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French Elections, Round 2: What Actually Happened?
Guest post by a prominent activist on the front lines of the fight against covid tyranny in France
Prior guest posts from this author:
One of the (many, many) issues in public discourse is the ubiquitous instinct to make everything a dumbed-down binary choice. So when something happens that is not clearly or neatly adhere to any “side”, people have a tendency to simply disregard or “fix” the details that seem out of place for their interpretation.
In this vein, I have seen a number of takes on the French elections that either assumed that since Macron did unexpectedly poorly therefore the “good guys” are in ascendance, or conversely that since the “far right” Le Penne didn’t in fact even place second, therefore this is a meaningless blip with no significance to the French government’s policies going forward.
As it turns out, both of these takes are “lacking”.
French Elections, Round 2: What Actually Happened?1
As has been reported abundantly by the French and international media, Sunday's results -- with Macron's party and coalition losing its absolute majority -- were indeed momentous and have the potential to restore a balance of power between the executive and legislative branches of government. (The French courts, as I've mentioned before, are almost a lost cause when it comes to performing the duties of judicial review, and in my view there is no point in including the judiciary in the French checks and balances model anymore).
But I think caution is still called for too. There is no reason to assume that immediate reversals or changes to the worst laws of the recent past will be forthcoming or are guaranteed at any point. Just as we have seen in the US in recent congressional votes of generational-defining importance, ideological or partisan differences don't usually make much, if any, difference when the result is ordained in advance by the executive and consent is manufactured dutifully by the media.
I think it's also important to recall that while it is true that it has the last word in the lawmaking process, the lower house in France, L'Assemblée Nationale, needs only a relative majority for a bill to become law. Except for amendments to the constitution, where an absolute majority of members is required to be present, there is no minimum number of deputés that have to be in attendance for a bill to be voted on. If only 5 members happen to be in the lower chamber when a vote is held and 3 vote in favor, the proposed legislation passes.
I mention these facts not to be a killjoy but rather to draw attention to the fact that throughout the coronavirus delirium (which continues, albeit in muted fashion, in France), the French Parliament first voted, in early 2020, with an overwhelming majority and across partisan lines, to declare a state of emergency and confer dictatorial powers to the president. For the following two years, every time the parliament had an opportunity to revoke or limit those powers by, for instance, ending the state of emergency, it not only didn't do so, but actually went on to codify the worst of the totalitarian covid restrictions, for example, ushering in legalized discrimination with health passes and later, vax passes.
And while it is true that the entirety of the far-left and far-right minorities in the lower house proclaimed themselves opposed to the post-lockdown measures such as health and vax passes, when it was time to put their money where their mouths were, most did not even bother to show up to vote. On two of the most important votes held over the last year, concerning a law that would require the use of health and vax passes for access to transport and places of leisure and culture, as well as to hospitals and retirement homes, Macron's ruling party's presence was so weak in the lower house that had every member of the far-left and right oppositions actually made the trip to vote (or voted by proxy), the bills would not have passed. One wonders if the exemptions they enjoyed, as members of Parliament, from the coercive, live-ruining measures that are health and vax passes had anything to do with their being largely absent from the votes.
Either way, the fact that these totalitarian policies didn't have to become law, that they could have been torpedoed last year, even while the president's party held an absolute majority in the lower house, doesn't inspire confidence that they will be done away with now that the balance of power has shifted.
That said, the composition of the recently elected lower house will create many opportunities for the now much larger opposition parties to stop Macron in his tracks. I won't get into the numbers too much except to say that Macron's coalition party (which is made up of four centrist parties) is 44 seats shy of the absolute majority necessary to govern unfettered and, having only a relative minority, will need to wheel and deal and seriously compromise in order to get anything it puts foward passed.
At the same time, both Marine Le Pen's far-right Rassemblement National (National Rally) and Jean-Luc Mélenchon's far-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) won enough seats to significantly expand their power and influence. However, of the two, Marine Le Pen's National Rally emerged as the clear winner and most powerful single party opposition group. Jean-Luc Mélenchon's France Unbowed chose to form a coalition with three other left-leaning parties in the hopes of acquiring an absolute or relative majority, and while their Nupes coalition won the most seats after the president's own coalition, it was not enough to secure any majority positions or allow Mélenchon's France Unbowed party to surpass Marine Le Pen's National Rally in seats.
On the upside, both far right and far left, having surged in numbers, are now able to call for a motion of censure of Macron's government, which can lead to a no-confidence vote -- a measure Jean-Luc Mélenchon's France Unbowed promptly resorted to yesterday.
In the case of Marine Le Pen's far right Rassemblement National, however, having surpassed the critical threshold of 80 seats, her group can now request positions on various important committees, as well as have bills sent to the constitutional court for judicial review. This is a milestone and historic achievement for her much maligned party.
In the case of Mélenchon, as mentioned above, his France Unbowed successfully formed an all-left and left-leaning coalition, which includes the socialist, environmentalist and communist parties. While this coalition won the most seats after Macron's own coalition, it is believed to be a tenuous alliance in which the individual groups will not see eye to eye on a range of issues. The hope is, however, they will remain united on the most important ones.
The funny thing in all this is that Mélenchon, elected to the lower house in 2017, did not stand for re-election this year in his Marseille district, a seat he would have won handily. It seemed that he bet the house on his coalition pulling off a landslide victory, in which case their numerical superiority in the lower house would force the president to appoint him as Prime Minister. Sadly for Mélenchon (and us), he lost his wager and will now have to direct the operations of his party and coalition from outside the halls of the Assemblé Nationale.
The upshot of all this is that Macron is looking at a Parliament that may not pass any of his upcoming reforms into laws -- and he has a pack of the vile things he'd like to ram through. In the short term, the future will not be easy for the impatient monarch. His government is already facing a motion of censure on the 5th of July (introduced Monday by Jean Luc Melenchon's France Unbowed party), and three of his cabinet ministers who were in the running for parliamentary seats lost their bids. According to convention, their unsuccessful attempt to get elected to the lower house while working in the president's cabinet as ministers will require them to resign from their positions, leaving Macron scrambling to appoint replacements. He will have to do this while also meeting with the leaders of the opposition parties, whom he hopes to begin negotiating with, ahead of the upcoming parliamentary session.
Macron is also under great pressure from the EU in Brussels to continue the EU-wide project of neoliberal reforms. Until now, the French president has had a free hand in pushing through some of the most politically, socially and economically destructive and divisive policies ever seen in modern France, the last two years of totalitarian public health policies and the continued dismantling of France's public health service being the prime examples. Will he be able to continue? It seems the answer is: yes, but perhaps not so easily.
Macron does have one card left he can play, however; though it's a risky one: he can dissolve the Assemblée Nationale. Yes, you read that correctly. The constitution of the 5th Republic gives the French president the power to dissolve the lower house and call new elections (which have to be organized within 60 days) if he deems the parliamentary configuration to be an impediment to effective lawmaking. (Can you imagine Biden -- or better, Trump -- announcing to the house of representatives, after one-too-many government shutdowns, "That's it -- You're all fired. Everyone out of the capital! We're gonna have new elections, and we're gonna get it right this time!")
Not surprisingly, though, such an un-democratic move is not popular and the last time it was used, by Jacques Chirac in 1997, it blew up in the president's face when the new vote results were worse than the first time around and forced him to appoint a socialist (and formidable political rival) as Prime Minister. That said, the chattering classes are predicting Macron will indeed resort to this measure at some point in the future. But when?
For us, the main concern remains that of the state of emergency (under which we have been living for two and a half years), which allows Macron to act like a dictator and close businesses, confine people to their homes, impose curfews, force the population to wear facemasks, and make the restitution of these once unconditional rights (to work, to assemble, move and breath freely, etc.) contingent on the injection of experimental drugs that no one needs and only a fraction of the population actually wants.
Though many of its most oppressive measures have been (temporarily) lifted, the state of emergency is still in effect and will remain in effect until July 31 of this year. One of the biggest casualties of the president's irrational, totalitarian covid policies has been the healthcare workers, 15 thousand of whom (doctors, nurses, orderlies) as well as hundreds of gendarmes, remain suspended from their jobs, without pay, having been deprived of their right to work last September 15th because they refused to take an experimental medicine that, by the government's own admission, does not prevent transmission of a disease deemed to be a major threat to public health.
Despite the bleak situation, there may be cause for some hope. As mentioned earlier, Macron's ability to govern by decree is set to end at the end of next month, with the lapsing of the state of emergency. In order to extend it and make possible the return in the fall of vax passes, lockdowns, curfews, travel restrictions, business closures, mask mandates and all the other totalitarian horrors that serve no public health benefit in relation to upper respiratory viruses that spread like the common cold (and therefore can't be stopped from spreading), but which the leaders of Europe desperately want to retain and make permanent, Macron will need to get a new covid law passed by the parliament before the end of July.
The French president was in fact supposed to present said covid bill at a ministerial meeting today (the first step in the legislative process before the bill reaches parliamentary committees and debates), but had to cancel the meeting because of the aforementioned resignations of three of his ministers. This delay will presumably push the start of the legislative process for this bill back another week. But next week Macron will be out of France on a NATO-related trip, so perhaps it will get pushed back an additional week. When it is eventually presented to the parliament, the bill will need to be debated and put to a vote by the newly elected lower house -- and that's where the rubber should meet the road.
It will indeed be the first and most important test of the new assembly, and one which will no doubt come with an unprecedented amount of pressure and propaganda from Macron and the media. Will the opposition parties finally say no to the president dictator and all his lies and send this disgraceful piece of legislation into the garbage where it belongs? Or will the new Assemblée play ball as the last useless lot did? L'espoir fait vivre, as they say over here.
Europe is slowly transitioning into a bio-security and surveillance state. Tomorrow, the EU parliament is expected to rubber stamp the EU commission's decision to extend the use of the EU Digital Covid Pass for another year for all travel to and within Europe.
This will mean that, until the end of June 2023, in order to board a plane, train or boat into or within Europe, you will need to show either a negative PCR or antigen tests 24 hours before traveling, a certificate of proof of recovery from covid (which may be valid for 3 months), or proof of experimental injection.
The law reads like a Pfizer press release, and is just as fraudulent and circular in its reasoning. This digital covid certificate measure, we are told, is necessary to ensure the free and safe movement of Europeans within Europe, a right that is guaranteed by the European Union's various treaties and conventions...but which was illegally taken away two years ago by the European Union.
There are protection rackets that are more sophisticated than this...I don't understand how Europeans will submit to this for another year. It's an ominous sign.
Random Music Festival Update:2
As it turns out, today is "La Fête de la Musique," (Music Day) which happens every year on the 21st of June to mark the beginning of summer. Paris (and all of France) turns into an outdoor concert, with live music everywhere and throngs of revelers crowding every inch of patio and public square. It's a lot of fun, and after two years of unbearable covid restrictions, this year's Fête de la Musique has been especially loud and rowdy, a huge release. I live in the Bastille area and even now, at half past two in the morning, there are more people partying in the street than on any day of the year (so far). It has been something to behold this year.
Update on the vote in the EU Parliament:
As expected, an absolute majority voted to extend the EU COVID Certificate for both EU and third-country nationals for another year. The decision will provide the continuing legal framework for member states to turn back on/ramp up the medical coercion "should the public health situation call for it." The rules will be valid until 30 June 2023 and will take effect as soon as "the agreement" is rubber stamped by the Council of the EU.
The continued restrictions on free movement and the additional violations of once unconditional rights and freedoms enshrined in EU foundational treaties and conventions to which it is signatory (freedom from coercion to participate in medical research, i.e., freedom from vaccination coercion, etc.) are again presented as measures that will "ensure citizens have the right to free movement" (as per the rapporteur's post-vote delirious statement). But the highlight of this latest act in the theatre of the absurd is not to be found so much in the deranged doublespeak, which never ceases to outrage, but in the double-crossing of certain members of the EU Parliament. In particular, those from France who are also members of the various left-leaning parties that make up the NUPES coalition (which, as previously mentioned, won the second largest share of seats in the French lower house in the recent legislative elections).
What's unbelievable is that in yesterday's plenary session at the EU Parliament, an amendment to reject the "agreement" to extend the EU COVID Certificate was put to a vote -- and several MEPs belonging to the parties making up the NUPES legislative coalition in France voted against the motion, including the head of France Unbowed's parliamentary group and two former recent French president candidates, one from the Socialist camp and the other, one of the highest ranking members of France's green party.
To be fair and accurate, a few MEPs belonging to these French left-leaning parties that make up the NUPES did vote in favor of the amendment to reject the extension of the EU COVID Certificate, but most of the prominent ones did not. (Unlike France's MEPs from Marine Le Pen's National Rally, who all voted for the amendment to reject the "agreement.") The news of the vote, which has been stone-skipping across social media platforms in France all day, might not have come as such a surprise had the NUPES coalition not been loudly denouncing and campaigning against the Covid Vax and Health passes for the last months. So if this betrayal by French left-leaning MEPs is anything to go by, the upcoming Covid law is set to sail through the French Parliament just as through the European one.
Yes, there were actually just elections in France.
Because who doesn’t like music festivals after two years of pandemic isolationism, a little optimism is nice