Sarkozy camp eyes power sharing role under France’s Macron

April 27, 2017 Europe , News , OPINION/NEWS

Benoit Tessier

Benoit Tessier/Reuters

 

By

Emmanuel Jarry

France’s centre-right party, seeking to rebound after the defeat of its presidential candidate, said it could share power with Emmanuel Macron if he is elected, as pollsters predict, on May 7.

Macron, a 39-year-old centrist, is tipped to comfortably win a run-off vote against far-right leader Marine Le Pen, but the political movement he created a year ago faces a huge challenge in the follow-up legislative election in June.

With Macron and his “En Marche!” movement at risk of being in a minority in parliament, the centre-right party, The Republicans, hopes to secure enough National Assembly seats to demand a government role despite the defeat of its presidential contender Francois Fillon in a first-round vote on April 23.

The push for power-sharing appeared to come from a faction within The Republicans party around former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost out to Fillon in an attempt to win the nomination last November.

Striking such a deal with Macron, if possible, would allow the party to secure significant posts and exert control over important areas of policy.

Francois Baroin, who served as a finance minister under Sarkozy, on Wednesday publicly stated he was ready to work as prime minister in “cohabitation” with Macron.

Sarkozy, still a powerful force in right-wing politics, later said on social media that he would vote for Macron because the election of Le Pen, who wants to take France out of the European Union, would lead to serious consequences for France.

Baroin, 51 and a rising star within The Republicans, said in an interview on CNews television; “I will be available to … head the government according to the will of the French people.”

Any power-sharing deal between Macron and a right-wing prime minister, such as Baroin, would likely impose big constraints on him in pursuing economic policies that seek to balance state protection and pro-business reforms.

Before his exit, Fillon derided Macron’s stated aim of being neither left-wing nor right-wing, pointing to the ex-banker’s time as economy minister in the Socialist government of outgoing President Francois Hollande.

This judgement of Macron is still strongly felt among many of the Sarkozy-faction though others, loosely represented by more moderate former prime minister Alain Juppe, have suggested they may choose to join in a majority of support for Macron.

Baroin told CNews he would vote for Macron on May 7 without hesitation but that he would not join in helping his campaign. He said he would throw his energy into campaigning for The Republicans in the June parliamentary election.

The last time France had a cohabitation arrangement between the Elysee and the government was from 1997 and 2002 when right-wing president Jacques Chirac had to work with a Socialist government under Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

The arrangement curbed Chirac’s day-to-day control over the direction of the economy, reducing him largely to looking after foreign policy and defence.

 

 

Europe begins process of lifting Le Pen’s immunity over misuse of funds

 

European Union lawmakers began on Wednesday a process to lift French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s immunity over alleged misuse of EU funds, although they will not summon her before next week’s run-off vote.

French judges had asked the European parliament to lift her immunity from prosecution as a member of the EU legislature to allow further investigation into allegations she misused the funds to pay for National Front party assistants.

The French request “has been forwarded to the legal affairs committee of the European parliament, which is in charge of these issues”, the chairman of the legislature, Antonio Tajani, told lawmakers at the beginning of a formal sitting in Brussels.

This step marks the formal beginning of the procedure.

Le Pen, who staunchly opposes the EU, is campaigning for the May 7 run-off, after coming second at Sunday’s first round.

She has denounced legal proceedings against her as political interference.

Tajani said that a procedure was also launched over lifting the immunity of another member of the National Front, Marie-Christine Boutonnet, for a similar case of alleged misuse of EU funds.

In addition to the case over misused EU funds, the parliament is also assessing whether to strip Le Pen of her immunity for a separate investigation on defamation.

Parliament officials said a hearing on her pending cases, initially pencilled for next week, was postponed due to the heavy legislative agenda of the legal affairs committee, which oversees cases of immunity suspension. Le Pen could have decided not to attend.

It takes usually several months for the parliament to decide on immunity waivers. Most cases have resulted in the lawmakers under investigation being stripped of their immunity.

The EU legislature removed Le Pen’s immunity in March in relation to another French investigation over her posting of pictures of Islamic State violence on social media, an offence that in France can carry a penalty of three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($81,700).

EU lawmakers have also already sanctioned Le Pen for misspending EU funds. They want her to reimburse 300,000 euros ($330,000). Since February, her monthly salary as an EU lawmaker has been cut by half to about 3,000 euros and other allowances have been withdrawn after she refused to pay.

 

 

 

 

 

(Additional reporting by Francesco Guarascio)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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