A former ally takes on Macron

Albert Marko | February 22nd, 2021

It was a key, decisive moment for Emmanuel Macron when Francois Bayrou teamed up with him during the presidential election campaign in 2017. Bayrou, the eternal bridesmaid in French politics, gave up his own candidacy to back Macron, who was until then still seen as an outsider. Now, four years later, Bayrou reminds Macron of what he promised him in return. In an open letter, he called for the president to back a referendum on introducing proportionality into the electoral system, starting with the legislative elections in June 2022.

A dose of proportionality into the electoral system as from legislative elections in June 2022. A dose of proportionality in the electoral system was one of his demands and Macron’s promise on the campaign trail. For months now he has been waiting to launch this campaign, held up by the pandemic. He brought a majority behind him, from Jean-Luc Mélenchon to Marine Le Pen. But now Bayrou is rolling it out, thus testing his influence on Macron. As one observer points out to l’Opinion, Macron listens a lot to Bayrou, although this does not mean that he acts on what he says.

MoDem MPs already launched two motions on proportionality in the assembly. Bayrou sees the only viable way forward through the president himself, and asks him to support a referendum. Bayrou says he expects an answer from Macron by the end of March. The campaign is seen by some of Macron’s MPs as a threat, underlined by the fact that Bayrou campaigns publicly, rather than behind closed doors. No one has dared to stand up to Macron like this. Yet, without MoDem, there would be no majority in parliament after all those defections from En Marche.

The timing for such a campaign is certainly odd. It is not a given that Bayrou will get enough traction. However, even if there is not much of a public stir, it does not ease the pressure on Macron. Bayrou insists that he will not let go of this and treats it as a matter of principle. What will he do if he does not get what he wants? Will he break his alliance and march into the 2022 elections against Macron? Perhaps he will do so armed with the other policy theme irritating the majority, a tax on the super-rich to finance the Covid-19 debt? Not honouring what has been promised is the curse of all politicians nowadays. Will Macron once again be the candidate that makes Bayrou stand out against the rest? Whatever his decision is, Bayrou’s challenge will be another threat for Macron’s 2022 campaign.