Emmanuel Macron and territorial reforms – Book Extracts – Economy

EXTRACT 1 Introduction Emmanuel Macron and the territories, a Jacobin, Girondin or “Jacobin and Girondin at the same time” President?

By thwarting the routine of left-right alternation, Emmanuel Macron’s victory came as a surprise to many actors and commentators who saw it as an upheaval, a major destabilization of the partisan system1. Some believed to detect in the accession to the supreme office of a young man having never exercised any elective mandate, brought to the power by a “company party”, the beginnings of a major change of the public action. The candidate Macron himself was not afraid to promise a Revolution ”2 to the French. However, his positioning quickly turned out to be more ambiguous: a follower of the adverbial phrase “at the same time”, Emmanuel Macron positioned himself at the two opposite poles: he sometimes praised the verticality supposedly expected by the French of their President, sometimes praising an approach based on horizontality to claim to be “Girondin”.

This equivocal, even contradictory position was not perceived as such by most observers or actors in French political life: the vast majority of them retained the idea of ​​a presidency marked by a very Jacobin “Return to verticality”. For some, after a campaign speech focused on renewal and horizontality, this veneer would have quickly cracked to give way to “hyper-centralized” governance 3. The accession to power of Emmanuel Macron would have been synonymous with disruption with the established territorial order. For others, less numerous, the election of a young President should rather be read as a form of renewal in trompe-l’oeil, or under the prism of a continuity, embodied by a “dominant technostructure converted to liberalism. “4 of which Emmanuel Macron would be in a way the champion. What exactly is it? Is Macronian power more synonymous with the victory of the Girondins or the Jacobins, to use an opposition resulting from revolutionary thought and which has become a classic way of thinking about the tension between diversity and unity? Does the policy led under the leadership of Emmanuel Macron make him a Janus “at the same time Jacobin and Girondin” 5, as his relatives suggest? Beyond the declarations, what are the beliefs of Emmanuel Macron and his teams in terms of relations with the territories and what did they really want to do with the territories, or with the territories and their elected officials? Has Emmanuel Macron’s mandate transformed the territorial balance? Did it give birth to a movement of recentralization, as suggested by its opponents, or, on the contrary, opened the way to a revival of decentralization, as proclaimed by the presidential speeches? What were the promises for the territories? What reforms have been effectively adopted and implemented? How are stability and changes combined in the public action carried out with regard to the territories?


A desire to loosen up State-local authority relations which has been severely thwarted In this regard, we have to admit that it has encountered certain setbacks in its relations with territorial actors and with the senatorial majority. In the wake of his election, Emmanuel Macron had expressed the wish for a profound renewal of state-community relations, which he had the ambition to appease. He hoped to renew the method and the substance of the relations between central power and local authorities by setting up a National Conference of Territories, which was to be the place of negotiation and the creation of compromises between the State and the communities. He lost this bet and failed to fabricate a new negotiating scene or new compromises. Handicapped by the very weak territorial establishment of his movement, lacking a relay within the three main associations of local elected representatives largely dominated by coalitions uniting elected LR and socialists united by their common membership in the “world of before”, the executive Macronien has faced constant criticism from them. The expression of this mistrust appeared from November 23, 2017 on the occasion of the (very worked) closing speech of the 100th Congress of Mayors delivered by the president of the AMF, François Baroin: tipped to become Prime Minister, in the he hypothesis where François Fillon would have won the presidential election, François Baroin did not give a gift to his tomboy. The decisions taken in budgetary and fiscal matters served as fuel for strong opposition from associations of local elected representatives, which already had a partisan basis. Taken in a context of partisan polarization, the reforms of local finances and taxation have created very strong tensions between central and local authorities. Such a polarization had not known an equivalent since the Gallic Republic. The boycott of the National Conference of Territories (CNT) and the creation of United Territories perfectly symbolized this union of local elected officials, from opposition groups, against the Macronian executive.

In this regard, the comparison between the Macron mandate and other mandates makes it possible to better identify the importance of the factor of partisan congruence / incongruence between territorial levels: this plays a very important role in France in the capacity of the central power to get the local authorities to accept reform measures. The example of the Holland mandate perfectly illustrates the facilities offered by the congruence between national and local majorities. The central (socialist) power then benefits from important relays in most associations of local elected officials, due to the repeated victories of the Socialist Party in the local elections of 2008 and 2010. While the national executive is implementing an unprecedented policy of cuts in financial assistance from the State to communities between 2014 and 2017 (via the contribution to the recovery of public finances), the main associations of local elected representatives are certainly protesting, but they are keeping radical positions: the socialist relays play a moderating role in the criticisms addressed to the Government6.

The partisan configuration resulting from the 2017 presidential and legislative elections differs quite clearly from the situation that prevailed under previous terms of office. LREM certainly has an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly, but this national strength contrasts with the very weak establishment of the main component of the national majority: LREM certainly has some major local elected officials, from the socialist, centrist or neo-Gaullist ranks. , but the majority elected in 2017 is also distinguished by the historically very high proportion of new deputies totally lacking in local political experience. The creation in the National Assembly of a delegation to the communities is not enough to compensate for the weak territorial anchoring of the majority in the Assembly. The singularity of this configuration can, in many respects, be compared to that which prevailed during the first years of the Fifth Republic: General de Gaulle certainly had an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly but was very largely deprived of relay in the territorial world, at the head of the communes, of the departments, as in the Senate. The 1959 municipal elections were a stinging defeat for the Gaullist party: the UNR could only claim 22,253 of the 469,481 municipal councilors, 70 of the 403 mayors of municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants. The former political class, resulting from the Fourth Republic, which holds the Senate, but also the Association of Mayors of France, the Assembly of Presidents of General Councils (APCG) are trying to mobilize the center-periphery divide and discredit a central technocratic power cut off from realities, which between 1963 and 1965 led to a suspension of relations between the Gaullist government of Georges Pompidou and the territorial world. In 2017, this weak territorial anchoring of LREM was immediately identified by the President of the Republic as a handicap a priori to negotiate a “contract”, the main associations of elected officials being led by elected officials belonging to the national opposition.

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1Dolez B., Fretel J. and Lefebvre R. (dir.), Entreprise Macron, 2019, Grenoble, PU Grenoble. The authors suggest adopting a double reading in terms of change and continuity. 2Macron E., Revolution, 2016, XO Éditions. 3This is, for example, the thesis adopted by Cambadélis J.-C., La gauche de demain sera girondine, 2018, Fondation Jean-Jaurès, p. 36. 4Dolez B., Fretel J. and Lefebvre R. (eds.), Entreprise Macron, op. cit., p. 13. 5Ferrand R., “Emmanuel Macron is at the same time Girondin and Jacobin”, La Gazette des communes 20 Nov. 2019, interview with Forray J.-B. and Mazon M. 6 This can be seen in particular in the tone of the resolution of the 97th AMF congress in 2014 which certainly deplores that “State financial assistance is expected to decrease by € 11 billion gradually until 2017, i.e. a cumulative decrease of € 28 billion over the period 2014-2017 », But which does not for all that launch a recentralization process.