The cross : The result of the legislative elections shows an Assembly divided into three blocks: the Macronist center right, the Nupes and the National Rally. Is this the return of a right-left divide taken to extremes?
Jean-Fabien Spitz : It is certain that Emmanuel Macron wanted to erase the divide between the right and the left. It was his inspiration, but it also corresponded to a political situation linked to European construction. European integration makes left-wing politics almost impossible and this has the consequence of eliminating the left-right divide everywhere in Europe. In Italy, in Germany, in Great Britain, there are hardly any left parties any more.
What is surprising for two months in France is that a party proposing a real leftist program has held its own and won many votes. This is the real surprise of the ballot.
For a number of years, there has been constant talk of a crisis of democracy. Does this election show that it has increased?
J.-FS: If we talk about the crisis of democracy in France, it is necessary to go back to the 2005 referendum, when voters rejected the European Constitutional Treaty (ECT) and it was imposed on them despite everything. This is the founding event. The other major source of the crisis of democracy is the institutions. The presidential election of the Fifth Republic finally results in voting “against” rather than “for” and this is an aberration. The democratic crisis combines the founding event of 2005 and the inadequacy of the institutions of the Fifth Republic which are absolutely outdated.
Over the past five years, we have seen this democratic crisis deepen. Democratic debate has been sterilized. We were not in a tyranny of the majority, because the President of the Republic never gathered around his name a majority of the electorate. We have rather been in a tyranny of the minority, thanks to institutions that make it possible. This monopolistic exercise of power creates democratic disaffection.
Out of 13 groups, the next Assembly will have 10 opposition groups which will have no interest in compromises. What can be done to prevent certain forces from taking advantage of a systematic obstruction?
J.-FS: Not much. As long as the left opposition forces feel that the game of the majority is against them, no compromise will be possible. On the other hand, the far-right party feeds on its own exclusion. He will never compromise with anyone. For him, that would mean integrating into the system and losing his voters. There really is a knot of difficulty here.
Opposition parties will capitalize on their position as outsiders. For the democratic game, it is not at all beneficial…
J.-FS: No, it’s not beneficial at all. But to speak only of the far right, we can also see what interests have favored its rise. It made it possible to sterilize an opposition. For a long time it constituted an “opposition for nothing” in a way, since it could in no way be associated with the sharing of power. Until the day she becomes so powerful that the gates of power will be opened to her… It’s a very dangerous game…
This election shows that the Republican front has not worked. Have we come to the end of this logic? What other strategy to invent?
J.-FS: The limit of the Republican front is that it cannot take the place of politics. It cannot replace everything else. You cannot tell people to vote against the extreme right and at the same time make them vote for a policy that destroys the foundations of the Republic. Because there is a social acceptance of the Republic, which requires a form of social equality which has been constantly trampled on for thirty years. The Republic is literally “everyone’s thing”. It exists when individuals have the feeling that they can have a certain autonomy, that they are not victims of excessive pressures on the way of leading their existence. But today, many people have the impression that they are not in control of their lives. Many people have the feeling of being tools, instruments, means, for the prosperity of a minority.
To block the extreme right, it is therefore necessary to be consistent. If you call for a vote for the Republic, you must pursue a republican policy, a policy that defends public services, a policy of social equality, a policy that does not make people’s lives more precarious. The answer to the far right is republican politics.
More and more, our political life plays on the demonization of opponents. Do we lack a culture of tolerance in France?
J.-FS: No, I do not think so. French citizens have this democratic culture. They aspire to a real political alternation, to a sharing of power. The French civic body is not at all intolerant. On the other hand, I think that there is an elite which, in France, is deeply intolerant, which is convinced of being right, of holding the truth and that the power belongs to them. An elite who do not think they have to share.
This stiffness, very intolerant, inhabits the summits of society and it generates in reaction the forms of popular intolerance that we see today. We do not have a political culture based on intolerance, but we have institutions and elites that are absolutely unwilling to share power at all.
Could the result of the vote force the majority to this division?
J.-FS: For the moment, it is up to the government and the president to prove that they are able to find forms of political alliance and therefore to make concessions, alliances, in short to have another form of government. But I’m afraid they won’t be able to do it and that the opposition will turn on them.
Yet it is clear that the people who went to vote on Sunday said they no longer wanted a hyper-concentration of power. They refused verticality. The message is not easy to hear, but it has been sent. We can consider that this is a positive point.