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Resignation of the Valls government. A French anachronism?

(BRUSSELS2) The reaction of the Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, as well as the President of the Republic, François Hollande, to resign the government... after the declarations of Arnaud Montebourg, caused surprise. If it appears as a “salutary” act of authority in France, it can nevertheless sound a bit like a French anachronism outside French borders.

An act to establish authority

This mark of authority, very French, a little Napoleonic, may appear a little out of place in relation to the facts themselves and in a modern conception of government. Certainly the Minister of the Economy's criticism of the government's economic policy was sharp. Certainly it cannot be exempt from criticism on the merits. The arguments used – Germany causes French ills – appear a bit like a hackneyed argument. And she is not free from electoral ulterior motives. But Arnaud Montebourg is used to these outbursts intended to heal his political stature and which have until now allowed the government to heal its left wing, which has been a little shaken up by the changes of course. It is not incongruous in the mouth of a socialist leader and appears in line with the electoral campaign run by Fr. Hollande. Better, it may even appear, in a certain way, quite consistent with what Paris is demanding at the European level – a relaxation of the pace of deficit reduction – even if the arguments are slightly different.

The habit of “silence in the ranks”

In many governments in Europe, if criticism of government policy is not a “national sport”, the expression of sensitivities, of different opinions on the policy to be followed by the government is not exceptional, especially in coalition governments. The “champion” of diversity of opinions in this matter certainly remains Belgium. The government made up of half a dozen parties is quite flexible on points of view. And it is not uncommon to see a member of the government express different views or even outright question a government decision. We had seen it in the past on the cessation of nuclear power, we saw it more recently on the flights over Brussels. Even in Germany, where the habit of discipline is undoubtedly stronger, we could hear very diverse points of view, sometimes within the same party, on the attitude to take with the Euro, Greece. As a result, the French “discipline” of the “silence in the ranks” type, illustrated in the past by JP Chevènement – ​​a minister shuts his mouth or resigns – is a bit of a “task”.

The end of the majority

The act of authority taken by François Hollande, although it will be able to satisfy certain supporters in the short term, thus reveals an increasingly short majority. The government of Manuel Valls had already lost the environmentalist ally. He is losing a certain part of the PS, which cannot be reduced to its most leftist wing. At one point it couldn't be more symbolic. In September, the government will lose the absolute majority it had at the national level. According to all projections, the Senate should indeed move back to the right. Manuel Valls' act of authority will thus quickly appear as the mark of clear governmental weakness.


Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).