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Fuel, budget, Edouard Philippe... Macron - Borne, behind the scenes of the battle of opinion

Seafood has been gobbled up for a while now, with the feathered chefs of the wider Macronie mostly gone again.

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Fuel, budget, Edouard Philippe... Macron - Borne, behind the scenes of the battle of opinion

Seafood has been gobbled up for a while now, with the feathered chefs of the wider Macronie mostly gone again. At the end of the famous dinner, already long, devoted to pension reform on September 28 at the Elysée Palace, the President of the Republic lingers a few more moments. Surrounded by his new special adviser Frédéric Michel, responsible for setting the Elysian speech to music, the president distills the instructions to two or three ministers of weight and responsible for the majority: this is what must come out, "off", from the discussion of the evening - the threat of dissolution, for example. Organize the leaks, with a clear intention: in this oh so troubled period, the Head of State wants to keep control of the situation. And communication control.

Presidential anger, rare but with a Greenlandic coldness, is beginning to become part of the legend of Macronism. This weekend of October 8 and 9, France lives to the rhythm of the conflict which opposes TotalEnergies and Esso-Exxonmobil to the unions which organize the strike of the refiners. The country is tense. The president is annoyed by late feedback. The sentence of Olivier Véran, spokesperson for the government, on October 5 - There is no "situation of shortage, but there are tensions", which "are temporary" - goes badly, especially since It comes from the man who was confronted, as Minister of Health, with the crisis caused by the lack of masks in the middle of Covid. “Services have a particular definition of shortage: when national stocks are reached. So they say there is no shortage!” Explains an Elysée adviser. Consequence: Emmanuel Macron finds his government "disconnected" - everything he wanted to avoid since his re-election. A minister underlines what hurts: "We don't say what people are going through."

The problem ? "It's a matter of upstream sensors," admits one of his colleagues. But also a too late handling of the situation. The ministerial cabinets pass the buck of responsibility to each other: the lack of responsiveness of the Minister of Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who contracted the Covid this Sunday; that of the Minister of Transport Clément Beaune, whose ability to hide when necessary is ironically boasted... Panic spread to the top of the State. There are even some who imagine making anti-cans orders to prevent the French from filling their jerrycans. "Can you imagine the panic that this would cause? We are not going to police cans anyway!", Laments a member of the government.

To win the battle for public opinion, the executive began to target TotalEnergies - like Emmanuel Macron's pressure on television on Wednesday 12. But the discussions turned out to be very complex. At the weekly staging meeting around Alexis Kohler, Monday 10 at the Elysée Palace, Elisabeth Borne's chief of staff, Aurélien Rousseau, tells how difficult it is to get from Patrick Pouyanné, the CEO of the company, if only to advance salary discussions by a month.

Since her return from Algiers, Elisabeth Borne has been forced to follow the crisis closely. Very close, even. Some ministers are surprised to see that, during their one-on-one with the head of government, her phone keeps ringing: here is who must at the same time respond to requests from blocked companies and unions. "Every five minutes she picks up to mediate between Total and the CGT, confides one of them. It's not completely normal that it goes back as far as Borne but, historically, it's always been happened like that. In this country, we are children, we always rely on the head of state..."

To the disorder in the service stations is now added the tumult in the National Assembly. Incidents of session and especially, lost votes for the government. The Prime Minister warned her advisers at the end of September: "I do not exclude the vote of a motion of censure, there have already been accidents in the examination of the texts since the beginning of the legislature. Rationally, the people have no interest in dissolution but not all behavior is rational, we rely on the rationality of others but sometimes..."

On 49.3, the government has only one battle to win, not the simplest: that of public opinion. The French must be convinced that he has recourse to this constitutional weapon - which has long been used to curb parliamentarians - to move the country forward against the obstruction of the opposition. However, the presidential majority would still have to agree on the right strategy. How long should we let the Nupes, the RN and the LRs lay down the law – literally – in the hemicycle? Several leaders are pleading to quickly whistle the end of recess. “At some point, you need a clearly established act of authority, explains a majority executive. And then, the more we let the oppositions win amendments, the more difficult it will be to explain that we are not keeping them in the final version of 49.3."

On Monday 10, the president of the Renaissance group in the National Assembly, Aurore Bergé, is convinced that she has won her case: 49.3 would be drawn on Thursday 13, at the latest on Friday 14. Two days later, on RTL , the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire announces that nothing will happen this week. Some argue that it would be inappropriate to boost the Sunday demonstration organized by Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Others, like this minister, are more pragmatic: "It's because we have to write the final text! It can't be done in half a day. And Borne must prepare its response to the motions of censorship: that will be his real test. His big moment."

At the Council of Ministers, Wednesday 12, Emmanuel Macron seeks to trivialize: he asks not to make the right and the left the big trial not to vote the budget, it is a marker of belonging to the majority . "We must not ask the impossible of the opposition," he told them. It is also a question of trivializing the use of 49.3: in his introductory remarks, the president recalls the need for the State to have a budget and indicates that it is Elisabeth Borne who will decide, if she deems it necessary, to resort to the famous article - "I will agree". The Prime Minister, as she rarely does, speaks immediately after the Head of State and also talks about 49.3. "So it's validated," immediately rebounds Emmanuel Macron. Move around, there is nothing to see, or almost.

He spoke of the oppositions, he does not suspect then that the problem will come from his majority. The following night, on the initiative of the MoDem group, and with the support of Renaissance deputies (including Elisabeth Borne's deputy), the Assembly adopted an amendment on superdividends, against the advice of the government. "It makes no sense to invent a tax in the middle of the night, we have to hold on to our dogmas, but that gives opposition a hold," grumbled a minister.

There is one who, precisely, by postcards sent from Le Havre, likes to talk about the substance. A tad too much to the taste of Emmanuel Macron's lieutenants. They saw Edouard Philippe appear on the front page of Le Parisien this Sunday, October 9 and "rehash his fads", says a Renaissance minister, in a moment that they do not consider the most appropriate. The ex of Matignon puts a layer on the legal retirement age, which he would like to see raised to 65, 66 or 67 years, while the oppositions are preparing to make life difficult for the majority in the Assembly and that the French are queuing up at service stations: this little reminder shot is hard to digest. As Le Parisien narrates, the boss of the presidential party Stéphane Séjourné subtly tackled the former Prime Minister in the executive office on Monday evening. "Hey, it's fine, he's not going to apologize for existing Edouard!, enraged one of his soldiers in Parliament. Honestly, who discovered that he was worried about the debt? Who discovered that he considered that you had to retire even later?"

This increasingly free ally, whose macronists wonder if he is still as loyal, has this annoying habit of adding problems to problems. It is already difficult to keep your own troops, it is not to regulate the pranks coming from outside. "It will not have escaped you that they don't like him too much, Edouard, at Renaissance... and I have a good feeling that the gentleman you are seeing on TV at the moment either", laughed a minister this Wednesday evening while watching the president's interview on France 2. He continues: "Philippe didn't say anything special at Macron's dinner on pensions and there he comes out with this thing... Politically, I don't understand the approach. In reality, he doesn't really care if it goes through or not; what he wants is to pass for a great reformer."

It is therefore at the heart of this bololo, as the mayor of Le Havre would say, that Emmanuel Macron reappeared on the screens this Wednesday evening, for the first issue of the program L'Evènement". It was about the war in Ukraine, demonstrations in Iran, deadly clashes in Armenia... And to show that there is always a captain on board." It is important that he does that, he must explain what is happening to the French, give them as many details as possible", commented a minister while maps and infographics came to support the arguments of the President of the Republic. The diagram of the program was the subject of long reflections. "For the President, the good format, it's an hour, and he wanted a one-on-one conversation, to restore political meaning", summarizes an adviser. The international bet, even in terms of ratings, is successful, since 5.38 million French people followed the speech of the Head of State. Emmanuel Macron will speak again at television on October 26. A second tree to hide the forest: in November, it will be absent from France for most of the month.

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