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In the National Assembly, Gabriel Attal's solitary exercise in front of the deputies

The format is original to say the least.

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In the National Assembly, Gabriel Attal's solitary exercise in front of the deputies

The format is original to say the least. This Wednesday afternoon, at 2 p.m., the National Assembly will experiment for the first time with a new form of question session to the government (QAG). The Prime Minister, Gabriel Attal, will have to answer questions from deputies alone for 45 minutes. An unprecedented face-to-face meeting proposed by the President of the Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, in order to revitalize this short Wednesday session, very often deserted compared to the traditional one on Tuesday at 3 p.m. A formula reminiscent of that of “prime minister’s questions”, which takes place every Wednesday in the House of Commons in England.

Experimented until the end of May - a total of five sessions - this formula was validated a week ago by the conference of presidents of the Assembly, despite the divisions within the majority camp - the MoDem and Horizons were not in favor of it - and the opposition from the left. “We are going to have the right to the Attal show every Wednesday,” regrets for example LFI MP Andy Kerbrat, who fears that the exercise “will turn into a communications session” for the Prime Minister. “We are not expecting circumlocution and political strategy, we want concrete answers to our questions from the ministers in charge of the subjects. Gabriel Attal will be forced to respond on the sidelines while the French are waiting at the bottom, he complains. Before adding, half-teasing and half-serious: “I worry about the physical and mental health of a man who will have the answer to everything every Wednesday and who will become the generalized punching bag of the opposition. It's ridiculous."

“This will keep us busy for a month and a half… Did he answer correctly? Was he put in difficulty?”, mocks the socialist Arthur Delaporte. And to argue: “In principle, we were not hostile to it, especially since the responses from ministers are often null and insignificant. But I fear that there will be too great an imbalance in speaking time between the oppositions and the Prime Minister, who will always have the last word.”

Others see this essay in a more positive light. This is the case of the Republicans, the National Rally or the majority group, Renaissance, who voted for the implementation of this new formula. “Anything that can help revitalize question sessions in government is a good thing,” believes for example the boss of the Macronist deputies, Sylvain Maillard. A “courageous” exercise, judges Renaissance MP David Amiel, “because Gabriel Attal will not be able to hide behind his ministers and choose the questions to which he answers”. “It will also be interesting, because it will allow us to have a session on the general political vision which will be able to differentiate itself from that of Tuesday, which will be concentrated on more specific questions,” he adds.

A way, some think, to attract more parliamentarians to the Chamber. “The Wednesday QAGs had become sub-sessions. Asking a question directly to the Prime Minister could increase the crowds,” adds RN deputy Alexandre Sabatou. Her group, like Les Républicains, had also demanded a few months ago that Élisabeth Borne take part in the exercise. But the then prime minister did not respond favorably. “I had no doubt that Ms. Borne would have had convictions to express. That would have been very interesting,” says Olivier Marleix, president of the LR group in the Assembly. Before “doubting” that Gabriel Attal is “able to do anything other than utter elements of language and be a sort of spokesperson, sometimes a little insipid, for President Macron.” “He will being heckled, it's going to be a real test for him. Will he have things to tell?”, he asks with a smile.

Will this exercise help revitalize this session that is too often neglected? Will the oppositions take advantage of this to surprise or trap the Prime Minister, who most of the time will have no idea of ​​the questions that will be asked of him? Some doubt it. “The problem with this session is not its lack of interest, but its schedule. Wednesday is a day when we start very early in committee and finish very late in the Hemicycle. Most of the time, at 2 p.m., the deputies have not finished eating,” admits LR deputy Pierre-Henri Dumont. And this MP from the Macronist camp concluded: “We are still walking on eggshells, it has to work. The Prime Minister will not have the right to make mistakes, otherwise everyone will fall on us again.”

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