In a startling development that risks shaking up the political chessboard in France for years to come, Emmanuel Macron has invited the yellow vests to work with him on a power-sharing plan.
Exasperated by the repeated Saturday skirmishes with protesters that led him to mobilize the French army in an attempt to maintain order, French President Emmanuel Macron has had a change of heart. He has launched an open invitation to the yellow vest movement to designate a team of 20 leaders to work with him at the Elysee Palace on four successive Saturdays spanning April and May. His aim is to reach a mutually acceptable agreement on a legislative program, which the prime minister will then be asked to submit to the national assembly no later than September.
The immediate reaction in the media ranged from surprise to relief, but within hours many commenters expressed skepticism. Some, notably those who speak for the yellow vests, suspected Macron of demagogy even while welcoming his offer. One of the potential yellow vest leaders, Jean Naymar of Montluçon, remarked, “How clever of Macron to hold the meetings on Saturday, simply to break the rhythm of weekly protests!”
Macron’s proposition was clearly laid out. He expects the yellow vests to designate 20 representatives who will be invited to the Elysee Palace on April 13 for an inaugural tour, destined principally to underline the symbolic role of executive power-sharing he hopes to see implemented. It includes the commitment to allocate a series of up to five offices in the presidential palace to be occupied permanently by a yellow vest team vetted by the national assembly. They will exercise no direct executive powers or responsibilities, but will be charged with coordinating with Macron’s cabinet to agree an agenda for weekly meetings with the president himself, eventually accompanied by ministers according to the topics to be treated each week.
As per the proposed calendar, which the president insists must be respected, the yellow vests will be tasked with designating, before the end of May, the permanent team that will have access to the yellow vest offices in the presidential palace.
While Macron’s announcement surprised the entire political class, many of the yellow vests who were interviewed by the media complained that the timing was unrealistic. Echoing Félix Granguele, an activist in the Tarn, many have expressed their suspicion that if the yellow vests, who have no national organization, cannot find the physical means of getting together to agree on the delegation in the short time allotted to them, Macron will use that excuse to cancel his proposal.
His aim may be to force the yellow vests to create a viable political party that will then fail, causing the movement to peter out. Since most yellow vest protesters consider the notion of a formal political party inimical to their cause, they see this as a ploy by President Macron to destroy the movement.
A respected editorialist at Le Monde pointed out that the evolution of the yellow vest movement has, over recent weeks, progressively veered away from the anti-immigrant right, Rassemblement National represented by Marine Le Pen, toward a more leftist agenda, which might eventually comfort the anti-elitist La France Insoumise party of Jean-Luc Melenchon.
Despite efforts by the parties to recuperate yellow vest anger, leaders of the movement adamantly refuse to adhere to any party. This has led to speculation that Macron’s move may be an attempt to spread confusion with his opposition on both sides, but more particularly on the left, since he himself was a minister in François Hollande’s government.
This strategy of disruption would thus be intended to as a coup de grâce for a left wing that is already in disarray. Behind this is the Elysée’s desire to strengthen the perception of Macron as a stable centrist, representing both the bankers (the milieu he comes from) and the voters of the left who will have no other viable choice to oppose Macron.
Announced on the last day of March, President Macron has indicated his intention to give a televised speech on Monday evening, April 1, to explain his offer and appeal to the entire population to participate in its success. Once the reaction from the various parties and the people emerges, the credibility of the plan will be reassessed on April 2. Some are calling this “Emmanuel’s wager” (“le pari d’Emmanuel”) in a reference to the famous Pascal’s wager, a bet on what to believe. Others say this is entirely appropriate for April 1.
*[This special bulletin of breaking news comes directly from France for April Fools’ Day.]
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