Do you fear a strong abstention in the second round of municipal elections, as was the case in the first round because of the coronavirus?
If the government confirms the possible holding of the poll, everything must be done to ensure that the turnout is as high as possible. The Senate’s proposals to facilitate powers of attorney go in the right direction. The epidemic risk will of course be a key to mobilization on June 28. In the first round, the mayors had adapted the polling stations to the health situation, according to the recommendations of the Ministry of the Interior. We will do it again this time, and it will reassure voters. From the moment life resumes its normal course, democracy must be part of it.
Is the stake of the poll local or national?
It would be paradoxical to call on the mayors each time the President is sensitive to the country and then explain that this ballot is purely local! The scores for Emmanuel Macron’s candidates in the first round have often been very disappointing, not to say humiliating. They were punished by the voters, who punished their complete lack of understanding of the need for proximity. This is a severe failure for the President’s party, which had approached this deadline with great certainty: it now measures the little interest that voters have in it. The first round was however a success for Les Républicains, who remain the first municipal political force. The right ends with a long cycle of defeats. This dynamic will consolidate the reconstruction of our party initiated by Christian Jacob, who has managed to bring together our natural allies.
Do you think macronism is just a parenthesis?
History will tell. But I am struck by the treatment given to Gérard Collomb: his role was decisive in 2017 to give Macron some credibility in the eyes of local elected officials. Seeing him being called a traitor by those who left their party at the time to follow him in this process … is a bit of the story of the sprinklers sprinkled for LREM!
Is it the return of the left-right divide?
Never since 1958 has a presidential party had such a weak local roots, that is to say with the country as it is. At the same time, the unity of the parliamentary group LREM in the Assembly dissolves. They could not find what united them and this slow drift of the continents will lead to rediscover a traditional political landscape: a popular right, strong of a new generation which obtained spectacular scores in the municipal elections, as in Reims, in Cannes or Chalon-sur-Saône, and a left which reconstitutes a fairly wide arc. The environmental concern is indisputable, but it is not the preserve of a single party. It is worn by all municipal teams. What also transcends all cleavages is the demand for local efficiency. This is why we are going to take a very strong initiative in early July with the United Senate and Territories, which brings together regions, departments and municipalities.
The President still seems to be looking for ideas. Since he is writing to Parliament and the Economic and Social Council to find out what to do, I tell him that there is one thing to do urgently: a great text of local freedoms. We will ask for transfers of powers, means and staff to local authorities, and a modification of the Constitution, in particular of its article 72, to consecrate their fiscal and financial autonomy and their free administration. Emmanuel Macron must mark the end of an ultra-centralized scheme that showed his helplessness during this crisis. He has the opportunity to seize this great site, perhaps the only one of his useful mandate for the country.
Are you asking for a Girondin revolution?
I want a revolution of freedom and efficiency. The status quo is no longer possible. The crisis has brought to light, painfully for the French, what we have been saying for years.
Should we sanction, during this election, the government’s management of the Covid-19 crisis?
Voters will say it. But many mayors in office have shown their responsiveness, their speed, their willingness to be useful and to solve problems when the state has shown glaring failures. I am thinking in particular of the distribution of surgical masks. City medicine, medico-social and home help were in short supply, the government having given priority to the hospital. However, a very large part of the health sector has been set aside by this government. As for the promises on masks for the general public, they were only kept thanks to the action of many mayors. They are the ones who did the work.
How do you judge the government’s handling of the crisis?
What is certain is that he did not decide at the start of the crisis who was to be the pilot. For elected officials, it was to be the Ministry of the Interior. The National Council for Civil Security, abandoned by François Hollande, should have been reconstituted. It was also necessary to rely on the military and the defense zones to fill the sidereal vacuum in logistics, which was not within the competence of the Ministry of Health. The management of proximity by this power was an undeniable failure.
LR has concluded agreements with LREM in five of the ten major French cities. So you are not so opposed to macronism …
The candidates of En Marche, in order to try to exist, are forced to ally themselves with those who beat them. In chess, this is called a forced blow: either they disappear from the landscape, or they integrate a larger majority under the authority of Republican mayors.
You keep the mystery about your intentions for the presidential election. Your friends are hoping for a sign from you. Will you do it this year?
The time is not for the presidential election. The lessons of the crisis must be learned, this is the priority for the French. Whatever my decision, I will clarify my intentions in the fall.