In 2017, just after the defeat of Benoît Hamon in the presidential election, Bernard Cazeneuve had paid in person. The former Prime Minister had multiplied to support, almost everywhere in France, the socialist candidates for the legislative elections. After more than fifty visits, meetings, rallies and other militant festivities, he had ended up on his knees. Five years later, the now lawyer does it again. At the end of last week, he supported four socialist candidates in the Dordogne, before participating in a meeting in Cahors with Rémi Branco, rival of the secretary general of the Republicans Aurélien Pradié in the Lot.

In five years, Bernard Cazeneuve has however changed strategy. Whereas five years ago he was campaigning for the PS, the former Prime Minister is now struggling, above all, against the Nupes. He said it and said it again: the alliance between the Insoumis, the socialists, the communists and the ecologists seems to him to be a historical error, contrary to the values ​​of the rose party, which he has just left. “I came to tell you that you are the heirs of Léon Blum, of Jean Jaurès, of François Mitterrand, of Pierre Mendès France. That you are not Maduro’s heirs and that you are not Putin’s accomplices…” he said on Friday May 13 to socialist activists gathered in the Palais des Congrès in Périgueux.

Tuesday, May 24, here he is, armed with the same convictions, arriving, always “smart” — collarless jacket with pocket square, nice shoes — at the Bistrot du Poinçonneur, near the Porte des Lilas, in the 20th arrondissement of Paris. A rose in hand, Lamia El Aaraje is waiting for her. The young woman is a very special case. She is the only one to have benefited from the somewhat constrained leniency of Jean-Luc Mélenchon. Elected PS deputy a year ago after her victory against the Insoumise Danielle Simonnet, she was initially not entitled to the rule decreed by the leader of the Insoumis, according to which an outgoing deputy will be the only candidate of the Nudes. The PS fought back. David Assouline, the boss of the socialists in Paris, struggled to get Lamia El Aaraje to be a candidate with the backing of Nupes. He succeeded, even if Danielle Simonnet remains on the track, with the label of Nupes, in this district of the North-East of Paris.

Among the Insoumis, the exception goes badly. Danielle Simonnet risks losing this election, even if no one doubts that she will appear in the second round. Moreover, relations are hardly cordial between the two rivals. Lamia El Aaraje’s team didn’t make too much noise to announce the small meeting at the Bistrot du Poinçonneur, fearing that rebels would disturb it. Bernard Cazeneuve, invited by the socialist candidate, was quick to come and spend an hour there. The opportunity is too good, the scenario too emblematic, to add a layer against Mélenchon.

The Sixth Republic is the Fourth without talents.Bernard Cazeneuve

The former Minister of the Interior has never accepted the accusations of the Insoumis en chef, who in 2017 had blamed him for the death of Rémi Fraisse, killed by a grenade during a demonstration on the site of the dam of Sivens. “Cazeneuve, the guy who took care of the assassination of Rémi Fraisse”, had dropped Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the airwaves. In front of the thirty or so activists gathered in the Parisian bar on Tuesday evening, Bernard Cazeneuve barely holds back his anger. He attacks “those who called him the assassin of Rémy Fraisse”, “this left which does not organize hope but the most extreme tension”, “this left which moves away from the principles of the Republic “.

Cazeneuve would like, in place of the “tumultuous” Melenchonist left, which prefers din and excess”, a left capable of “finding a path that brings us together”. He, the man of temperance, can’t stand “the narcissism that leads to putting his head on all the posters, everywhere in France” – here again he’s talking about Jean-Luc Mélenchon! He also mocks the electoral bulimia of the former presidential candidate: “It seems that modernity in politics is to start in Essonne to finish in Marseille [the lands of election of Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Ed] , to start senator to finish deputy. »

He also praises secularism, “a way of telling all Muslims that we will protect them from what Islamism can produce of the confinement of women” — another stone in Mélenchon’s garden —, and denigrates his penchant for a republic, the sixth, parliamentary. “This campaign is strangely similar to what the Fourth Republic was,” he said on the sidelines of the militant meeting. I don’t dream of a return to the Fourth Republic. The Sixth Republic is the Fourth, without the talents. »

After an hour’s meeting and a few handshakes, Bernard Cazeneuve leaves. Soon, he will support dissident socialist candidates in Seine-Maritime and Cherbourg. Always urban, but always firm.