One year before the presidential election, voters are not yet asking for the program. However, the candidates already declared and their respective camps have already lit fires under the pots of ideas. Because when the time comes, we will have to be ready, and the work to achieve this is colossal.
“We put very diverse things behind the word program, begins economist Jean Pisani-Ferry, who coordinated Emmanuel Macron’s program in 2017. In reality, the few flagship proposals that voters will retain, which give a general perspective, are only a fairly small part. Then there are all the elements that will feed the work of the administration. And finally, there is everything the candidate has to answer to the countless special groups that come to ask questions. “
At the center of this machine, there is first the personal work of the champions, and that of their closest entourage. Xavier Bertrand, for example, sees a lot of people and reads even more – books, notes – in order to spot the original idea that will hit the mark. “He’s a huge hard worker, curious about everything. Our role is to prioritize in order to neither deprive it nor drown it in information ”, says a relative of the president of Hauts-de-France.
Marine Le Pen, too, “Meets very high-ranking people almost every day from extremely different backgrounds ”, assures one of his advisers. Pecking for ideas is also done, if not above all, on the ground: the MEP for Europe Ecology-The Greens Yannick Jadot, who has still not officially said whether he is a candidate for the primary of the “environmentalist pole” in September, takes advantage of the regional elections to crisscross France: between now and the June poll, he plans to go twice to each of the 13 regions.
Rely on corpus of ideas
Then come think tanks, these think tanks that have become essential for producing programmatic elements, but also for giving them a credible foundation. “Out of intellectual laziness and in the face of our fellow citizens’ disaffection with them, the parties no longer have activists and have given up thinking. But on the eve of important elections, everyone remembers the need to rely on bodies of ideas that must be worked with specialists ”, explains Bertrand Pancher, deputy of the Meuse and president of Décider ensemble, an organization specializing in questions of participatory democracy.
Generally, the large independent think tanks (the Jean-Jaurès foundation, the Foundation for political innovation, etc.) propose ideas to candidates of their own accord, in the hope that they will be taken up. Decide together, which has already given rise to the idea of the “big debate” during the yellow vests crisis, will do it in September.
Candidates’ think tanks
But increasingly, candidates want to have think tanks at their fingertips as well. Xavier Bertrand has La Manufacture, his think tank with multiple local branches, which he endowed a month ago with a spokesperson, Jean-Paul Mulot, a former journalist. Marine Le Pen works confidentially with informal groups: Les Horaces, a mysterious anonymous collective born in 2016, supposedly made up of senior officials and business leaders, but also, a newcomer, Les Financiers enlightened.
On the fringes of the party, they are, in a way, “Super-cabinets”, illustrates a loved one. Yannick Jadot does not have a think tank – his team says it is thinking about it – and does not have, like the candidates from parties that have already governed, large networks in public institutions. But his relatives assure him: since the European elections of 2019, “Big bosses, senior officials, unions and NGOs, have contacted Yannick Jadot”.
In the Macronist camp, it’s a bit “each his own”. Marlène Schiappa is the godmother of Égalité ensemble !, a satellite association of La République en Marche dedicated to gender equality. The Minister of National Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, has been working for several months on the launch of his own suggestion box on the defense of secularism, which he could launch in June, as revealed The world, in order to “Feed the majority” on a subject which, he believes, will be at the heart of the campaign.
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And in March, five members of the majority, including the former president of the LREM group, Gilles Le Gendre, and the MoDem Isabelle Florennes, created a think tank, called “The Democratic Challenge”, which intends to develop, by the fall, programmatic proposals for institutional reform.
Changing the rules of the game
“The reinvention of our democracy is the mother of all battles, estimates Gilles Le Gendre. What we learned from this five-year term is that it was not enough to put all the energy in the world into useful reforms, it is the rule of the game that must be changed! Today, the democratic process is disarmingly ineffective: consider that after nearly two years, the bioethics law has still not been adopted definitively! “, deplores the deputy for Paris.
Hence this initiative that the elected official places “As a prologue to the campaign”. “Then Emmanuel Macron will take what he wants. He is the master of his campaign and his program. ” In this case, Emmanuel Macron is not yet in the campaign, not even being officially a candidate for the time being. This does not prevent his supporters from preparing.
At the beginning of April, the La République en Marche movement launched the online platform “For a cause”, on which citizens, even non-walkers, can submit proposals. “The goal is to pick up weak signals in the population”, then exposed Stanislas Guérini.
The novelty of participatory platforms
The approach is comparable to the “big march”, a vast door-to-door operation that launched the Macronist campaign in 2017. This, we are assured at LREM, had allowed subjects to emerge, including the candidate. had not yet perceived the importance, such as the fight against violence against women. This time, everything will be done online.
Online participatory platforms, almost non-existent in 2017, are shaping up to be the big novelty of the next presidential campaign in terms of the production of ideas. Because LREM is not the only one to use it: in January, Marine Le Pen had launched hers, “M the future”, just like Yannick Jadot with “Ecology 2022”. “Cultural evolution under the influence of social networks has been immense since 2017. Very top-down operations no longer work. Everything must be commentable and participatory, and that does not apply only to politics! “, theorizes a framework of the presidential party.
“Online participatory is not a gadget, especially in this period of Covid when it is difficult to meet people, adds an adviser from Marine Le Pen. Surveys are not enough to understand what a professional or an association manager experiences from the inside and how he sees the future. “
A work of consistency
Coordination work is then necessary. “Articulating the whole is the most fundamental point, insists Jean Pisani-Ferry, so that everything holds together between the main lines which must be communicable in the opinion, and the more technical elements which will especially allow the new executive to get down to work quickly. ” This step is often entrusted to an enarque passed by ministerial cabinets: the former prefect Christophe Bay for Marine Le Pen, or Vincent Chriqui, ex-kingpin of the campaign of François Fillon in 2017, for Xavier Bertrand.
Around Yannick Jadot, these are external experts who allow to confront “The reality of the ecological program with economic and budgetary realities, and European constraints”, indicates the former green senator Jean Desessard, who is in the process of carrying out this “Work of coherence” on the drafting of the presidential program.
For the candidates, however, there is no question of waiting for this long work to be finalized before communicating: from the pre-campaign period, everyone seeks to occupy the field of ideas. While having the concern to go the distance and therefore not to reveal too quickly his presidential program. A certain art of “Teasing” and ” drip “, exposes the entourage of a candidate.
Testing good ideas
“Before communicating on an idea, you have to test it, see what is innovative and resonates in public opinion”, also insists a close friend of Xavier Bertrand, describing the latter as “King of the test, both with academics and politicians from another side or its usual traders”. Sometimes, the ideas are also tested in the media, as Guillaume Peltier, number 2 of the Republicans and support of Bertrand, who proposed, Sunday, April 18 in the Sunday newspaper, to reconcile gross and net salaries, allowing an “increase” of the salary of 20%.
In any case, a program should not be frozen too early. In the months preceding the election, the situation can be modified by current events, but also by possible political negotiations. The adviser of a candidate is thus already preparing when ” it will be necessary to be able to integrate contributions, because future supports will come with their own ideas, while absolutely avoiding calling into question the general coherence of the candidate’s project or leading to a weak synthesis “.
One could almost wonder if the program, subject to so many uncertainties before and after the election, is so important with regard to the few flagship proposals that will mark public opinion and make the campaign. Besides, isn’t the presidential election above all, according to Gaullian mythology, “The meeting of a man and a people” ? ” No, answers Jean Pisani-Ferry. Some believe that it is enough to have a few general intentions. But that is not enough to pass the concrete test of a campaign. Developing a program is an extraordinarily demanding exercise. “
The next dates of the campaign
May 9: the 50,000 members of the Communist Party must vote to validate the candidacy of Fabien Roussel, already invested by April 11 by the National Conference of Communists.
July 3 to 4: Marine Le Pen must be officially invested as a candidate at the seventeenth congress of the National Gathering, which will take place in Perpignan.
In June or July, Republicans should decide whether or not to hold a primary. Part of the right is very reluctant, and Xavier Bertrand, ex-LR and declared candidate, has already indicated that he would not participate in any primary. But other potential candidates, in the first place Bruno Retailleau, absolutely insist on it.
September 2021: a primary of the “ecological pole” must designate the common candidate of Europe Ecology-The Greens and five small ecological parties. But EELV MEP Yannick Jadot casts doubt on his participation in this primary.