the Quatennens affair, a “crash-test” for La France insoumise

The case of deputy Adrien Quatennens, who admitted domestic violence against his wife, continues to cause a stir within La France insoumise and feminist movements. It comes to weaken Jean-Luc Mélenchon at the time when this one was on the point of going down again in the political arena.

Every day has its unfortunate statement. After Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s tweets evoking the “courage” and “dignity” of Adrien Quatennens, who withdrew from the movement before the opening of an investigation for domestic violence, the leader of La France insoumise hit the nail on the head on Thursday, September 22. To a question from a journalist from the Quotidien program who stopped him in front of the offices of the National Assembly to ask him if he regretted his tweets, he replied: “Sir, I weigh my words all the time, c You’re the one who regrets what you’re saying”, patting the latter on the cheek.

Then, on Friday, his former campaign manager and successor as deputy for Bouches-du-Rhône, Manuel Bompard, minimized the actions of Adrien Quatennens on the set of CNews: “I try to make sense of things: a slap is never acceptable but a slap does not equal a man beating his wife every day,” he said.

Remarks which aroused strong reactions from the Minister Delegate for Gender Equality, Isabelle Rome, who spoke of “abject remarks which trivialize violence”, but also from the feminist activist and adviser Europe Écologie-Les Verts de Paris, Raphaëlle Rémy-Leleu, who challenged Manuel Bompard on Twitter.

“BUT IT’S NOT POSSIBLE! @mbompard without laughing: shut up! What you’ve been saying with the rebellious comrades for a week is unbearable. Stop talking about the violence. At least stop making us suffer. Find the courage to speak with a feminist and take in both your lack of knowledge on the subject, your political complacency, and the pain and anger you generate.”

Mélenchon’s reactions deemed “insufficient and unacceptable”

The press conference organized at the National Assembly on Tuesday had already revealed the embarrassment of the LFI deputies forced to provide after-sales service. Two days later, neither Clémentine Autain, nor Manon Aubry, nor Clémence Guette, nor Aurélie Trouvou, nor Danielle Simonnet, all contacted by France 24, wished to speak on the subject.

“Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s position has created significant tensions within LFI, that’s for sure. I don’t know if we can talk about a crisis. But what is certain, given the important role that Adrien played Quatennens, as number 2 of the movement, is that this situation is necessarily experienced internally as a major shock”, analyzes political scientist Bruno Cautrès.

In fact, several voices were raised last Sunday, a few hours after Adrien Quatennens’ press release acknowledging having slapped his wife, to dissociate himself from the tweets of the rebellious leader. Clémentine Autain, in Le Parisien, and Manon Aubry, on Franceinfo, both said: “These are his words, not mine”. But it was the press release from the LFI neo-deputy for the Dordogne, Pascale Martin, who went the furthest, judging “insufficient and unacceptable” the reactions of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

“This affair is a crash-test for La France insoumise, believes Bruno Cautrès. We can indeed see that it introduces discussions and debates. We will see how LFI will be able to manage these internal positions and the media noise that goes with.”

Especially since the party of Jean-Luc Mélenchon has never been known to be a center of participatory democracy. Decisions within this “gas flow”, as the former deputy defines it himself, are usually taken by a small circle around him. Little room is left for debate and challenge by the leader.

Risk of fracture between LFI and feminists

However, the risk is great for LFI to cut itself off from feminist movements, even though the program of L’Avenir en commun was considered by these same movements during the presidential campaign as the most advanced on the subject of violence against women. From now on, certain feminists, like those of the collective “Relève féministe”, just created, demand the resignation as deputy of Adrien Quatennens and are indignant at the reaction of Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

“His tweet stunned me, I said to myself: ‘man defends man’. He knows, as the third presidential candidate, what influence he has in this country, he knew what he was doing”, is indignant Sirine Sehil with AFP. “For me he’s toast, he probably won’t run again but I don’t see how he can represent feminists,” she adds, while acknowledging having “a little bitter taste” to have voted for him in april.

>> To read: Sexist and sexual violence in politics: “Relève féministe” no longer wants to let anything pass

Beyond LFI’s relationship with feminist movements, what impact will the Quatennens affair have on the political weight of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the rebels in the public debate, even as they prepare to wage important battles on the pension reform, superprofit tax or unemployment insurance reform?

“For Adrien Quatennens, we can see that he is affected and that this affair will leave its mark. He will have to devote time to his personal affairs and to the recovery of his public image, judge Bruno Cautrès. As for LFI, it is certain that it is never good for an event to negatively disturb the image of a political formation. Now, has this affair penetrated deeply into society and will weaken them in the long term? It is too early to tell, we will have to look at the opinion polls in the coming weeks.”

The march against the high cost of living and climate inaction, organized by La France insoumise and la Nupes on Sunday, October 16, will undoubtedly be a first revealer.

France 24

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