15. Manuel Valls, Prime Minister (& the week ahead)
As expected, PM Jean-Marc Ayrault resigned yesterday. President Hollande appointed his Interior Minister, Manuel Valls to be the next Prime Minister of France. Attention: the President assured in a speech that though the faces will be new, the policies will remain the same.
Manuel Valls: a popular among the unpopular
Manuel Valls is a popular man and he knows a lot about political communication (or at least he seems to know more about it than his boss, the President). So François Hollande has a good reason to be thinking about this: will his new PM try to steal the show? Will he take the Constitution seriously (“the Government shall determine and conduct the policy of the Nation”)? If that is the case, being the Prime Minister might be a good opportunity for Manuel Valls to reconstruct himself as a “presidentiable” politician for 2022.
I am pretty sure that he will not be able to challenge the President before: he is considered to be a “right-winger” among the Socialists, his current party basis is therefore rather slim (he obtained roughly 6% of the votes during the presidential primary of the PS in 2011). The good part of this is that his views are more or less in line with the Responsibility Pact (the economic agenda) announced by President Hollande earlier this year.
Valls will have to fight the so-called Matignon curse as well: no Prime Minister managed to move to the Élysée Palace directly from Matignon. The reason for this is more than clear: in the French system, the role of the Prime Minister is to protect the authority of the President and to take the blame for whatever goes wrong. But if Valls manages to take the initiative a few times, he might gain more than lose. Challenge.
The majority in the National Assembly… and those radical left-wingers
Having said this, does President Hollande play with fire?
The one area where President Hollande might need to be anxious, is the state of art in the National Assembly. The Socialist Pary has a majority of 3 MPs for the moment, but ex-minister Cécile Duflot is due back in Parliament and will take back her seat from her substitute. That is one MP down. And will there be one or two left wing radicals in the PS who refuse to vote with the majority from time to time? That might just bring the Greens back into the game.
Well, with friends like this, who needs enemies?
The week ahead
Evidently, schedules planned for this week might be modified at any moment. Thus, even the President’s public agenda cannot be considered as reliable (many programs have already been modified or rescheduled).
There is one thing that we know for certain: the members of the new government are to be announced Wednesday morning, and the new governmental team with Manuel Valls as PM will meet for the first time no later than Thursday. Oh, and President Hollande will be in Brussels on Wednesday afternoon. Everything else is absolutely uncertain.