FRONT PAGE - Don't knock Macron
Winning the elections is not always enough: on the one hand, the too centralized power of Macron; on the other hand, an populist-inspired government without any competence...
- Saturday, 05 January 2019
At present, the media's favourite sport in many countries is banging on about how Emmanuel Macron and his team of technically competent but politically naïve experts don’t seem capable of running such a large country as France.
As is often the case, things are much more complicated than they seem. Macron and his En Marche movement deserve to go down history as those who managed to stem the great populist wave which, from Brexit onwards, was threatening to overrun the entire democratic and liberal European framework (and more besides). But clearly, winning the elections is often not always enough. One then has to be capable of governing, with competence while intercepting the basic citizen's needs. The parallel history of Italy and France in these last 9 months seems to indicate that there is something missing: in Italy, the former, in France, the latter. Who will come unstuck first?
The risks run by a single man in charge, which is Macron's plight but which also led to Matteo Renzi's political demise, can be reduced by revitalising the infamous regional levels of government, which for years now and for various reasons have been widely belittled and are no longer either proactive or capable of mediation. Power in France is traditionally central, extremely efficient and capable in handling day to day operations, but shows signs of wear when tensions and power shifts take place: from the Termidore in 1794 to May 1968, right up to the unbearable yellow jackets (in Italy they could be yellow-green) that have cropped up right now. But even in a country like Italy, which cannot boast any of France's central technocratic efficiency, this populist Government (as to some extent was Renzi's), that draws its entitlement from the people and thus shuns any form of mediation with any established power, with independent authorities or trade associations; such a government may then have problems intercepting the true feelings of the electorate, as was the case in the recent constitutional referendum and could happen again if the warnings signs issued from the base aren't taken into consideration, and we're not just referring to social media input.
But if the traditional intermediate authorities are no longer functional, what can we do? Someone has reasonably suggested that the voluntary sector, the NGOs, could take up the slack in the political framework, to set up a two way street between the electorate and the elected. If hundreds of migrants die at sea, instead of attacking the NGO's we should be joining forces with them: they have a wide funding base, they're competent and on site. We should provide support, fiscally promote their proliferation and consolidation and allow them to have their say in decision-making processes as the United Nations has been doing for years.
This is perhaps the only way to pre-empt these rebellions that are not party led, that everyone is trying to straddle but can have no political resolution: the yellow jackets are being promoted by both the extreme left of "Liberation" and the politically subservient Bernard Tapie and his local rag Provence. The 25 points of its supposed programme are a festival of irreconcilable goals, many more than were initially included in the yellow and green programme in Italy.
The 21 million people who listened to Macron's television address (more than watched the France's World Cup triumph) are proof that the French, in the end, expect their president to come up with a solution. Perhaps Macronism isn't dead yet.
You will find this article in the eastwest paper magazine at newwstand.