New dialogue format in France: a bit of a say

French President Macron calls for a national dialogue. The opposition does not believe in the offer of participation - and declines with thanks.

Emmanuel Macron

Promises a "new method" of dialogue: French President Macron on Thursday Photo: Michel Euler/ap

PARIS taz | The French President wants to give the French (a little) say in the implementation of his reforms. At least that's what he announced on Thursday at the first meeting of the Conseil national de la Refondation (CNR), which can be roughly translated as the National Council for a New Beginning.

He promises to use this "new method" of dialogue with parties, employers' and employees' associations, regional and municipal institutions and various associations to take account of the criticism of his hitherto very "vertical" form of exercising power. A previously unknown group of randomly selected citizens is also invited to take part in the discussions. Macron also promises “online surveys” and “referendums” for the renewal of democracy he wants.

Everything should still be open with regard to the topics and the functioning of the CNR, but the focus is on Macron's priorities: the goal of full employment, climate change, schools and the health system and the lives of the elderly.

That seems vague. Despite the actually tempting prospect of being able to talk the head of state into these important areas and contradict him or even change the course of things, practically all opposition parties from left to right, but also the majority of the trade unions, have declined the invitation with thanks.

Macron needs the support of the opposition

Based on the experience of his first term, they question his sincerity. Like many spokespeople for the opposition parties, the head of the Senate, the conservative Gérard Larcher, fears that Macron wants to undermine the two chambers of parliament with this additional body.

Since the election of MPs in June the coalition of heads of state no longer has an absolute majority in the National Assembly and has to make compromises for every vote. That's why conservatives think extreme right and the united leftthat the politically weakened Macron only turns to them out of sheer necessity.

In order to push through his pension and unemployment insurance reforms, Macron needs support from his political opponents. The problem for him is that they don't believe he's willing to share power even a little bit.

So why should they let themselves be ripped off by a president who is apparently in a dead end but ultimately wants to decide everything for himself? That explains the almost unanimous boycott of the opposition. Annoyed, Macron shouted at them the saying in his opening speech in Marcoussis: “The absent are always wrong.” And he dramatizes the situation with bellicose rhetoric, comparing his body to the National Council of Resistance during World War II, using the acronym CNR.

At the end of August he had spoken in pessimistic tones of the "end of carelessness" and called on the nation to unite and "strength of soul" in view of the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis and the necessary adjustments due to climate change.

But because he did not succeed in winning his opponents over to a truce, his initiative for a "fresh start" with the CNR could turn out to be a "wet firecracker", said the political scientist Loïc Blondiaux in the Le Monde.

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