8 Jul 2024

France’s ‘current political regime out of breath’, says European foreign policy expert

Europe Editor and Presenter

We are joined by Arthur Delaporte who has been re-elected as a member of parliament for the Socialist Party, which is part of the New Popular Front.  It’s worth remembering that President Macron once served in a Socialist government.

And we are also joined by Rym Momtaz. She’s a research fellow for European foreign policy and security at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

We ask if President Emmanuel Macron’s gamble has paid off after so many people were unhappy about it.

Arthur Delaporte: Obviously it didn’t work at all because he lost everything. He lost his majority, even though it was a relative majority. But he also lost the confidence of his own troops. So it’s a total loss for him.

Matt Frei: You’re a member of the Socialist Party. You’re one of the more reasonable members of this Popular Front. Is it possible for this front to get together and form a government?

Arthur Delaporte: I hope so, because people who voted for me voted for the government of the Popular Front. So we want…

Matt Frei: Mr Mélenchon, the  head of La France Insoumise, wants taxes at 75%, the top tax rate of 90%.

Arthur Delaporte: This is not our programme. Our programme is a very reasonable programme. We wrote together this programme and people want change. So now, because we are the biggest group and the biggest faction in parliament, we have to gain the prime minister and then form a majority coalition on the basis of our programme.

Matt Frei: Who will be the prime minister?

Arthur Delaporte: I don’t know yet. We are discussing it.

Matt Frei: From which party?

Arthur Delaporte: Could be a Socialist, maybe, because we have to gain the confidence of all the members, maybe of the former majority of Macron. So it could be a Socialist, but it could be someone else.

Matt Frei: Are you telling us that France will be governable? It won’t be ungovernable?

Arthur Delaporte: It could be.

Matt Frei: It could be?

Arthur Delaporte: I’m reasonably confident. We have to get a government for France, and we are responsible members of parliament, and we have to find a solution to deal with this situation. Because we have one year before new elections. So you have to have a government for the next year.

Matt Frei: By the way, you’ve got the Olympics coming up as well in a few weeks. So that’s another matter. Rym Momtaz, Britain has gone through a psychodrama the last eight years since the Brexit referendum. It’s now got a new government. It’s keep calm and carry on. You’ve reversed roles with us, haven’t you, somewhat?

Rym Momtaz: Yes, and there’s a huge difference in political culture, but also political systems. In a way, the parliamentary system in the UK shepherded the UK through that era and that period of turmoil, whereas there’s a lot of talk about how the current political regime is really out of breath in France and no longer adjusted to deal with the new political realities in France.

Matt Frei: You giving up, by the way? The new political realities in France are beyond traditional parties.

Arthur Delaporte: It’s always changing, and we don’t know what will happen next. But what I’m considering is that today, the traditional parties like the Socialist Party, who everyone thought that we were dead people, now we are winning.

Matt Frei: Well, you’re still pretty small.

Arthur Delaporte: Still pretty small. But we will be maybe the biggest parliamentary group of the New Popular Front.

Matt Frei: Rym, what happens in Paris doesn’t stay in Paris. What happens in France doesn’t stay in France. You matter enormously in Europe. And Macron has mattered a lot on the world stage. Is he now weakened as a result of all this?

Rym Momtaz: There’s no doubt that Macron emerges from the snap election as quite weakened and even isolated, not just because he’s lost the control he used to have on his own majority, but because he has introduced a level of instability and the level of unpredictability that he was supposed to protect France from in the eyes of his European and Nato allies and partners. And France today is definitely looking at at least a period of political deadlock, of political instability at a moment for Europe that is highly strategic, highly vulnerable, with the US  very distracted with its own elections and also turning away from Europe in many ways and going toward Asia. So there’s a lot at stake. And Europe, without a strong France, is not a strong Europe.

Matt Frei: And we mentioned the issue of Ukraine, the war in Ukraine earlier, which of course cropped up in the election campaign as well. There are some differing views about Ukraine, aren’t there, in the New Popular Front? Will the new government support Ukraine as much as the old one?

Rym Momtaz: The programme that they put together in a few days, when they cobbled together this coalition after the snap election was called, does say that they do plan on continuing to support Ukraine to make sure that Ukraine can have its sovereignty. But there’s a very interesting line where they say ‘supplying the necessary weapons’. And that’s very much up for interpretation. We know that within the New Popular Front, the Socialist Party is very much in favour of giving all the weapons to Ukraine. But the far left of Mélenchon is not.

Matt Frei: Well he just gave you a Gallic shrug here, Mr Delaporte. So you’re in favour. But what about Mr. Mélenchon and La France Insoumise?

Arthur Delaporte: We have signed a common programme which says that we have to get all the support to Ukraine that they need. So we will do this. And the European elections that put the Socialists at first place in the left wing, say that we are the ones who draw the political names, so they will follow us. Raphaël Glucksmann, the head of the Socialists for the European elections, was a strong supporter of Ukraine sovereignty.

Matt Frei: So you’ve got Biden in a pretty perilous state at the moment, possibly Trump as the next president. You’ve got the German government weakened. You’ve got Macron weakened. Are the Brits the designated survivors of liberal democracy?

Rym Momtaz: It’s been very interesting to see suddenly, after eight years of being kind of the black sheep, that people look to the UK now as a glimmer of hope and hoping that at the end of the day, they’re going to end up in as good a situation. But the truth is, the UK isn’t enough. With all due respect to the means and power of the UK, France needs to be able to play its full role. The US needs to be able to play its full role, if the West is going to be able to fully continue to support Ukraine and help it defeat Russia.

Matt Frei: Arthur Delaporte, one of the theories behind this gamble of the elections was to put the hard right into power, let them stop complaining about the plumbing, but fix the plumbing. They can now sit back and say, ‘We’re just watching you guys screw up’. Doesn’t this make them stronger in the long term? Doesn’t this give Marine Le Pen the chance to become president next time?

Arthur Delaporte: I think what Macron did was so irresponsible because, as you did say…

Matt Frei: Will the National Rally get stronger?

Arthur Delaporte: If the National Rally gets stronger, they are still strong. Right now they’re strong and we are weak. Collectively we are weak. But we managed to get united, we’d say republican withdrawal. When, for instance, Socialists didn’t get to the second poll for the runoff for Macronists, for instance, for supporters of Emmanuel Macron, this meant the republic won. And I think that next year, if we get a government that we make social justice [a priority], we can win.

Matt Frei: In one word will Marine Le Pen be the next president of France, yes or no?

Rym Momtaz: She has very good chances.

Arthur Delaporte: No

Rym Momtaz: Depends how she plays her cards in the next three years.