It was never written down and never given a name, but France had a detailed plan to protect the Republic if far right leader Marine Le Pen was elected president, French media have reported.
News of the plan emerged as polls suggested support for the new centrist movement formed by Emmanuel Macron was growing ahead of parliamentary elections on 11 and 18 June. Macron defeated Le Pen in the presidential runoff.
The survey showed his La République en Marche party on 32% of the vote, up six points since the 7 May election and pulling ahead of its centre-right Les Républicains rivals on 19%.
A day after Macron unveiled his cabinet an equal number of men and women from the left, right and centre, plus many newcomers to politics another poll showed 61% approval for his choice of cabinet .
The polls boost Macron’s chances of securing a majority in parliament, although France’s two-round system makes it notoriously hard to predict how many seats a party will win.
L’Obs cited three anonymous sources with knowledge of the save the Republic plan, saying it was intended mainly to prevent serious civil unrest and to freeze the political situation by convening parliament in emergency session and maintaining the outgoing prime minister in office.
The magazine said the plan, known only to a small group of ministers, chiefs of staff and top civil servants, developed informally as Le Pen was climbing in the polls in the early part of the year.
Police and intelligence services were particularly concerned by the threat of extreme violence from mainly far left protestors in the event of a Le Pen victory as the country would have found itself on the brink of chaos.
Even before the first round of voting on 23 April, a confidential note drawn up by the intelligence services announced that without exception, every local public safety directorate has expressed its concern, Le Parisien reported.
Regional police chiefs were asked on 21 April to detail their crowd control and deployment plans, l’Obs said. Under France’s ongoing state of emergency, more than 50,000 police and gendarmes and 7,000 soldiers were already on duty.
On 5 May, two days before the second round that Macron won by 66% to Le Pen’s 34%, the national public safety directorate warned in another note that protestors were ready to use fireworks, mortars and incendiary bombs.
Fears of political instability if the anti-immigration, anti-EU Front National leader had been elected were equally acute. Although he subsequently denied saying he was considering it, several French media reported that if Le Pen won, outgoing Socialist prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve might stay on at least until parliamentary polls on 11 and 18 June.
France’s constitution does not oblige a prime minister to step down when a new president is elected. Under article 8, the president appoints prime ministers but only parliament can remove them from office, through a vote of no confidence.
Le Pen could in principle have invoked article 16 of the constitution, allowing a president extraordinary powers in an acute emergency. But short of that, without a parliamentary majority she would not have been able to appoint a new premier.
According to l’Obs, the emergency plan also called for parliament to be convened in emergency session on 11 May, four days after the second round, to address the predicted national crisis precipitated by Le Pen’s election.
Faced with mounting civil disorder and demanding France’s 577 MPs step up to their republican responsibilities, the government was then to have called and, presumably, won a motion of confidence.
The will of the electorate would have been respected: the presidency would have passed from François Hollande to Le Pen. But the government, officials said, would have assured the security of the state Government is about planning ahead.