Paris, France: In the aftermath of his re-election in April 2022, President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged the delicate balance that secured his victory – a coalition of left-leaning voters who saw him as the lesser evil compared to far-right challenger Marine Le Pen.
Fast forward less than two years, and Macron finds himself at the centre of criticism for allegedly betraying those constituents.
The controversy stems from the passage of an immigration law heavily influenced by the right-wing Les Républicains party and supported by the far-right National Rally.
Macron, whose minority government played a pivotal role in passing the law, now faces accusations of aligning with the far right. This move seemingly contradicts the trust placed in him by left-leaning voters.
The immigration law, touted as an “ideological victory” by National Rally leader Marine Le Pen, includes measures inspired by the far-right party’s platform.
For instance, access to certain social benefits is now contingent on a more extended period of legal residence in France, and sanctions against companies employing undocumented workers have been intensified.
Critics argue that these measures reflect an acceptance of the far-right’s concept of “préférence nationale,” legitimizing discrimination against foreign nationals in favour of French citizens.
While members of Macron’s government insist that the law “respects our values,” opposition within and outside the government has been vocal.
Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne, defending the law on France Inter, expressed a “sense of duty fulfilled” despite strong criticism from the left, NGOs, and even within her own government.
Jean-Yves Camus, a specialist on the far right, views the law as a “hard-right” text, acknowledging the adoption of some policies associated with “préférence nationale.” Even within Macron’s Renaissance party, there are dissenting voices.
Caroline Janvier, an MP, voted against the law, highlighting concerns about opening the door to national preference.
Initially hesitant, the turning point came when the National Rally endorsed the bill.
Seizing on the opportunity, Marine Le Pen declared an “ideological victory” as national preference found its place in the law.
Some described the endorsement as the “kiss of death,” which was perceived as a strategic move to paint Macron’s government as complicit with the far right in the eyes of left-leaning constituents.
Les Républicains, too, celebrated the law as a breakthrough, chipping away at the taboo of equality between French and foreign nationals.
However, the party’s hopes of luring away far-right supporters may be in vain, as Camus suggests their strategy of adopting the National Rally’s platform hasn’t halted the latter’s rise in the polls.
Macron’s decision to push the bill forward, despite opposition within his coalition, resulted in 27 MPs voting against it and 32 abstaining. Health Minister Aurélien Rousseau resigned in protest, signalling internal discontent.
Despite assurances from Borne and government spokesperson Olivier Véran, questions linger about the unity of the coalition.
In an interview with “C à Vous” TV program, Macron defended his decision, stating that the law is a necessary shield against what nourishes the National Rally party – immigration fears.
However, the fallout reveals a seismic shift in the political landscape. Camus argues that with this law, France has accepted the far-right vision of immigration as a danger.
The Macron government appears to be playing a risky game to mitigate the impact of the right’s extreme measures. By accepting Les Républicains’ demands, knowing the Constitutional Council may invalidate some, they aim to balance appeasement with constitutional checks and balances.
The president submitted the immigration bill to the high court to decide on its conformity with the Constitution, acknowledging that some measures may be deemed unconstitutional.
While this strategy may attempt to offset the far right’s influence, Camus warns of the public’s potential dissatisfaction if the law is perceived as emptied of its substance.
The narrative of a ‘government of judges’ working against the country’s interests could strengthen the National Rally’s appeal.
In conclusion, Macron’s immigration dilemma underscores the challenges of navigating the complex political landscape between left and right.
The fallout from the controversial law reveals fractures within his coalition and raises questions about the president’s commitment to the values that initially garnered support from left-leaning voters.
As France grapples with the consequences of this ideological tug-of-war, the future political landscape remains uncertain, with implications reaching far beyond the scope of immigration policy.
This article was created using automation technology and was thoroughly edited and fact-checked by one of our editorial staff members