Le Pen raises the stakes by challenging Macron’s role as commander-in-chief

  27 June 2024    Read: 655
  Le Pen raises the stakes by challenging Macron’s role as commander-in-chief

Far right is warning it will use budget as lever to influence French president’s authority over defense policy.

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is questioning President Emmanuel Macron's authority as head of the armed forces, days ahead of crucial elections his party is likely to lose, just as he is seeking to recast himself as one of Ukraine's staunchest military allies.

Le Pen's explosive remarks come with the far right on the brink of success in France's snap legislative elections, which would usher in a fractious cohabitation between the liberal president Macron and a potential far-right prime minister (probably Jordan Bardella), causing mayhem for French governance in a range of sectors — including defense.

The National Rally is now upping the ante — and raising the prospect of political disorder — by insisting it will push to gain influence over fields traditionally associated with the president — ranging from the "domaine réservé" of defense to appointing an EU commissioner.

“Chief of the armed forces, for the president, it is an honorary title since it is the prime minister who holds the purse strings," Le Pen said in an interview with the French regional daily Le Télégramme on Wednesday. " Jordan has no intention of picking a quarrel with him, but he has set red lines. On Ukraine, the president will not be able to send troops.”

Defense is a susceptible topic as there are long accusations of flirtations between Le Pen and the Kremlin, with Macron having directly called her out for being on the Russian payroll.

Earlier this year, Macron floated the possibility of putting Western boots on the ground in Ukraine, to help Kyiv as it fends off Russian President Vladimir Putin's full-scale invasion. That sparked criticism both domestically and from Western allies, and marks a clear fault line between the president and his likely hostile new right-wing government.

Ukraine, which relies on Western allies for weapons and military equipment, already fears the prospect of NATO-skeptic Donald Trump returning to the U.S. presidency after November's election — and France dialing back defense support would deliver a significant blow to its war effort.

Macron's allies leapt Thursday morning to accuse Le Pen of threatening the country’s order and security.

"If you claim that the person who appoints to civil and military posts in the state, the one who chairs the defence councils, the one whose constitution says in full 'he is the head of the armed forces' [...] then you are profoundly questioning the Constitution," said François Bayrou, leader of the French centrist party MoDem and a top ally of Macron.

Le Pen on Thursday seemingly nuanced her position in a post on X, saying: "Without calling into question the reserved domain of the president of the Republic, in matters of sending troops abroad, the prime minister has, through budgetary control, the means of opposing it."

Macron vs. Bardella

The French far right's surge in the European election swamped Macron's liberals and prompted the president to call snap elections in a flailing, last-ditch attempt to keep the right at bay — which looks set to fail badly, according to POLITICO's Poll of Polls.

Macron himself warned Monday that a victory for the far left or the far right in the snap votes could spark “civil war.” The president said the far-left France Unbowed and Le Pen's far-right National Rally both pursue divisive policies that stoke tensions between communities.

The French far right's surge in the European election swamped Macron's liberals and prompted the president to call snap elections in a flailing, last-ditch attempt to keep the right at bay. | Magali Cohen/Hans Lucas/AFP via Getty Images
Le Pen believes the French president will have little power to choose the next prime minister and hopes Jordan Bardella, who is the president of the National Rally, is going to take that role.

"I have said for a long time that Jordan Bardella would be prime minister. And we've been working for months, projecting ourselves into our future functions ... ," she said.

Macron's Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu said Monday that France would continue to provide Ukraine with Aster and SCALP missiles, as well as Modular Air-to-Ground Armament. Paris will also send Mirage 2000-5 fighter jets which will help Ukraine gain air superiority, he added.

Though earlier this month, Bardella said he would provide ammunition to Ukraine but not long-range missiles. Sending troops to the war-torn country is “a red line,” he added.

And in its manifesto which was released Monday, the National Rally said it wants to ensure that French nuclear weapons can only be used for France’s own defense.

That was a direct jab at Macron, who has said repeatedly in the past few months that French nukes could contribute to Europe’s security, calling for a debate on the issue with European partners — but triggering criticism from Le Pen.

 

 

 


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