January 29, 2018
Where is the opposition in France?
The traditional parties are still in recovery mode and, after this weekend, the French media is wondering whether there will ever be a functional opposition to Emmanuel Macron. Those two political parties, still licking their wounds from the haemorrhage last year, are not yet fit to stand up against Macron and his government.
At the Les Républicains party congress on Saturday Valérie Pécresse appeared insisting that there are two rights not one, an announcement booed by the members. Her request for her movement Libres! to be associated with the party was confirmed, but only just and depending on a goodwill gesture by party leader Laurent Wauquiez, who asked the members to hear her out. Is she now Wauquiez' primary adversary inside the party? Will her role be to represent its moderate wing? Or was it a well-staged performance that could serve Wauquiez in the end? We will see.
The Socialists avoided this kind of leadership challenge for now, and instead they are in the phase of choosing their candidates before electing a leader in two months' time. Some heavyweights put their name in the hat, others steered far away from the contest, and at least four new faces are in the game too. It is not hard to imagine a leadership contest with many different visions of what the PS should do now.
So, Macron is still the one to dominate the French political debate. Will his omnipresence pay off? The first test with the voters were the two by-elections yesterday, in the two regions of Belfort and Val-d’Oise. Elections had to be repeated there after the June results were invalidated. The first round confirmed the victory of both of the candidates who won last time, one from Les Républicains and the other from La République en Marche. However, the candidate from Macron's party did less well than before, ahead only by 5pp points rather than 18pp as in June, Le Parisien reports.
The Front National lost 5pp and 10pp compared with the June results, exiting the races with 10% and 7.5% of the votes. The party that once was feared to win the presidential elections has seen its support eroded after the departure of Florian Philippot, the former deputy of Marine Le Pen, who is now running running with his own party Patriotes which received 1% and 2% in these two by-elections according to LeLab.