France is entering its second week of confinement. Has the government sufficiently anticipated this second wave?
I do not question the confinement. It is too early to measure the effects. But why have we come to this? Because of a double failure: the erratic management of the first wave and the lack of preparation for deconfinement. We have failed on the essential triptych: “test, trace, isolate”. I said it to the President of the Republic a few days ago: if the French approve his decision to reconfine, which was inevitable, they are asking questions about the coherence and consistency of the government’s strategy. They do not understand ! I will not go back to the repeated hiccups, especially last week, in the morning we are told about curfew, at noon there is no longer a curfew …
We already hear some elected officials wanting to move towards stricter re-containment, or even the confinement of seniors. Do you share these proposals?
If we see that things are not improving, then further action will have to be taken. We could not confine the seniors without debating it in Parliament because it is discrimination! I don’t want it and I’m not sure the Constitutional Council would accept it. Above all, we must start now to prepare for deconfinement as well as the spring vaccination strategy. If we could be in anticipation for once!
Some measures taken by the government have not been understood by the French or elected officials, such as closing local shops. What did you think of it?
While the Aix-Marseille episode (on September 24, the government placed these municipalities in a maximum alert zone without having warned elected officials) should have enlightened us, nothing helped. There has not been sufficient preparatory work on the part of the government with elected officials and professionals in the territory. We therefore had a debate on the notion of “essential good”! It’s surreal! I really blame the government for not seizing the Senate’s outstretched hand through Amendment 83 of the Health Emergency Extension Bill. This amendment, passed unanimously, gave the prefect the power to authorize the opening of retail businesses other than food businesses, in conjunction with mayors and professionals.
Mayors have issued orders to allow the opening of these businesses in their municipality. Do you support them?
I understand them, but I cannot support these decrees. A mayor cannot go against the law of the Republic. Whether we approve or not, it is the law. But what they are expressing must be heard. Rather than having a vertical decision that falls from the top, mayors should be involved in the decision-making process.
When you see certain ministers calling these mayors “irresponsible”, what do you say to them?
Fortunately, the mayors do not send them the same thing! More than ever, it must be the time to share responsibilities. More than ever, the government must dialogue with elected officials and favor proximity. The President of the Republic knows it: we cannot deprive ourselves of this level of proximity and pedagogy. If we want to succeed in the future deconfinement and the vaccine strategy, the government will not be able to do without elected officials. It is up to the executive to reach out to them for the sake of the country. You can’t get away with being at war with each other.
But re-establishing dialogue with elected officials and governing as close as possible to the territories, that was already Jean Castex’s watchword …
You are right, but it has not yet fully materialized.
Are you afraid of a civil disobedience movement?
There is a feeling of injustice and contempt, but be careful with the words. Today more than ever the government must bring together and involve Parliament. Since March, we have been consulted four times on the state of health emergency and here we are, for the next six months to stop consulting us! The state of emergency is a very serious attack on freedoms. Remember that to travel, you must complete a certificate! We can agree to a reduction in freedoms, but in a democracy this can only be done under the control of Parliament. As for prescriptions, this five-year term will compete for a record: 206 prescriptions taken since the start of the five-year term, nearly 80 since the crisis. The Senate creates a watch cell on ordinances.
Jean-Louis Debré, commissioned by Jean Castex, is due to submit his report on Friday on the possible postponement of the regional and departmental elections scheduled for March. What are you asking for?
I received Jean-Louis Debré in the Senate on October 28. We need to prepare for the possibility of voting “while living with the virus”. Even if respect for dates is preferable in a democracy, I am not opposed to postponing the poll to the end of spring for health reasons. But I told the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, it must be done without ulterior motive. The time is not for political calculations, but for the peaceful expression of democracy in a complicated health, economic and social world. It’s my role to say so. Postponing the poll after the summer, however, would pose a political and constitutional problem. If we are not able to organize a poll before the summer, we have serious shortcomings. So let’s be reasonable! Until then, we must secure the vote, study the possibility of double proxies, work on postal voting and the physical organization of the ballots. Faced with these uncertainties, it is also necessary to reflect on the conditions of the electoral campaign which is to take place and the campaign accounts. If we want a democracy that expresses itself and is at peace, we must create the conditions for appeasement.