No sooner were the parliamentary elections in France out of the way, leaving Emmanuel Macron’s now “party” En Marche with a parliamentary majority, than a purge has thrown his coalition partner Francois Bayrou and four ministers belonging to Bayrou’s party out of the government.
I say “purge” though of course that is not how it is being presented. Instead we have the usual game, which has accompanied every step in Macron’s rise: the corruption allegations based on misappropriation of public funds aired in the satirical weekly Le Canard enchaîné, the criminal investigations, and the removal from the political scene of those involved.
In every case Macron – of course – plays no part, even though he somehow always turns out to be the beneficiary of every “scandal”.
Macron needed Bayrou’s help to win the Presidency and – still more – to win a majority for his party in the parliament. With that majority now secured he does not need Bayrou any more, so he can be dispensed with. Very conveniently, directly after the election, a “scandal” leading to the resignation of Bayrou therefore turns up.
The beauty of this is that in every case the allegations are true. The cosily corrupt French establishment has always known how to look after itself. It has taken Macron – or those behind him – to turn this fact to political advantage.
Macron nonetheless needs to be careful. There is no enthusiasm for him in France. The abstention rate in the parliamentary election was so high that his party gained a majority of the seats in the parliament with the votes of just 14% of the French electorate.
Meanwhile the veteran figures of the French political elite – people like Fillon, Juppé, Valls, Bayrou, Sarkozy and the rest – would not be human if they did not resent the meteoric way Macron’s rise has happened, and the ruthless way it has been carried out, even if at times they have felt obliged to give him a helping hand up.
As for the two genuine outsiders -Mélenchon and Le Pen – they are still there, even if in Le Pen’s case she has been significantly weakened by her failure in the Presidential election and by her party’s poor showing in the parliamentary elections.
In the meantime Macron’s party – hastily cobbled together over the course of the last year – has a makeshift look about it, making it vulnerable if it comes under pressure.
Should the tide ever turn against him – which in France it invariably does – Macron could find his political base dangerously shallow, and himself dangerously short of friends.