Rebel Prime Minister: How Macron outgames Republicans for the second time

Author : Nadia Koval

Source : 112 Ukraine

Macron has tactically outwitted his main rivals, reaching preliminary agreements with representatives of "Republicans" centrist wing, dissatisfied with radical right swing of their party
11:20, 18 May 2017

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In May 2016, the Mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppe seemed to be a leader among French candidates for president, defending the reformist center-right platform. But in November he miserably lost party primaries to conservative Francois Fillon, and after the corruption scandal of the latter, Juppe refused "to replace" presidential race candidate.

But in May 2017, Juppe took belated revenge, one of his closest staff and spokesman at the time of the primaries, the mayor of the northern port city of Le Havre Edouard Philippe, became the prime minister.

Perhaps Juppe’s personal career as a politician come to an end, but his ideas have withstood the test of time, and his team seems to have found its place in the political structure of Macron. "Republicans," of course, expected to get the post of prime minister in other ways.

Macron has tactically outwitted his main rivals, reaching preliminary agreements with representatives of "Republicans" centrist wing, dissatisfied with radical right swing of their party.

Related: French President Macron appointed Edouard Philippe as Prime Minister

He wisely did not put "Forward!" candidates to the parliamentary constituencies, where the center-right plan to run. At the same time, he wanted to be sure that the Prime Minister can control a sufficient number of deputies. Indeed, yesterday about 20 influential "Republicans" published a communiqué, voicing their positive attitude to Philippe’s election and were happy to hear president’s cooperation offer. 

Appointing the Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, Emmanuel Macron sought to solve some dilemmas.

First, expand and balance the presidential majority, because despite the unexpectedly optimistic forecasts parliamentary perspectives of "Forward!", absolute majority in Parliament it is not guaranteed.

Second, to have a convincing start, the president needs a prime minister for a long term, not for two months before the parliamentary elections.

Thirdly, the prime minister had to be politically influential enough to be able to effectively manage and renew the political system.

And although now, after the fact, Philippe Edouard could tick each of these items, a few months ago, he did not admit the possibility of such a development. Trying to discover his literary talents, Philippe tracked in a series of campaign materials for Libération.

Related: Macron putting pressure on Poland: Consequences for Ukraine

In his articles, Philippe fairly castigated Macron as a candidate, his lack of experience, excessive attention to media, and vague program.

However, Macron’s chances of winning were rapidly growing, and Phillip’s texts changed. Now he increasingly wrote about the need of understanding and cooperation between the right- and center-left. Actually he directly embodied this agreement.

The bulk of his political career - 15 years – was connected with Alain Juppe, whom he still respectfully calls the "patron" and he repeatedly stressed that belongs to the right political family.

After Juppe was suspended from political activity, and Sarkozy, hated by Philippe took control of "Republicans", Edouard Philippe first went to work in the private sector, and then in the municipality of Le Havre - first deputy and then mayor. In 2014, he was elected to the post in the first round with a score of 52% of the vote.

Philippe is a man with a disorderly rebel image. For example, two years ago, the mayor was arrested for speeding. For several years Edouard Philippe in his declaration refuses to evaluate the property of his real estate and calmly says "no ideas" (aucune idée) in the space provided.

In addition, he is the author of two books about life behind the scenes of French politics. Describing these books, journalists pay attention to their sexist accents.

Related: Savchenko asked Macron to strengthen sanctions against Russia

What ideologically unites Macron Philippe is the emphasis on freedom. In his inaugural speech, the President stressed his commitment to the values, saying among other things that the world and Europe need France, "that speak loudly about freedom and solidarity."

But in an interview on TF1 channel in the day of the appointment, Philippe said: "Sometimes, we feel left, sometimes we feel right. The key value of social life is freedom, not only economic, but also freedom of thought, freedom of expression."

However, the actual economic freedom Philippe tries to expand in the first months of government. This is especially about reforming the Labor Code, to solve the everlasting unemployment challenge. Public resistance and grandiose failures of previous attempts of French labor market liberalization indicate that such an attempt can be both triumphal and suicidal.

Finally, by appointing Philippe, Emmanuel Macron takes a role of the great destructor of the French political system. In fact, by marginalizing Socialist Party, Macron and his movement took up the collapse of the "Republicans".

Although the composition of the government would be later adjusted according the election results, the question is whether the prime minister would remain in his office? Now all the cards are in his hands.

Related: Le Pen, Macron touched Ukrainian issue in their TV debates

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