou prominently against the prime minister’s nomination, citing age and lack of experience.

What now?

It remains unclear whether MoDem MPs will follow suit: Bayrou said they will continue to work with the government despite evident political divergences.

While most MoDem MPs have remained fairly quiet, Jean-Louis Bourlanges, MoDem MP and former EU lawmaker, said in a statement that Bayrou’s move is “politically inept and morally degrading”.

He blamed Bayrou’s “incoherence” over whether or not to cut ties with Macron’s lawmakers while blaming him for having stormed out without prior internal party negotiations.

It also makes it harder for Attal to fine-tune the junior ministers’ list and include MoDem ministers, walking a fine line between asserting his authority while preventing the rift from getting any worse.

https://www.euractiv.com/section/politics/news/frances-new-cabinet-turns-right-renews-sejourne-is-fm-political-heavyweights-stay-put/Meanwhile, opposition groups from the left and right have taken aim at the time it’s taking the executive to finalise the reshuffle, and the muddy internal waters the pro-government coalition seems to be facing.

“We’re suffering through a month of theatrics over this reshuffle. Meanwhile, [French island] Mayotte is on the verge of insurrection, and we’re facing an unprecedented housing crisis. That’s the country’s lived reality,” conservative whip Olivier Marleix told broadcaster Franceinfo.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

Source: Euractiv.com

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