Elizabeth Pineau and Michel Rose –
Previously-loyal lawmakers inside Emmanuel Macron’s party are voicing dissent about its direction, according to interviews with party insiders, exposing new faultlines in the political base the French president needs to deliver his reform agenda.
Macron came to power promising to shake up the economy, but he needs a solid powerbase to deliver that in the face of fierce resistance from trade unions, the political opposition and the grass-roots “yellow vest” protest movement.
Showing the scale of the dissent, around 20 lawmakers with Macron’s La Republique en Marche (LaRem) party are supporting Cedric Villani, who rebelled against the party to run for mayor of Paris against the party’s candidate, according to six parliamentary sources, including two who do not back Villani.
In another sign of dissent, lawmaker Frederique Lardet, a former hotel executive who quit her job to join Macron’s movement, said she was prepared if necessary to go against the party’s wishes to mount a bid for the job of mayor in her home city of Annecy in the French Alps. “I don’t want to leave the party, but if I stick to my decision and I’m told to leave the party, I’ll obey,” Lardet said in an interview, making public for the first time her discontent with LaRem.
Asked to comment on dissent, a LaRem spokesman said: “There can be disappointment and tensions locally, it’s normal. But in the choices we make, we are careful to remain coherent and try to stick together.” Macron’s party has 300 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly, so faces no short-term risk of losing the majority he needs to get his reforms adopted into law, but there is growing unease in party ranks. Since he became president, Macron faced some dissent from the left-wing of his party who disliked his tough stance on immigration and on liberalising the economy. Nine lawmakers have left the group over policy disagreements since 2018.
The latest wave of dissent is different because it comes from people who squarely support Macron’s policies but believe the party is being drawn into conducting politics-as-usual. The dissent goes beyond squabbling about mayoral candidates and to the heart of the party’s identity.
Four Macron lawmakers who spoke to Reuters said they were troubled by the party’s decision to pick as its candidate for Paris mayor not Villani, a charismatic mathematician, but Benjamin Griveaux, a long-standing disciple of Macron. “Villani’s bid highlights what’s wrong with the movement,” one said on condition of anonymity. “They don’t consult their base enough.” “It’s like a bunch of mates who divvy up the positions, and it’s starting to show: the emperor has no clothes,” she added. — Reuters