Has France become ungovernable?

The French parliamentary elections left President Emmanuel Macron not only without majority support, but also with a parliament divided into so many groups that some analysts say the country has become “ungovernable”, as it did under the Fourth Republic until Charles de Gaulle establish the Fifth.

“Ungovernable” is a strong word. The elections were held with tranquility, even if this tranquility was a sign of apathy. Nor does the administration of a country care about its government. Belgium has gone 500 days without a federal government and nothing has changed there. Life goes on while politicians negotiate.

In the first round of the elections, the president’s party, which ended up winning many seats in Parliament, but not the majority, managed to accumulate incredible 12 percent of votes (52 percent of voters abstained). Of those 12 percent, a good part voted against the other parties, and not in support of Macron and his party. It is not a popular base that gives legitimacy to a government of broad reforms, including the reform of the pension system, which the president considered necessary.

Macron would have a parliamentary majority if he had formed a coalition with the traditional center-right party Les Républicains since, except for personal ambitions, there are not many issues separating them. But in politics ambition is an important factor. I remember Ernest Bevin, a leading member of the Labor government in post-war Britain, responding to someone who told him that Aneurin Bevan, another leading member of the same government, was his worst enemy. “As long as I’m alive, it’s not.” There you have it – politics in a nutshell.

The far right and far left did well in the elections, as far as one can say that anyone did well in an election with 54 percent abstention. In France, the extremes are separated by their views on immigration and national identity, but in economic matters they are not that far apart. Both are extremely statist.

The left-wing coalition, led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and now the second-largest force in Parliament, was formed by several disparate groups that began fighting as soon as the votes were counted. . Mélenchon is a demagogue who sometimes (depending on the audience) wears fancy proletarian clothes, the kind that the real proletarian never wears, in the same way that communist leaders did.

The far left it particularly attracted younger people, who are both anxious and depressed, which is not surprising given the real difficulties faced by younger people. Young voters were probably the best educated among them all, which confirms something that is already known: education is not the same as political wisdom.

Mélenchon’s economic policy is to contain inflation by controlling the prices, raising the minimum wage and pensions, decreasing hours worked and lowering the minimum retirement age to 60 years. At the same time, he aims to increase government spending by more than 250 billions of dollars – to be paid for with taxes levied on the richest, a measure ever popular with those struggling. economic. A declared Chavista, Mélenchon is not ashamed to say that France today is hell.

The truth, however, is that this economic recipe has nothing to do with the current difficult circumstances caused by the past irresponsibility: Mélenchon would propose these measures regardless of country conditions. It’s a recipe that always attracts voters, even though it has led countries to disaster time and time again. But this time it will be different, he believes.

Theodore Dalrymple is a contributing editor at the City Journal, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the author of several books.

© 2022 City Journal. Published with permission. Original in English
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