Elisabeth Borne, a stainless French prime minister?

“Will stay, won’t stay, stay, won’t stay”. In the end, it was the first element of the equation that won out. After a hundred days of hesitation, the French president finally resolved to confirm Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne at Matignon. Even if 67% of French people wanted a new prime minister, Emmanuel Macron had to realize that he probably had nothing to gain by changing prime minister for the moment.

After the bronca of pensions and without a parliamentary majority, he had given himself “one hundred days” to assess the situation and seek a way to relaunch a five-year term mired for months in social conflicts. That was without counting the nights of riots in the suburbs, which alone did more damage than the three weeks of riots in 2005.

During these hundred days, Élisabeth Borne had the task of “widening the narrow majority” resulting from the legislative elections of June 19, 2022. Clearly, it was a question of recruiting elected Republicans (LR) in order to allow the adoption of bills by means other than “49.3”, which makes it possible to circumvent the vote of the assembly. An exceptional procedure used eleven times since the start of this second presidential term.

But it was a waste of time! On the contrary, since the explosion of the riots in the suburbs, the gap between the government and all the right-wing parties has widened further. Even the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, yet a supporter of the strong method and a former LR himself, would probably not have a better chance of forging an alliance with his former party. While a majority of French people are calling for a strengthening of security and a tightening of immigration, the government has contented itself with saying that “the objective of the hundred days has been met”, that “calm has returned” and that “July 14 was a great success”, even though 255 vehicles were burned and 96 people arrested.

To a “techno” tune

“You don’t change a losing team,” quipped the president of the National Rally, Jordan Bardella. For Mathilde Panot, leader of the elected representatives of La France insoumise, “no one wants to get on a sinking boat”. Basically, everyone will have understood that, unable to really revive parliamentary action, at the start of the summer vacation, the president preferred to leave things as they were, even if it meant changing his mind in the fall.

However, when she was appointed 14 months ago, no one would have predicted that this “techno” socialist of the Jospin era would survive such social revolts and no less than 17 motions of censure. In 2022, she was only a default choice, the president of Greater Reims, Catherine Vautrin, having been refused by the left of the party because of her opposition to homosexual marriage. This is why the nicknames “Plan B” and “Born out » stick to the skin of Elisabeth Borne.

If her enemies call her dull, her friends simply find her reserved. Behind this polytechnician passionate about mathematics, however, hides a buff of action films, such as Top Gun. Even if she claims not to have “the complex of the providential woman”, Elisabeth Borne goes out of her hinges when she is called “techno”, recalls the journalist Bérengère Bonte in the biography, entitled The secret (L’Archipel), which she has just published. He is also credited with this reply: “I was five years minister, prefect, patroness of a box. Who are these guys to pretend that I am “techno”? »

However, the first critic of Elisabeth Borne is called neither Marine Le Pen nor Jean-Luc Mélenchon, but Emmanuel Macron. In May, he had scathing words about him when, on Radio J, she called the RN “heir to Pétain”. “Attacks of the 1990s”, based on “historical and moral” arguments devoid of “concrete” elements, he had decided. For this woman whose father was a survivor of Auschwitz, this comment did not go unnoticed. When, on March 26, she declared that she no longer wanted to use 49.3 outside the budgetary texts, Macron had let go: “I am not responsible for the Prime Minister’s interviews with AFP. “Same thing when in April, she had dismissed the study of a bill on immigration and that he had immediately asked her to” resume the copy “.

Not political enough

“Humiliated, discredited, but still maintained, she can now boast of having survived,” said Sciences Po professor Philippe Moreau-Chevrolet on the Public Senate website. In France, the function of prime minister may well serve as a fuse for the president, we have already seen greater harmony.

For a whole part of the macronie, and in particular the leader of the Democratic Movement, François Bayrou, Élisabeth Borne is not sufficiently political. This is why, they say, she struggles to impose her authority even if she is said to be demanding, brittle and “hard on evil”. But does Emmanuel Macron want a prime minister with authority when he decides everything?

For lack of a parliamentary majority, the Prime Minister is obliged to tack, one day to the right, the next day to the left. Unless she is content with bills considered “cosmetic” by almost all the press, such as the creation of this new “road homicide”, a new term designating fatal accidents caused by excessive speed or the consumption of narcotics , but looks like two drops of water to the good old manslaughter. A semantic change intended to calm the excitement aroused by the fatal accident caused by comedian Pierre Palmade while driving at breakneck speed under the effect of drugs.

What other choice?

“Does the president have another solution? wonders the editorialist of France Culture Jean Leymarie. “At Matignon, he can appoint whoever he wants. But to apply which program? And with what allies? Who, today, would be more useful to him than Elisabeth Borne? She doesn’t work miracles. But neither does he. Especially since, despite the criticisms, in the Assembly and the Senate, several parliamentarians, such as the leaders of the right Olivier Marleix and Bruno Retailleau, praise his frankness and his knowledge of the files.

For most observers, the arrival of a new director of cabinet at Matignon, the judge and senior official Jean-Denis Combrexelle, should not change the line that Elisabeth Borne has been following for more than a year. This veteran, who worked both for the Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls and for the Republican Xavier Bertrand, is a regular at government offices. Not really the type to rush into the stretchers.

After the adoption of the law on pensions, Emmanuel Macron had wished one hundred days “of appeasement, unity and actions in the service of France”. “We are far from the mark”, declared on the Atlantico site the academic and lecturer Hannah Levy-Leblois, according to whom “France is more fractured than ever”. Faced with this, she says, “the executive seems paralyzed. One eye riveted on the opinion makers, the other on the social thermometer, he trembles to act, having identified the causes but frightened at the idea of ​​deciding… From then on, maintaining Élisabeth Borne was essential; and is all the more necessary because there is no other choice”.

By the end of the week, Emmanuel Macron should speak, and a slight cabinet reshuffle should take place. Next Monday, he will be in Noumea, where he is to discuss the future of New Caledonia after three referendums which all concluded that the archipelago should remain under French sovereignty. Then it will be the holidays. A grace period for a president who sails by sight and who may well decide to change his mind in the fall…

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