La rentrée: La France Insoumise and Reconquête!
La rentrée marks the start of the school year in France–summer is over, everyone is back from vacation, Paris residents once again outnumber tourists. It also means the start of the political season. The political parties are holding their universités d’été, the summer conferences that allow for discussion and celebration. The rentrée also marks the opening of the National Assembly, after a brief few weeks in late June and early July–a newly elected National Assembly, in which Macron no longer has an absolute majority. The conference of presidents (leaders of the different caucuses) will be held on September 13, 2022, in which Marine, at the head of her caucus of 89, will play a major role. The assembly sessions themselves begin on October 3, with a declaration of the government in regard to the war in Ukraine and the consequences for France, followed by a debate, in accord with article 50-1.
The new president of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet (Yvelines) of Macron’s Renaissance, will be the first woman to hold that position in the history of the Fifth Republic. She succeeds Richard Ferrand (Renaissance), defeated in his own seat of Finisterre by Mélanie Thomin, a socialist running under the Nupes coalition, which included most of the parties on the Left. Some have suggested that she represents the “Glass Cliff Effect” (falaise de verre), which refers to “the overrepresentation of women in positions of power in a period of serious crisis.” Perhaps it represents a willingness to try a woman, if all else has failed; perhaps it represents the search for a fall guy in a no-win situation.
The most serious upset has just occurred in La France Insoumise, the dominant part of the Nupes coalition, and involving one of its leading members, Adrien Quatennens (Nord), who has been seen as a possible successor to Mélenchon, age 71. Quatennens is currently in a messy divorce involving domestic violence. His spouse filed a main courante, a declaration to the police for the purposes of the divorce but which is not expected to lead to investigation or prosecution. The Duck in Chains (Canard enchaîné) got the deposition and leaked it, of course. Quatennens published a letter of apology on twitter on September 18, after several days of the story and in the interest of “transparency.” He resigned his position as “coordinator” of the party (but not the party itself nor his seat in the Assembly). He was widely praised by LFI party leaders including Mathilde Panot, head of the party caucus and by Mélenchon himself for his “courage” in owning up to the charges (he did hit his wife, in fact) and in his temporary effacement in the party.
Not all members of the Nupes coalition were pleased. Luc Broussy, president of the National Council of the Socialist party, stated that Mélenchon “shows once again his incapacity to assume the leadership of a modern, humanist, and feminist Left.” The twitterverse largely seemed to agree.
And in fact the letter was something of a disaster.
Here it is, with some direct quotations and summarizing paraphrases.
It is not up to me to judge the appropriateness of this declaration which has caused so much talk. If my wife judged it necessary to make a declaration, to leave a trace in the particular context of the tensions around our divorce, that is up to her.
However, they were together in condemning the act of “political malevolence” which had leaked this to the press.
He understands how the media works. His wife doesn’t.
There are questions about what the declaration alleges, and because he does not wish LFI to suffer, he has made the “difficult and costly choice to express myself, in all transparency, on the situation,” and to obtain some peace in his family. He and Céline met in college, they have been together for thirteen years and married since 2014, and have a three-year-old daughter. This summer, they “spent our last happy days on vacation.” When they returned, she told him she wanted a divorce. He had had trouble resigning himself to it.
He doesn’t know the contents of the declaration, but “She said she made it with the sole purpose of leaving a trace of our altercations in case the climate around our divorce deteriorates. . . . I know the facts that can be used against me and the simplest thing is to say them.”
The violence had mostly started after she asked for a divorce. In one of [these incidents], in the context of the rupture of communication between us, I grabbed her wrist. In our last dispute, probably the one which justified her choice to make a declaration, I took her cellphone. In trying to get it back, she came at me from behind. I disengaged myself and, in releasing hold of me, she bumped her elbow. In this context of the separation, I sent too many messages to my spouse to try to convince her that our difficulties could be gotten over.
I think that Céline might also have mentioned another fact from a year ago when, in a context of extreme tension and mutual aggression, I slapped her. That is not me, and that has never been reproduced. . . .
I know that no explanation and no context, however complex the situation, justifies this behavior. It occurred in a rare moment of tension and does not characterize our life as a couple. I am a man of dialogue. I am not a violent man. I detest violence in general and especially against women. . . .
I could shrug my shoulders, minimize the facts and wait for the tempest to pass. But, because I am politically responsible . . . he was resigning his position in the party. He hoped he and his wife would be given privacy, and once again he apologized.
And of course someone found an older tweet from him, expressing disgust at the Macron government’s failure to do enough to suppress violence against women:
In contrast, the summer conference at Reconquête!, the party of Eric Zemmpour, was cheerful, since they had no duties to take up in the National Assembly, not having won any seats.
Marion Marechal, who appears briefly in this, has had her baby, a little girl named Clotilde. Her husband is a member of the Brothers of Italy, the extreme right party that may win in the upcoming elections on September 25, 2022.
Header Image of Adrien Quatennens by Shutterstock.
Justine Faure, “Yaël Braun-Pivet élue président de l’Assemblée nationale: une femme au perchoir, ce symbole qui s’est fait attendre,” TF1Info, June 28 2022. https://www.tf1info.fr/politique/yael-braun-pivet-elue-presidente-de-l-assemblee-nationale-une-femme-au-perchoir-ce-symbole-qui-s-est-fait-attendre-2224604.html
“La député Adrien Quatennens se met ‘en retrait’ de sa fonction de coordinateur de La France Insoumise,” Le Monde, September 18, 2022. https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2022/09/18/le-depute-adrien-quatennens-se-met-en-retrait-de-sa-fonction-de-coordinateur-de-la-france-insoumise_6142136_823448.html