“It’s going to be very sporty” in the National Assembly, slips a minister. With the weakest relative majority of the Fifth Republic, Olivier Véran, Minister of Relations with Parliament (MRP), is on track to bring this essential function out of the shadows.

“At the MRP, you need a strong political personality who likes the oratorical contest”: qualities attributable according to this member of the government to Olivier Véran, who saw himself more at the top of the government poster, when he was appointed before the legislative elections, but will end up very exposed in the end, given the result of the ballot.

Ex-Minister of Health, sometimes bloodthirsty in the hemicycle, chaining the passes of arms with the opposition during the Covid crisis, he will be on two fronts, in “go-between” vis-à-vis the oppositions and to the maneuver to consolidate the Macronist majority.

Coming from the socialist ranks, he is one of the oldest parliamentarians of the presidential party, a valuable experience to navigate despite the headwinds of a camp reduced to some 250 deputies.

The Minister for Relations with Parliament, “he is the watchmaker of the majority, he ensures that the trains arrive on time and that the texts are voted on”, explains Jean-Jack Queyranne, former holder of the title under Lionel Jospin, between 2000 and 2002, during a period of cohabitation.

Officially responsible for “facilitating relations between the executive and legislative powers”, the post was only really institutionalized with the Fifth Republic, which cut the cord between Parliament and government.

“The first government of the Vth did not have an MRP. The function arrived at the end of 1961”, contextualizes Bastien François, professor of political science at the University of Paris 1. The Gaullist majority “elected on an ambiguity” vis-à-vis the status of Algeria then begins to sway.

Finally favorable to self-determination, de Gaulle lost 150 deputies between 1958 and 1962. A hemorrhage which pushed Michel Debré to charge in August 1961 Louis Terrenoire, social Gaullist and deputy for Orne for nearly twenty years, “of the relationship between the government and parliament.

“Programmer”, “switcher”… In practice, the Minister or the Secretary of State contributes to the definition of the agenda, that is to say the agenda of the texts of law, in connection with the presidents of the parliamentary groups.

From now on, “the MRP will be obliged to adapt the agenda permanently”, predicts a former member of the cabinet: with fussy oppositions and ready to obstruct, the examination of the texts could drag on in length.

“The system is made to govern by majority”, explains this observer. “Everyone will have to learn to function differently”.

The minister will have to show roundness, behind the scenes as in session, where it is necessary “to arrive in the hemicycle in the event of a blow from Trafalgar” during a vote, in the words of Jean-Jack Queyranne. Understand: try to extinguish the fire if the majority is found wanting on a text.

“There is also the more invisible part, also underlines Bastien François. You have to walk in the corridors, feel what is happening among parliamentarians.”

Expert in the matter, the parliamentary adviser to Michel Rocard, Guy Carcassonne: in 1988, the Prime Minister had only a relative majority, with 14 seats. Even if he was not officially a minister, Carcassonne works behind the scenes to pass the texts.

“He asked the opposition deputies to stay at the refreshment bar to obtain abstentions”, laughs Bastien François. “It was he who saved the Rocard government”.

But the situation of this XVIth legislature is very different from that of 1988: the majority is divided into three components, Renaissance (ex-LREM), Horizons and MoDem. And the number of votes missing to reach an absolute majority amounts to around thirty.

“There is no simple alternative, a little more to the left or a little more to the right. The game is more open but also more difficult”, estimates Bastien François. “The MRP must be smart with the regulations” of the Assembly and a fine negotiator.

Olivier Véran underlined when taking office the “500 hours” spent using the red benches of the hemicycle on the series of health texts. A performance he could well beat.

06/29/2022 11:50:05 –         Paris (AFP) –         © 2022 AFP