Posts Tagged ‘Francois Hollande’

Trump in Trouble With France (Again)

May 6, 2018

France slams Donald Trump for Bataclan remarks during NRA speech

“Obscene” is what one former French president said about Trump’s antics during a NRA speech on Friday. In an effort to make a point, Trump mimicked shooters who killed 90 people in a Parisian club in November 2015.

    Image may contain: 1 person, text
 President Donald Trump speaks at the National Rifle Association’s annual convention in Dallas, Friday, May 4, 2018. (AP Photo-Susan Walsh)

France condemned US President Donald Trump on Saturday for comments he made during a National Rifle Association (NRA) event on Friday about the 2015 Parisian terrorist attacks.

The outrage has come just over a week after Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron stressed their friendship during Macron’s state visit to the US.

Read more: Donald Trump, NRA double down on arming teachers following Florida school shooting

Trump’s offending remarks:

Referring to the 2015 attack by Islamist terrorists, Trump told rifle owners:

  • “Nobody has guns in Paris and we all remember more than 130 people, plus tremendous numbers of people that were horribly, horribly wounded. … They were brutally killed by a small group of terrorists that had guns.”
  • “They took their time and gunned them down one by one,” he added, before mimicking the shooters while saying: “Boom. Come over here. Boom, come over here. Boom.”
  • Trump said someone in the Bataclan club, where 90 of the 130 people died, could have ended the killing spree if they had been able to use a gun to shoot back.

Read more: Opinion: Trump’s tweet is repulsive, NRA video is chilling

‘Shameful’ and ‘obscene’

France’s Foreign Ministry said: “France expresses its firm disapproval of the comments by President Trump about the attacks of November 13, 2015 in Paris and asks for respect of the memory of the victims.”

François Hollande


Les propos honteux et les simagrées obscènes de Donald Trump en disent long sur ce qu’il pense de la France et de ses valeurs. L’amitié entre nos deux peuples ne sera pas entachée par l’irrespect et l’outrance. Toutes mes pensées vont aux victimes du 13 novembre.

Former French President Francois Hollande, who was in office at the time of the attacks, wrote on Twitter that Trump’s remarks and gestures were “shameful” and “obscene.” He added that the comments ” said a lot about what he [Trump] thinks of France and its values.”

Hollande’s prime minister at the time of the attacks, Manuel Valls, wrote on Twitter: “Indecent and incompetent. What more can I say?”

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said Trump’s description of the 2015 attacks was “contemptuous and unworthy.”

Read more: NRA ad sparks uproar with call to ‘fight’ Trump opponents

French trauma: Gunmen loyal to the “Islamic State” stormed multiple locations in Paris, including outside the national stadium, cafes, bars, and the Bataclan club, in November 2015. Armed with assault rifles and suicide vests, they killed 130 people and wounded 350.

UK surgeon also unhappy: Trump also commented on the lack of guns in the United Kingdom, comparing a London hospital to a “military war zone hospital” because of the purportedly large number of people needing treatment for knife attacks. The director of London’s major trauma system said “to suggest guns are part of the solution [to combat knife crime] is ridiculous.”

Read more: Trump maintains laissez-faire position on gun control

amp/aw (Reuters, AFP)


Macron boots French media from presidential press room for ‘practical reasons’

February 14, 2018


14 February 2018

Macron boots French media from presidential press room for 'practical reasons'
Photo: AFP
The French presidency announced Wednesday that it is kicking reporters out of the Elysee Palace and down the street in a move that symbolises Emmanuel Macron’s desire to keep the media at arm’s length.
Reporters have had a press room inside the Elysee for the past four decades from which to cover press conferences, foreign leaders’ visits and other events.
AFP and other news agencies have permanent desks there, notably allowing them to see who is arriving for meetings with the president thanks to the press room’s location overlooking the main courtyard.
But Macron’s communications advisor Sibeth Ndiaye told reporters the presidency had decided to move the press room into an annexe down the street “in order to make it bigger”.
The move will take place by the summer, she said.



Photo: AFP


Asked if Macron was trying to “get the press out of the way”, Ndiaye said that was “not the president’s intention”.
Macron had made no secret of his desire to see journalists booted from the main Elysee building when he was elected in May, but the idea was put on the backburner after it prompted an uproar from the media.
The current press room will become a meeting room for presidential advisors, Ndiaye said, insisting the decision was made for “practical reasons”.
The move is the latest of a string of signs from Macron that he intends to keep a much tighter leash on the media than his gossip-loving predecessor Francois Hollande.
Hollande regularly chatted to reporters off-the-record and was ultimately damaged by a tell-all book, “A President Shouldn’t Say That”, published at the end of his term based on his conversations with two political journalists.
Macron gave a nearly two-hour briefing to reporters on a range of issues on Tuesday night, but press access to the president has so far been tightly controlled.
He drew mockery early in his presidency for comparing his job to that of the Roman king of the gods Jupiter, staying above the fray of daily politics and giving few interviews.
Centre-right president Valery Giscard d’Estaing, in power from 1974 to 1981, was the first to allow journalists an office at the Elysee.
His Socialist successor Francois Mitterrand moved it to its current location on the courtyard, where journalists can watch the comings and goings, in order to boost transparency.

Macron, Netanyahu mark 75 years since Paris roundup of Jews

July 16, 2017


© AFP / by Gina DOGGETT | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined French President Emmanuel Macron at a ceremony marking the roundup of 13,000 Jews in Paris in 1942 who were then sent to Nazi death camps 
PARIS (AFP) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday marked 75 years since the roundup of some 13,000 Jews to be sent to Nazi death camps, calling France’s responsibility a “stark truth” at a ceremony attended by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.Speaking near the former site of the Velodrome d’Hiver, the indoor cycle track from which the Jews were deported in 1942, Macron said: “It is indeed France that organised” the roundup. “Not a single German” took part.

Netanyahu’s presence at the ceremony sparked controversy, with the Union of French Jews for Peace (UJFP) calling the invitation “shocking” and “unacceptable”.

The UJFP accused the Israeli government of “usurping the memory of the victims of Nazism to make people believe that Israel represents all the world’s Jews”.

The ceremony marked the day when officials of the Vichy regime in Nazi-occupied France began rounding up 13,152 Jews and taking them to the Velodrome d’Hiver, an indoor cycle track in Paris.

Fewer than 100 of those who were detained at the so-called Vel d’Hiv and then sent to the Nazi death camps survived.

Macron was the fourth French president to accept blame for France’s role in the deportations — which totalled more than 75,000 — since Jacques Chirac first did so in 1995.

“Time does its work,” Macron said. “Archives open (and) the truth comes out. It’s stark, irrevocable. It imposes itself on us all,” Macron said.

– ‘Sacred honour’ –

Netanyahu hailed the “special heroism” of the French resistance to the Nazis, praising the “noble French citizens who at great risk to their own lives” saved thousands more Jews from perishing in the death camps where at least six million would die overall between 1941 and 1945.

“For the sacred honour of those who perished… let us remember the past, let us secure tomorrow,” he said.

“The strength of Israel is that it is the one certain guarantee that the Jewish people will never undergo a Holocaust again.”

Among other critics of Netanyahu’s presence was former French ambassador to Israel, Elie Barnavi, who told AFP it made him “a little uneasy”. He added: “This story has nothing to do with Israel.”

Among Sunday’s other speakers were prominent French Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld and Pierre-Francois Veil, son of Holocaust survivor and rights icon Simone Veil, who died late last month aged 89.

Netanyahu’s visit is the first since he joined a massive march attended by numerous world leaders held in solidarity with the victims of the January 2015 terror attacks on the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine and a Jewish supermarket.

He was to hold talks later Sunday with Macron, the first since the French president’s election in May.

Macron met Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday, when he reiterated both France’s support for a two-state solution to end the Middle East conflict, and its opposition to Israel’s building of settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Netanyahu arrives just after a surge of violence in Israel, where a gun attack by three Arab Israelis in Jerusalem’s Old City Friday left two Israeli police officers and the attackers dead.

He is expected to sound Macron out on his position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But it is not yet clear whether Macron will follow the pro-active line taken by his Socialist predecessor Francois Hollande, whose efforts to mobilise the international community on the question angered Israel.

Talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since the failure of US mediation in the spring of 2014.

Since then the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has simmered on, with the occasional surge of violence such as Friday’s killings.

The two leaders are also expected to discuss Israel’s arch-foe Iran, in particular Tehran’s role in the Syrian conflict, where it is backing President Bashar al-Assad.


France: Marine Le Pen steps down as Front National leader to widen appeal, concentrate on presidential bid

April 25, 2017

The move appears to be a way of embracing a wider range of voters

By Shehab Khan

Far-right candidate Marine Le Pen has announced she is temporarily stepping down as leader of the Front National (FN) to concentrate on her presidential bid

French presidential election candidate Marine Le Pen 

 French presidential election candidate Marine Le Pen  CREDIT: AFP

Ms Le Pen said  she was taking “a leave of absence” from leading the FN to focus on campaigning, in a move that appeared to be a mere formality that changes nothing in her campaign platform.The move does seem aimed as a way of embracing a wider range of voters ahead of her runoff against centrist Emmanuel Macron.

She told France 2 television: “I will feel more free and above all, above party politics, which I think is important.”

Ms Le Pen has said for months she is not, strictly speaking, an FN candidate but a candidate backed by the FN. She has long distanced herself from her maverick father Jean-Marie, the former FN leader, and in the election campaign has put neither her party’s name nor its trademark flame logo on her posters.

She has repeatedly said the policy platform on which she has stood is hers and not reflective of the FN.

“Tonight, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the presidential candidate,” Ms Le Pen said on French public television news.

Ms Le Pen had previously attempted to clean up the party’s racist and anti-Semitic image as she tried to appeal to voters on both the left and the right. 

Final results from the French presidential election’s first round showed that Mr Macron got nearly one million more votes than Ms Le Pen. Mr Macron collected 8.66 million votes, or 24.01 per cent, while Ms Le Pen garnered 7.68 million votes, or 21.30 per cent, according to the official final count published by the Interior Ministry.

For Ms Le Pen, it is the best result ever achieved by her FN party in a French presidential election.

Conservative candidate Francois Fillon got 20.01 per cent, and left-wing candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, 19.58 percent of the vote. The other seven candidates were far behind.

The final round of voting for the French Presidency will take place on 7 May, and Mr Macron is currently thought to be the favourite.

Opening the battle for second-round votes, Ms Le Pen highlighted the continuing threat of Islamist militancy, which has claimed more than 230 lives in France since 2015, saying the 39-year-old Mr Macron was “to say the least, weak” on the issue.

She also said she wanted to talk to sovereignist Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who won nearly five per cent of the first-round vote and has not said which side he would take in the next.

“His platform is extremely close to ours. Patriots should come together to fight those who promote unbridled globalisation,” she said.

Ms Le Pen has promised to suspend the EU’s open-border agreement on France’s frontiers and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services.

Mr Macron’s internal security programme calls for 10,000 more police officers, and 15,000 new prison places, and he has recruited a number of security experts to his entourage.

However, opinion polls over the course of the campaign have consistently found voters were more concerned about the economy and the trustworthiness of politicians.

Ms Le Pen’s campaign took aim on Monday at what they see as further weak spots: Mr Macron’s previous job as an investment banker and his role as a deregulating economy minister under outgoing President Francois Hollande.

As for Mr Hollande, he has urged people to back Mr Macron, saying Ms Le Pen, represented a “risk” for France.

Opinion polls indicate that the business-friendly Mr Macron, who has never held elected office, will take at least 61 percent of the vote against Ms Le Pen after two defeated rivals pledged to back him to thwart her eurosceptic, anti-immigrant platform.

Mr Hollande, a Socialist nearing the end of five years of unpopular rule, threw his weight behind his former economy minister in a televised address, saying Ms Le Pen’s policies were divisive and stigmatised sections of the population.

“The presence of the far right in the second round is a risk for the country,” he said. “What is at stake is France’s make-up, its unity, its membership of Europe and its place in the world.”

Agencies contributed to this report


From the BBC

Far-right French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen has announced that she is stepping aside as leader of her National Front (FN) party.

The move comes just a day after she reached the second round of the French election, where she will face centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Ms Le Pen told French TV she needed to be above partisan considerations.

Opinion polls suggest Mr Macron is firm favourite for the second round but Ms Le Pen said: “We can win, we will win.”

The French term she used signalled that the move to step aside would be temporary.

She told France 2 that France was approaching a “decisive moment”.

Read more:

Ms Le Pen said her decision had been made out of the “profound conviction” that the president must bring together all of the French people.

“So, this evening, I am no longer the president of the National Front. I am the candidate for the French presidency,” she said.


Ms Le Pen had already airbrushed out her party’s name, and her own surname, from campaign posters in a bid to woo voters from the Left and Right, as well as in recent years “detoxifying”  her party’s racist, anti-Semitic image.

Sunday’s first round upturned France’s political landscape as candidates from the mainstream Left and Right were eliminated and the two finalists both claimed to be “anti-system” champions.

See map of where Le Pen votes came from in France:

The final results saw Mr Macron, an independent centrist who created his movement En Marche! (Onwards) only a year ago, take pole position on 
 24.01 per cent, with Ms Le Pen of the far-Right Front National second on 21.3 per cent.

François Fillon, the conservative runner, was a close third on 20.01 per cent, just ahead of Communist-backed Jean-Luc Mélenchon on 19.58 per cent, while Benoît Hamon, the official candidate of the ruling Socialist Party, came fifth on just 6.36 per cent.

Who is France’s surging far-left candidate Melenchon?

April 10, 2017


© AFP / by Adam PLOWRIGHT | Long known for being aggressive and acid-tongued, veteran far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon has toned down his rhetoric

PARIS (AFP) – Communist-backed Jean-Luc Melenchon has climbed into third place in the French presidential election, according to new polls, and is being taken seriously in the campaign for the first time.

– Who is he? –

He’s a 65-year-old veteran politician who quit the Socialist party after 30 years in 2008 and is now head of his own movement “La France Insoumise” (Unbowed France).

Long known for being aggressive and acid-tongued, he has toned down his rhetoric for this campaign but is still able to deliver a zinger or a witty putdown when required.

“I’m becoming a reassuring figure,” the divorced father-of-one told the Journal du Dimanche on April 2. “I’m less of a hothead.”

After refusing an alliance with Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, he appears now to have eclipsed him as the main voice on the left.

“He invented political stand-up. He’s become a showman,” according to a former colleague in the Socialist party Julien Dray.

Melenchon ran for president in 2012 and won 11.1 percent of the vote, lower than polls had forecast.

– Why so popular? –

His climb appears linked to strong performances in two televised debates on March 20 and last Tuesday during which he delivered some memorable soundbites, particularly when clashing with far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

“Leave us alone with your religion!” he shouted at her last week at one point.

In an election marked by high levels of anger and people wanting to kick out the established political class, he has emerged as a charismatic alternative to Le Pen and the other “outsider”, pro-business independent Emmanuel Macron.

From the beginning of the campaign, he has also built up a loyal core of supporters on Twitter and via his own YouTube channel — a way for him to circumvent the traditional media, which he accuses of being biased.

In a sign of nervousness, Macron supporters spread an online video over the weekend highlighting Melenchon’s tax plans while party secretary general Richard Ferrand urged voters to delve into his radical programme.

– How leftwing is he? –

He’s backed by the French Communist Party, is an admirer of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez and has a huge tax-and-spend economic programme.

He wants to reduce France’s working week to 32 hours from its current 35 hours and lower the retirement age back to 60.

He proposes increases in the minimum wage and social security payments paid for in part by greater taxation of the rich. Any earnings beyond 33,000 euros a month would be taxed at 100 percent.

He wants to quit nuclear power, which produces around 75 percent of France’s electricity, and renationalise the partly-privatised national power group EDF.

In foreign affairs, he wants to pull France out of the market-friendly European Union as well as the Western military alliance NATO, and he has supported Russia’s military action in Syria and Ukraine.

He has also compared German Chancellor Angela Merkel, current President Francois Hollande’s closest ally, to war-mongering Prussian statesman Otto von Bismarck.

“I’m the candidate for peace,” he said on Sunday with an olive branch in his jacket pocket.

One of his signature domestic proposals is constitutional reform. He wants to scrap the existing powerful executive presidency and return France to a parliamentary system.

He wants to legalise cannabis and welcomes immigration.

“Today as yesterday, I am delighted that France is a mix of races and all the children are our children,” he said on Sunday.


Le Pen denies French responsibility in WWII round up of Paris Jews

April 10, 2017


© Pascal Pochard-Casabianca, AFP | French presidential election candidate for the far-right Front National (FN) party Marine Le Pen gestures as she delivers a speech during a campaign meeting at the Palais des Congres in Ajaccio on April 8, 2017

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen denied Sunday that the French state was responsible for the wartime round-up of Jews at a Paris cycling track who were then sent to Nazi death camps.

Former President Jacques Chirac and current leader Francois Hollande have both apologised for the role French police played in the round-up of more than 13,000 Jews at the Vel d’Hiv cycling track which was ordered by Nazi officers in 1942.

But Le Pen told the LCI television channel on Sunday: “I don’t think France is responsible for the Vel d’Hiv.”

She added: “I think that generally speaking if there are people responsible, it’s those who were in power at the time. It’s not France.”

’ d’Hiv Roundup of by police 1942. 13,152 arrested, incl. over 4,000 children

The leader of the National Front (FN) party said France had “taught our children that they have all the reasons to criticise (the country), and to only see, perhaps, the darkest aspects of our history”.

“So, I want them to be proud of being French again,” she said.

Ahead of the first round of France’s highly unpredictable presidential election on April 23, Le Pen’s centrist rival Emmanuel Macron said her comments were “a serious mistake”.

“Some had forgotten that Marine Le Pen is the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen,” Macron told BFMTV.

Le Pen Senior, who founded the FN in 1972 and is estranged from his daughter, has been convicted repeatedly for anti-Semitic and racist comments such as calling the Holocaust a “detail of history”.

“We must not be complacent or minimise what the National Front is today,” Macron said.

‘Insult to France’

The CRIF umbrella grouping of French Jewish organisations and the Jewish students’ union (UEJF) both blasted Le Pen for the comments, describing them as “revisionist”.

“These remarks are an insult to France, which honoured itself in 1995 by recognising its responsibility in the deportation of France’s Jews and facing its history without a selective memory,” the CRIF said.

Chirac’s Socialist predecessor Francois Mitterand had refused to acknowledge responsibility for the deportations, saying in 1994: “The republic had nothing to do with that. France is not responsible.”

Le Pen defended her broadcast comments in a statement issued late Sunday.

“I consider that France and the Republic were based in London during the (Nazi) occupation,” she said.

The British capital was where Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the free French forces, lived in exile during World War II while France’s Vichy regime collaborated with Nazi Germany.

“The Vichy regime was not France,” Le Pen said in her statement, describing the wartime authority as “illegal”.

She added that this in no way exonerated those who participated in “the vile roundup of Vel d’Hiv and all the atrocities committed during that period”.

Which French presidential candidate is the best match for you?

April 5, 2017


© Joël Saget, AFP | The five leading candidates in the French presidential election

FRANCE 24, in partnership with Vox Pop Labs, has launched the Vote compass, a tool designed to help users find out which presidential candidate in France’s upcoming elections is the best fit for them.

With less than three weeks to go before the first round of presidential elections – and with 11 candidates in the race – more than two-thirds of French voters still haven’t decided whom they will choose on April 23, according to the most recent Cevipof poll for French daily Le Monde. FRANCE 24 partnered with Vox Pop Labs to create a Vote compass to help voters get a clearer sense of their options.

This tool has been developed with the help of a scientific panel made up of political scientists from Sciences Po Bordeaux, Quebec’s Université Laval and the University of Iowa. The principle is simple: After responding to a series of questions about the candidates on an assortment of campaign themes, the Vote compass tells the web user how those responses stack up with answers provided by the candidates themselves.

Once those results are compiled, the Vote compass also enables comparisons between each candidate’s responses based on individual themes and the questions asked. Their stances on secularism or gender equality, say, will no longer hold any secrets for you.

For that matter, new questions will be added right up until the end of the campaign, so don’t hesitate to take the test again to see whether the candidate selected as your closest match hasn’t changed in the meantime.

To launch FRANCE 24’s Vote compass, click on the image below.

Or at the link:

Date created : 2017-04-05


French Socialist candidate livid as ex-PM Valls defects to Macron

March 29, 2017
By Michel Rose and Sudip Kar-Gupta
Reuters — March 29, 2017
French Socialist candidate livid as ex-PM Valls defects to Macron

By Michel Rose and Sudip Kar-Gupta

PARIS (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on Wednesday he would vote for Emmanuel Macron in France’s presidential election, becoming the biggest Socialist Party name to turn his back on its official candidate and support the centrist instead.

While it was not clear if Valls’ defection would benefit poll favourite Macron, who politely thanked Valls, it prompted angry responses from many Socialists and media speculation about the survival of the largest left-wing party.

Manuel Valls (R) with Emmanuel Macron - file pic 2014
Manuel Valls (R) said it was a responsible position to back the centrist candidate

France’s ex-Prime Minister Manuel Valls has thrown his weight behind the centrist candidate for the presidency, Emmanuel Macron, and not his own Socialist party’s candidate.

Valls, whose announcement came days after veteran Socialist defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian deserted to Macron, said he wanted to do all he could to ensure that far-right leader Marine Le Pen, second-placed in opinion polls, did not win power.

“I’m not going to take any risks,” Valls said, adding that he believed Le Pen’s score potential was seriously underrated. “I will vote for Emmanuel Macron,” he told BFM TV.

French opinion polls show Macron winning the presidency in a second-round vote on May 7 where he would face off against Le Pen. They show Socialist Benoit Hamon set for a humiliating fifth place in the first round eliminator on April 23.

Hamon, a hardline Socialist who wants to legalise cannabis and create a monthly state payment for all, is on course to win only 10 percent of the vote in the first round, according to an Elabe poll published on Wednesday.

Hamon denounced Valls’ defection and called on all left-wingers to unite behind him 25 days from round one of the election. “I urge you to sanction those who’ve started this morbid game…those who no longer believe in anything,” he said in a statement.

Valls said his choice did not mean he would campaign for the 39-year-old Macron – a fellow minister in President Francois Hollande’s government from 2014, but who quit last year to prepare a presidential bid under his own political banner En Marche! (Onwards!).

Valls, who lost to radical left-winger Hamon in the Socialist primaries, is seen by political sources and experts as likely to wait in the wings and seek to build a reformist parliamentary force that would be distinct from En Marche!, but which could get a say in its parliamentary majority should Macron become president.

“I have nothing to negotiate and am not asking for anything, I’m not joining his camp,” Valls said. “But nothing will be the same after this presidential election…The duty of reformists is to play their part in a governing parliamentary majority.”

Macron, who has drawn support from the political right as well as left, was also quick to say he did not plan to bring Valls into his government. “I shall be the guarantor of new faces, new ways of doing things,” he said on Europe 1 Radio.

The news came a day after third-placed candidate Francois Fillon, under formal judicial investigation on suspicion of financial impropriety, suffered a further blow when his British wife Penelope was put under formal investigation as well.

The inquiry centres on allegations that the couple misused hundreds of thousands of euros in public funds, with him paying her a lavish tax-funded salary for minimal work as his parliamentary assistant.

Francois Fillon has conceded what he called errors of judgment but denies doing anything illegal.


Valls’ endorsement is a mixed blessing for Macron, even though their political views are not far apart.

Fillon, who has promised to slash government spending, seized on Valls’ move to say their would be no break with the past under Macron as both men were key ministers under Hollande.

“All of Hollande’s team is backing Emmanuel Macron. It’s as I’ve always said, Emmanuel Macron is Francois Hollande,” Fillon told reporters.

For many Socialists, and above all candidate Hamon, Valls’ decision comes from a man who represents Hollande’s rightward turn during his five-year mandate towards the business-friendly reforms that upset the left and alienated core voters.

The blow for Hamon clearly compounded existing left-right splits within the party.

“Everybody now knows what a commitment signed by a man like Manuel Valls is worth,” Arnaud Montebourg, a more hardline leftist in the Socialist Party, said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Michel Rose and Leigh Thomas; writing by Andrew Callus and Brian Love editing by Mark Heinrich)

The vote that could wreck the European Union: Why the French presidential election will have consequences far beyond its borders

March 3, 2017

The Economist

Why the French presidential election will have consequences far beyond its borders

From the print edition | Leaders

IT HAS been many years since France last had a revolution, or even a serious attempt at reform. Stagnation, both political and economic, has been the hallmark of a country where little has changed for decades, even as power has rotated between the established parties of left and right.

Until now. This year’s presidential election, the most exciting in living memory, promises an upheaval. The Socialist and Republican parties, which have held power since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, could be eliminated in the first round of a presidential ballot on April 23rd. French voters may face a choice between two insurgent candidates: Marine Le Pen, the charismatic leader of the National Front, and Emmanuel Macron, the upstart leader of a liberal movement, En Marche! (On the Move!), which he founded only last year.

The implications of these insurgencies are hard to exaggerate. They are the clearest example yet of a global trend: that the old divide between left and right is growing less important than a new one between open and closed. The resulting realignment will have reverberations far beyond France’s borders. It could revitalise the European Union, or wreck it.

Les misérables

The revolution’s proximate cause is voters’ fury at the uselessness and self-dealing of their ruling class. The Socialist president, François Hollande, is so unpopular that he is not running for re-election. The established opposition, the centre-right Republican party, saw its chances sink on March 1st when its standard-bearer, François Fillon, revealed that he was being formally investigated for paying his wife and children nearly €1m ($1.05m) of public money for allegedly fake jobs. Mr Fillon did not withdraw from the race, despite having promised to do so. But his chances of winning are dramatically weakened.

Further fuelling voters’ anger is their anguish at the state of France (see article). One poll last year found that French people are the most pessimistic on Earth, with 81% grumbling that the world is getting worse and only 3% saying that it is getting better. Much of that gloom is economic. France’s economy has long been sluggish; its vast state, which absorbs 57% of GDP, has sapped the country’s vitality. A quarter of French youths are unemployed. Of those who have jobs, few can find permanent ones of the sort their parents enjoyed. In the face of high taxes and heavy regulation those with entrepreneurial vim have long headed abroad, often to London. But the malaise goes well beyond stagnant living standards. Repeated terrorist attacks have jangled nerves, forced citizens to live under a state of emergency and exposed deep cultural rifts in the country with Europe’s largest Muslim community.

Many of these problems have built up over decades, but neither the left nor the right has been able to get to grips with them. France’s last serious attempt at ambitious economic reform, an overhaul of pensions and social security, was in the mid-1990s under President Jacques Chirac. It collapsed in the face of massive strikes. Since then, few have even tried. Nicolas Sarkozy talked a big game, but his reform agenda was felled by the financial crisis of 2007-08. Mr Hollande had a disastrous start, introducing a 75% top tax rate. He was then too unpopular to get much done. After decades of stasis, it is hardly surprising that French voters want to throw the bums out.

Both Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen tap into that frustration. But they offer radically different diagnoses of what ails France and radically different remedies. Ms Le Pen blames outside forces and promises to protect voters with a combination of more barriers and greater social welfare. She has effectively distanced herself from her party’s anti-Semitic past (even evicting her father from the party he founded), but she appeals to those who want to shut out the rest of the world. She decries globalisation as a threat to French jobs and Islamists as fomenters of terror who make it perilous to wear a short skirt in public. The EU is “an anti-democratic monster”. She vows to close radical mosques, stanch the flow of immigrants to a trickle, obstruct foreign trade, swap the euro for a resurrected French franc and call a referendum on leaving the EU.

Mr Macron’s instincts are the opposite. He thinks that more openness would make France stronger. He is staunchly pro-trade, pro-competition, pro-immigration and pro-EU. He embraces cultural change and technological disruption. He thinks the way to get more French people working is to reduce cumbersome labour protections, not add to them. Though he has long been short on precise policies (he was due to publish a manifesto as The Economist went to press), Mr Macron is pitching himself as the pro-globalisation revolutionary.

Look carefully, and neither insurgent is a convincing outsider. Ms Le Pen has spent her life in politics; her success has been to make a hitherto extremist party socially acceptable. Mr Macron was Mr Hollande’s economy minister. His liberalising programme will probably be less bold than that of the beleaguered Mr Fillon, who has promised to trim the state payroll by 500,000 workers and slash the labour code. Both revolutionaries would have difficulty enacting their agendas. Even if she were to prevail, Ms Le Pen’s party would not win a majority in the national assembly. Mr Macron barely has a party.

La France ouverte ou la France forteresse?

Nonetheless, they represent a repudiation of the status quo. A victory for Mr Macron would be evidence that liberalism still appeals to Europeans. A victory for Ms Le Pen would make France poorer, more insular and nastier. If she pulls France out of the euro, it would trigger a financial crisis and doom a union that, for all its flaws, has promoted peace and prosperity in Europe for six decades. Vladimir Putin would love that. It is perhaps no coincidence that Ms Le Pen’s party has received a hefty loan from a Russian bank and Mr Macron’s organisation has suffered more than 4,000 hacking attacks.

With just over two months to go, it seems Ms Le Pen is unlikely to clinch the presidency. Polls show her winning the first round but losing the run-off. But in this extraordinary election, anything could happen. France has shaken the world before. It could do so again.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “France’s next revolution”

France’s Fillon postpones farm show campaign event, where Marine Le Pen may get the most votes — “We want freedom from EU ‘straitjacket’” French farmers say

March 1, 2017


© AFP/File | Francois Fillon visits the 2013 version of the Paris farm show but has postponed a visit to the 2017 event

PARIS (AFP) – Under-fire French presidential candidate Francois Fillon said Wednesday he was postponing a visit to a key agricultural fair in Paris, seen as a must for anyone hoping to win election.

Fillon’s campaign offered no explanation for the last-minute change, saying only that a new date for a visit would be published later.

His visit to the massive farm show was supposed to begin early Wednesday morning and several reporters and members of his campaign staff were already on the scene to welcome him.

After beating his rightwing rivals to clinch the nomination, Fillon was favourite to win the French presidency in the two-round election in April and May.

But he has since been hit by a series of damaging allegations that he paid his family for fake jobs and has lost ground in the polls.


Image may contain: 1 person, horse and outdoor

Marine Le Pen at a previous French farm event

Recent surveys suggest that far-right leader Marine Le Pen and centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron are the two most likely to proceed to the second-round run-off on May 7.

Fillon’s campaign appearances are frequently attended by protesters supporting Communist-backed candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon.

The annual farm show is a rite of passage for all hopefuls with eyes on the Elysee Palace given the power of the agricultural community in France.

Former president Jacques Chirac was beloved by the farmers at the show but other leaders have had less happy visits to the flagship expo.

Conservative president Nicolas Sarkozy lived to rue the day at the 2008 event when he lost his cool with a punter who refused to shake his hand, saying: “Get lost, dumbass!”

Video of the exchange went viral on the internet. Four years later, when Sarkozy ran for re-election, many of his detractors delighted in turning the phrase against him, and he was turfed out of office.

Last year, his Socialist successor Francois Hollande suffered ignominy at the fair in his turn, when farmers furious over collapsing milk prices heckled him and union activists tore down the agriculture ministry’s pavilion.