On August 30, a meeting behind closed doors took place between Emmanuel Macron and the heads of opposition parties in Saint-Denis, Paris. It turned out that the doors were not so well closed, and one aspect of the meeting, at which the French presidency itself was discussed, made it to the press.
Nowadays, the French president can serve two five-year terms. The head of the right-wing opposition party National Rally (Rassemblement national) Jordan Bardella suggested it would be a good idea to get back to seven-year presidential terms – as it was before Jacques Chirac clipped them to five years – but with a limit of one term. The president would serve seven years and then go back to civil society. Emmanuel Macron, according to sources cited by AFP, answered that “the limitation on [the number of] terms has been disastrous bulls**t”. It is not a question of the length of the term, then, it’s a question of the limited number of terms.
This limit was implemented by then-President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008 for some obscure reason – did he want to curb his own ambitions, did “Sarko l’Américain” want to make France look more like the US? No one really knows. But the current French president seems to think it was a mistake and that he should be reelected as many times as he can.
Centrist François Bayrou, a politician close to Macron who was also present at the St Denis meeting, said he didn’t hear the president say those words, and that “there were smiles.” He makes it look like Macron’s words (if they were indeed uttered) were just a quip. It might be so. The current French president is a born provocateur. However, the former president of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand, who belongs to Macron’s political party, said the same thing in June. Coincidence? Certainly not. Emmanuel Macron, the youngest French president ever, is making a move. What are his options?
In 2027 he has to step down, according to the Constitution. But, unlike in the US, France allows a former president who has already served two terms to come back later on. A constitutional reform would allow Macron to be candidate for reelection in 2027. Otherwise, he will have to wait until 2032, and the five-year span could be politically fatal for him if the next president proves to be more popular – something not really difficult to achieve.
Macron is young. In 2027, he will be only 49. As François Bayrou said, “Macron will remain a French and European democratic leader.” Here, one needs to consider the French political spectrum. Who are Macron’s potential opponents? There are not many, even if Macron is largely unpopular. His former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe could be. But the current Minister of Internal Affairs, Gérald Darmanin, a very ambitious man, has already started to position himself as the next president. He is part of Macron’s team. He is backed by Nicolas Sarkozy. And he actually uses Sarkozy’s strategy, when the latter was elected in 2007 while he was in charge of the same ministry.
For Macron, the best option would be to have Marine Le Pen of the National Rally getting elected in 2027. She would be absolutely unable to rule the country. Not only because she is incompetent. The administration, the judicial authorities, the educational system, all the structures of the state, which are usually left-wing oriented, loathe her. They would effectively refuse to comply. It would be a total mess. And, consequently, it would mean a certain comeback for Macron in 2032 – or even earlier. And if, in the meantime, the constitutional reform took place, he would come back with no term limitations.
But is it really just a question of personal ambition? Yes, as with many politicians, Macron has a streak of egotistical psychopathy – but he is also one of the best soldiers of the Western system. Is private Macron still needed? He did his best during the Covid-19 crisis (he will be remembered as the one who wanted to “piss off the unvaccinated”), he is engaged full-time in the Ukraine conflict, and he takes in migrants by the million, disseminating them through the countryside. No French politician is so well-connected with financial international circles and Western supranational elites.
He is the good French soldier of the system. He needs to stay. As the head of France, or… as the head of the EU after Ursula von der Leyen? As Bayrou said, “Macron will remain a French and European democratic leader.”
This apparent “leak” in the media is a test. What the press prints or remains silent about is never a matter of chance or coincidence. Journalists are here to prepare the ground for political maneuvers. How would the French population welcome such a reform? Is a referendum needed? A referendum would be a disaster for Macron as his ratings are catastrophic. The script needs to be well written. This is where establishment media journalists’ hypocrisy reaches its climax.
They first get in line with Macron’s words, recalling that in 2008, constitutional experts said that Sarkozy’s reforms were indeed a mistake. Here is their historical argument. Then they take out the philosophical violins to play music, a tune which sounds right only if you forget that they have been trashing long-lasting political leaders in “adversarial” nations such as Putin, Xi, Gaddafi, Assad, etc.: “There may be an exceptional man or woman, or exceptional circumstances, such as a war, which would make one want to keep a president for more than ten years,” as one can read on RMC. They suddenly remind the public that “one can rule a country for a long period of time without being a dictator.”
At a time when France is being kicked out of Africa, maybe African journalists are the ones who write best about Macron’s “quip.” As they noticed, Macron’s words were uttered while the coup in Gabon was in part due to the third term of Macron-backed Ali Bongo, whereas Macron was opposed to Alpha Condé’s third term in Guinea. It speaks for itself when it comes to Macron’s psychology and cynicism.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The aryavarth Express. By Matthieu Buge, who has worked on Russia for the magazine l’Histoire, the Russian film magazine Séance, and as a columnist for Le Courrier de Russie.