French politics

Lessons of a sacking

Delphine Batho, French minister of Ecology and energy from June 2012 to July 2013

Delphine Batho, French minister of Ecology and energy from June 2012 to July 2013

Delphine Batho has been sacked by the French president, on this Tuesday, only few hours after criticizing the 7%-decrease of the budget planned for her ministry in 2014.

Reactions quickly came to comment the sacking of the ex-minister of Ecology and Energy, now replaced by Philippe Martin. The Front de gauche (Radical Left) is scandalised and denounces the Hollande’s authoritarianism while Ecologists led by Cécile Duflot, minister of Housing, expressed their bitterness and their solidarity vis-à-vis Delphine Batho, announcing they’re still part of the government both. On the side of the opposition, some people prefer insisting on the lack of ambition of the executive regarding the Ecology issue to analyse the leave of Batho better.

Although the sacking of this former close ally of Ségolène Royal was brutal and quick (it was decided in only few hours), it remains logical insofar as the minister of Ecology missed to a fundamental principle in France, being in solidarity with the government you are member and leaving it if you disapprove it. Admittedly, Delphine Batho is not the first person (and won’t be the last) to express a different point of view vis-à-vis the strategy and the policy led by the government publicly. But as Françoise Fressoz, French political journalist for Le Monde, mentions, Delphine Batho was not an important person within the French government and not important to impose her views contrary to Arnaud Montebourg (minister of Industry, representing the Left and national wing of the Parti socialiste) and Manuel Valls (minister of Interior, representing the Moderate wing of the PS) who are in a permanent power struggle vis-à-vis François Hollande who needs them to get an equilibrium inside the government. Going to the clash this Monday, Delphine Batho probably committed a mistake: challenging Jean-Marc Ayrault and François Hollande who enjoy this unexpected occasion to (re)-affirm their authority, always questioned by their opponents.

Delphine Batho with Arnaud Montebourg, minister of Industry

Delphine Batho with Arnaud Montebourg, minister of Industry

Firing Delphine Batho, François Hollande wanted to send a very clear message to his ministers. The one who is challenging his authority a little too much, will be heavily sanctioned, what he reminded several times before, after a succession of ministerial bums and blunders. Of course, we can debate on the way Delphine Batho has been sacked but not on the reason which remains logical all the more so as the French president tried to make the former minister back on her statements, what she refused several times. And regarding Jean-Marc Ayrault, he has to prove he has authority and he is able to control his ministers. The controversy provoked by Batho was the opportunity for him to demand her head and remind he is still French Prime minister.

Delphine Batho sit down behinf François Hollande during the celebration of the French National Day, the 14th of July 2012 in Paris

Delphine Batho sit down behinf François Hollande during the celebration of the French National Day, the 14th of July 2012 in Paris

Delphine Batho’s sacking, quick and brutal, will be probably discussed in the coming days within the ruling majority and the French Left insofar as some people, the former minister was sanctioned for expressing a different point of view and she did not deserve that, especially in comparison with the attitude of other ministers as Montebourg, for instance. In spite of that, the opportunity was too big for Hollande to remind he is still the boss. The message he sent was for the Parti socialiste but also for the Ecologists.

The time was to the clarification, it finally happened to the detriment of Delphine Batho.

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