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how the democratic system adapts to the health crisis

The Minister for Overseas Affairs, Sébastien Lecornu (right) and Thierry Solère, Adviser to the President of the Republic, after a meeting at the Elysée in Paris on January 21, 2021 (LUDOVIC MARIN / AFP)

Two ministers positive for Covid-19, a multiplication of contact cases in the government … but there will be no new health protocol for Jean Castex’s team. For Matignon, the rules that apply to Île-de-France are de facto valid for all ministries: teleworking at most, 4 days out of 5, and team shifts in the offices. This rule has even been in force for a month and a half, since the circular of February 5 signed by the Prime Minister.

At the Elysee Palace, the Council of Ministers takes place in a limited capacity. Around Emmanuel Macron, Prime Minister Jean Castex, Minister of Health Olivier Véran and government spokesperson Gabriel Attal. The other members of the government attend by videoconference.

And the use has extended far beyond the executive. For a year, among MEPs, meetings of political groups on Tuesday have all been by videoconference. The same goes for the breakfast of the majority, which takes place just before. Videoconference also for the Conference of Presidents, on Wednesday, which brings together representatives of political groups, “or sometimes in the gallery of festivals, with 2.5 meters of distance between each one, and ventilating “ this immense room in the Palais-Bourbon.

Why is there still a part of “face-to-face”, to use the term that has imposed itself? “Because it is difficult to prevent elected officials from being present “, slips an adviser of the majority. And in particular those of the opposition. We are reaching the limits of what the health crisis allows, and what the democratic exercise imposes.

This applies to the organization of debates with the opposition, it also applies to the report to journalists. At the moment, the complicated position is that of the press advisor who must juggle his mission sheet – communicate – and health rules. For example, transform the rare press lunches into even rarer one-on-one cafes. “We keep the mask longer “, justifies an advisor. Another development: the reduction in the number of journalists present at the Council of Ministers report by Gabriel Attal. Six each week, responsible for relaying the questions of their colleagues. It was almost unlimited before.

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At the Elysée, where the rooms are cramped, enforcing the gauge is relatively easy. It is much less so at the National Assembly, where in theory no more than 50 journalists are accepted at the same time at the Quatre-Colonnes, the room where the deputies are interviewed. “But you can’t say to the editors: ‘Don’t come anymore’, recognizes a parliamentary assistant. The last one who tried to enforce the gauge took a bronca. “It’s always difficult to sort through the media.

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