Our look at the January 16th presidential press conference : Meeting with the nation or launch of the European campaign?
The French President’s press conference on January 16th was more relaxed and instructive than politically offensive. After recalling the main pillars of his policy and underlining its coherence, Emmanuel Macron answered questions that were too varied and uneven to be of any difficulty. A certain languor set in. Suddenly, the President got more animated and raised his voice sharply, denouncing the Rassemblement National’s program and strategy, and declaring that he would “fight them to the last hour”. In so doing, he revealed what appears to have become the major objective of his five-year presidency: to prevent Marine Le Pen from acceding to the presidency in 2027. And to do so means, first of all, to avoid a failure, let alone a rout, for the presidential majority’s list in the European elections. It is clear that a resounding success for the list led by Jordan Bardella on June 9th would weaken the President and his government for the rest of the five-year term, and above all would provide a formidable launching pad for Marine Le Pen’s fourth presidential candidacy. It is with this objective in mind that we must analyze the sequence of communication opened by the President’s December 31st address, during which he announced his future “rendez-vous with the nation”, and of which yesterday’s press conference marked the final stage.
A 3-stage sequence.
Firstly, the replacement of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, weighed down by the battles over pension and immigration law reforms, and permanently handicapped by her government’s inability to convince public opinion with its actions. Indeed, in addition to the two aforementioned reforms, almost 50 laws have been passed since July 2022, despite a relative majority in parliament. Important measures on the ecological and energy transition and energy prices, for example, have been introduced. Without convincing. Time for real politics.
The first step was the nomination of Gabriel Attal, previously in charge of the Ministry of National Education and Youth, where in six months, in a highly political approach, and with a series of both symbolic and very concrete measures, he gained growing popularity across all strata of the population. A Prime Minister whose talents as a debater had been noticed, notably in the face of Jordan Bardella, during the presidential campaign. Youngster against youngster, political animal against political animal. Whoever heads the majority list, Gabriel Attal will play an essential role in the upcoming European campaign.
Then came the nomination of the “youngest and tightest government of the 5th Republic”. Much has been said on its composition which reflects a shift to the right and the abandonment of the President’s “both right-wing and left-wing” approach. But as Emmanuel Macron said yesterday, what counts is not the origin of the ministers, but the roadmap we give them. And the major axis described, like most of the measures detailed by the latter, had already been evoked, studied or announced by the previous government. With the notable exception of taking back control of digital screens! In fact, what characterizes the new government is the weight of women (R Dati, C Vautrin) and men (B Le Maire, G Darmanin) who are first and foremost politicians, or who have a voice that carries (E Dupont-Moretti). They have a strong mark on public opinion. A government of debaters, a government of electoral combat. The President underlined this when answering a question on the nomination of Rachida Dati.
Finally, the choice of themes at the press conference, which resonate with the priorities of a middle class that needs to be prevented from swinging to the Rassemblement National vote. Civic rearmament, the praise of work, merit and production – former President Sarkozy’s catchwords above all else – and the reference to a just order, the theme of Ségolène Royal’s 2007 campaign, are all more or less discreet appeals to this segment of the electorate that will be decisive next June. Many measures which, moreover, do not require legislation, along the lines of Gabriel Attal’s action in the Ministry of Education.
The strategy is clear, the mechanism is in place. All that remains is to demonstrate “boldness, efficiency and action” and await the outcome of the French vote on the evening of June 9th.