July 14, 2024

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The silence of the French elite regarding Le Pen is deafening

The silence of the French elite regarding Le Pen is deafening

Written by Lionel Laurent

Emmanuel Macron has come under sharp criticism from his party and allies after he called for early parliamentary elections, which his far-right rival Marine Le Pen is expected to win. But there is a strategy to his madness. If the French are tired enough of wanting radical change while risking a worsening of public finances and a confrontation with the European Union, they would be better off doing so now rather than in 2027, when the Elysee Palace becomes up for grabs.

What is less understood as Le Pen’s party approaches power is the position of the French elite. An eerie silence has fallen as years of pro-business reforms and tax predictability threaten to spiral into a Brexit-like atmosphere. Promises of unrealistic benefits and lower retirement ages by the far right and far left – which will do little to enhance productivity or competitiveness and are expected to worsen the budget deficit – will typically lead to more anger and denunciation.

Nvidia is worth more than the entire French stock market as the election approaches

Obviously, most CEOs don’t like the idea of ​​taking an implicit stance against their clients — especially when it comes to sensitive issues like immigration or unexpected taxes.

But given the looming threat to public finances, the lack of any consultation on issues such as innovation or growth and the search for scapegoats on both the left and the right, perhaps perspective is less important. It is curious, however, that so few presidents who routinely defend stakeholder capitalism and tout their environmental and social credentials were willing to speak publicly about the policies proposed in this election. Mediv’s president, Patrick Martin, told Le Figaro newspaper this week that his union considered the proposals of both Le Pen and the Left Bloc dangerous to the French economy, but added that he did not want to offend their voters by seeing them as extremists.

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Among those willing to speak out is Maurice Levy, the former head of Publicis Groupe SA, who warned this week that both “extremes” are dealing with unrealistic economics and are headed for a rude awakening. Recently, Stefan Bogena, head of Euronext NV, warned voters seduced by Le Pen that Europe’s ability to compete with the United States and China would be delayed.

all others; Silence.

Perhaps silent CEOs, like silent voters, simply view Le Pen as the least risky option on offer. Her National Alert party has been constantly courting the heads of major companies in the CAC 40 index in recent years. It has become increasingly common to hear people say that Marine is not Jean-Marie Le Pen’s father, and that second-in-command Jordan Bardella is not the destroyer of worlds. At this week’s European Defense Industry Exhibition, I watched Bardella, 28, confidently walk past dozens of lethal weapons displays, assuming the pose of a leader in waiting. His statement on the sidelines in support of Ukraine and his support for France’s NATO commitments, despite his party’s recent negative positions on both, show an absolute willingness to abandon policies aimed at appeasing public opinion.

The dream of Le Pen and Bardella forming a French version of Italy’s right-wing Giorgia Meloni coalition – essentially combining a hard-right culture war with a constructive stance on the budget and foreign policy – ​​is gaining ground. This explains why one of the first major business moves was billionaire Vincent Bollore’s attempt to “unite the right” by encouraging an alliance between center-right Republicans and Le Pen.

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However, Le Pen is not Meloni. Its populist appeal lacks the spirit of compromise seen in Italy’s ruling coalition. It is one thing to assume that the French deep state can run things while chaos spreads in Parliament – ​​and another to assume that the state itself will not participate in the process, as is the case in the United Kingdom. With ten days to go before the election, it is time for French companies to demand clarity on the current set of expensive promises made by both the right and the left. Otherwise, there is a risk that France will inherit Italy’s economic path rather than lead it.

Performance – Editing: Stathis Ketigian