French press review 30 June 2017

France has invited Donald Trump to Paris for the national celebrations on 14 July.

Le Monde‘s editorial says this is another proof of President Emmanuel Macron’s pragmatism: on Syria, international terrorism and climate, no real progress can be made if the lump Trump decides to block the way. So it’s better to talk to the US president than have him send out nasty tweets about you.

Forced to cancel his plans to visit Britain because of popular hostility, likely to be loudly unwelcome in Germany when he attends the G20 summit next week, Trump will review the Bastille Day parade in Paris to mark the centenary of US intervention in World War I.

It’s another handshake moment says Le Monde, referring to the locker-room struggles of the two men for physical dominance the last time they met. On this occasion France will parade its military might as a nuclear power and a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Trump will be quaking.

But, the editorial warns, we’ve had enough posturing. If Macron wants to become the European leader on the international stage, he’ll soon have to start doing things rather than just lining up the symbols.

The voiceless enter the debate about Versailles

Speaking of symbols, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his hard-left parliamentary colleagues have decided to boycott Monday’s address to MPs and senators by the French president.

Mélenchon’s We Won’t Take It Lying Down party thus swell the ranks of the disaffected – two Democratic Independents, one Socialist and one Green senator. The reasons for the refusals are varied.

Mélenchon’s announcement is more colourful than clear: “The violence to which we have been subjected can not be allowed to pass unanswered,” he told shocked journalists yesterday. “We turn that violence back against those who have inflicted it.” In case you’re worried that the poor man had been beaten up, he continued, “We are in rebellion. We will not go to Versailles.” Fair enough. If the Paris crowds had made the same declaration in July 1789, French history might have been different.

The Socialist, Régis Juanico, says the timing is an insult to the prime minister. Edouard Philippe will get to address the National Assembly the day after Macron has plagued both houses with his presidential pronunciamiento. Since when did Socialists worry about insults to conservative centrists?

The Green senator Esther Benbassa won’t attend because she thinks the money wasted on the pomp and circumstance could be better spent on providing basic necessities for the refugees in the northern port city of Calais.

Her message of refusal reads: “As a republican and democratic senator, I would feel more at home with the voiceless than going to Versailles to applaud a monarch who talks too much.”

A woman’s place is in the background

Le Monde‘s team of news decoders have been looking at the fledgling French parliament. There have never been so many women in the lower house but, guess what, they hold practically none of the key posts in the National Assembly.

Voters chose 224 women MPs in the elections earlier this month. Women thus represent 39 percent of all representatives.

But, in keeping with a tradition as old as the Fifth Republic (since 1958 in other words), the job of president of the National Assembly has gone to François de Rugy. That makes him the fourth most important man in French politics, and the job comes with considerable clout.

The presidents of the eight parliamentary groups are all men – another line unbroken since 1958.

And the national parliament is just an exaggerated image of the broader French political sphere. Even in the departmental governments where strict parity has been a legal requirement since 2015, there are 50 percent of women representatives but only 10 percent of them have been elected presidents of their assemblies.

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