Elisabeth Borne is not happy. The Prime Minister surprised everyone, up to the Elysée, by the liveliness of her reaction, Sunday, May 22, on a market in Calvados, when she had to comment on the accusations of rape which weigh on the new minister from by LR, Damien Abad. “Of course I was not aware,” she said after assuring that she had learned the case from reading Mediapart (the site reveals that a report for alleged acts of rape, going back to 2010 and 2011, which is based on the testimonies of two women, was sent by email to the LREM and LR parties by the Observatory of sexist and sexual violence in politics between May 16 and 20). And Elisabeth Borne immediately underlined: “I can assure you that if there are new elements, if justice is again seized, we will draw all the consequences of this decision.” An ambiguous wording that says above all the irritation of the head of government. A minister confirms to L’Express: since the Abad affair broke out, Elisabeth Borne has not taken off.

She thus set the tone. In the process, on a visit to Bordeaux, and while the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin refused to comment, the Keeper of the Seals Eric Dupond Moretti underlined: “The Prime Minister was very clear.” In the evening, on her return to Paris, Elisabeth Borne summoned Damien Abad for a direct explanation. When she confirmed this meeting, government spokeswoman Olivia Grégoire said that it had been “an opportunity to remind her of the government’s commitment, but also of her personal commitment to these issues” – a precision that is not insignificant: Elisabeth Borne makes it a personal matter.

At the heart of this first crisis, two questions intertwine and collide: the confrontation between the presumption of innocence and “the precautionary principle”, according to the formula now used; and the assertion of the political authority of the Prime Minister. Emmanuel Macron has so far held a line: “You know his reflex, confides one of his relatives. If we take out a minister like this, we will want to unbolt the whole government. The president knows the democratic risk that can result .”

On July 14, 2020, when asked about the appointment to the Interior of Gérald Darmanin, targeted by rape charges but whose investigations had been closed or had not had any follow-up, he replied: “As true as I believe in the strength of just causes, no cause is defended justly if it is done by flouting the fundamental principles of our democracy.” He continued: “If, from the moment someone is accused, but not judged, they become in a way the victim of a judgment on the streets, or of social networks, because there is an emotion – and I can understand this emotion because I share it – so […] our democracy changes its nature, it becomes a democracy of opinion.”

Two years later, is the balance point still the same? Elisabeth Borne would certainly not contradict the presidential remarks, but, barely appointed to Matignon, she can put forward a slightly different point of view: “It is clear that her hand will not be shaking, advances an adviser from the executive. She will not weaken on a file like this. She may want to embody her authority immediately.”

This Monday, at the end of the first Council of Ministers of the new team, the government spokesperson insisted: “The government is at the side of those who, following an attack or harassment, have the immense courage to speak” and specified that it was “for justice to establish the truth.” Is it for the sake of anticipation that she added “If there were other cases, the victims would have to come forward to justice”? “It doesn’t smell very good”, confesses a faithful Emmanuel Macron off the microphone.

Who knew what? The question cannot be evacuated in the next few days either. The government assures that no minister had been informed. Really ? “Yes, we were all aware, the Prime Minister I don’t know, but in any case those who are the most political were, says a government adviser. But the only valid criterion is: a-t- Was he convicted or not? Now that he’s in government, there’s nothing worse than letting him go.”

Sitting this Monday morning at the council table between Pap Ndiaye (National Education) and Yaël Braun-Pivet (Overseas), will the Minister of Solidarity, Autonomy and People with Disabilities be able to hold on? Damien Abad disputes the facts and wants to counter-attack on the political ground, arguing that an innocent minister “does not resign”. Le Figaro, he declares: “This complaint resurfaces at each key political moment of my life. coincidentally, it returns during the transfer of power to the ministry.” Elisabeth Borne does not like chance.