Posts Tagged ‘French voters’

Macron Aims to Consolidate Power as France Elects Parliament

June 11, 2017

PARIS — French voters cast their ballots on Sunday in the first round of a parliamentary election expected to give centrist President Emmanuel Macron the strong majority needed to carry out the far-reaching economic and social reforms he promises.

The vote to elect the lower house’s 577 members comes a month after Macron, a 39-year-old former banker with little political experience, defied the odds to win the presidency of the euro zone’s second-largest economy.

Image result for france, parliament, election, photos

Electoral posters of a candidate in the parliamentary elections, in Marseille, France. AP Photo/Claude Paris

If, as polls project, Macron and his fledgling party win a commanding majority in next week’s second round, it will be another blow for the mainstream parties on the right and left which failed to get a candidate into the presidential run-off.

“We want a big majority to be able to act and transform France over the next five years,” Mounir Mahjoubi, a tech entrepreneur running under Macron’s Republic On The Move (LREM) banner told Reuters as he canvassed support in his northern Paris constituency ahead of the vote.

Opinion polls forecast LREM and its center-right Modem allies will win at least 30 percent of votes on Sunday.

The conservative The Republicans party and its allies trail with about 20 percent, ahead of the far-right National Front on about 17 percent.

Such an outcome would transform into a landslide majority in the second round, the opinion polls show.

While predicting the outcome can be tricky with 7,882 candidates vying for parliament’s seats, even LREM’s rivals have been saying they expect Macron to secure a majority.

Their strategy has been to urge voters to make sure the opposition will be big enough to have some clout in parliament. “We shouldn’t have a monopolistic party,” former prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve, a Socialist, told Reuters.

MACRON OVERHAUL

The survival of the Socialist Party, which ruled France for the past five years but is forecast to get just 15 to 30 seats, is at stake, as is the unity of The Republicans. Some key figures from both parties have rallied behind Macron.

The National Front, reeling from a worse than expected score for chief Marine Le Pen in the presidential election, could miss its target to get enough lawmakers to form a parliamentary group. It is expected though to improve on the two deputies it had in the previous legislature.

In a country with unemployment hovering near 10 percent and at risk of breaking its public deficit commitments, Macron was elected president in May on pledges to overhaul labor rules to make hiring and firing easier, cut corporate tax and invest billions in areas including job training and renewable energy.

“If we really want him to change things he needs a majority,” 67-year-old voter Irena Plewa, a pensioner, said at a bustling Paris food market.

Polling stations close at 1800 (1600 GMT) in smaller cities and two hours later in Paris and other big cities. Results will come in slowly, alongside pollsters’ estimates of the results.

Very few lawmakers are expected to be elected directly in the first round. To win, a candidate needs more than half of the votes cast and they must account for at least a quarter of the registered voters.

With many fresh faces among the candidates, a political landscape divided among many forces from the far-left to the far-right, and abstention predicted to be at over 40 percent, that is unlikely to happen in many constituencies.

(Additional reporting by Antony Paone and Michaela Cabrera; writing by Ingrid Melander; editing by Richard Lough and David Clarke)

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‘I Just Can’t Choose’: French Abstainers, Undecideds Alarm Presidential Hopefuls — “They’re all corrupt.”

April 13, 2017

PARIS — Pensioner Jeannine Delaplane, care-worker Cecile Lungeri, and millions like them are giving French presidential candidates and pollsters nightmares.

Less than two weeks before the first round of the election, they still do not know who to vote for, and may not show up at the polling station at all.

Opinion polls show around a third of France’s 45.7 million voters might abstain, an unprecedented number in a country with a long tradition of high turnouts. Even among those who intend to vote, about one third have yet to make up their mind on how to cast their ballot.

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

Reasons range from disgust over scandals involving established politicians to dislike among many voters of all the candidates’ personalities or platforms. Added to this is simple confusion: what once looked like a straightforward two-horse race between conservative Francois Fillon and far-right leader Marine Le Pen has produced many surprises.

With voters’ intentions so fluid, four candidates are now in with a fighting chance of coming first and second in the April 23 first round, thereby qualifying for the runoff on May 7. By contrast, support for the candidate of the ruling Socialists has collapsed.

All this has cast extra doubt over a campaign whose unpredictability is unnerving financial markets.

The entrance to the building housing the headquarters of France’s far-right National Front (FN) party in Paris on April 13, 2017. The headquaters was attacked and hit with fire-bombs overnight. Philippe Lopez, AFP

Delaplane, 81, is among those agonizing over how to vote. “I just can’t choose. I’ve never seen a campaign like this,” she said as she waited to catch a glimpse of Fillon at a rally in the town of Provins, a conservative stronghold east of Paris.

She is hesitating between backing Fillon or far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

However, the mainstream conservative is tainted by scandal – he is under formal investigation on suspicion of financial impropriety, although he denies doing anything illegal – and has slid to third. On the other hand, many voters regard Le Pen as an extremist, along with the far-left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon.

A fourth contender, the centrist and new favorite Emmanuel Macron, has never held elected office, was unknown to most of the electorate until nearly three years ago when he became economy minister, and runs a party that is just a year old.

For dental technician-turned-painter Herve Gass, the entire field is unappealing. “I’m in a complete bind,” he said at his studio in an historic part of Provins. “I’ve been put off politics like never before.”

Gass, 63, previously voted conservative but said he had gone off Fillon due to the scandal, while he regarded Le Pen as too radical and 39-year-old Macron as too young and untested. As a result, Gass said he might abstain or enter a blank vote.

GRAPHIC: Predictions and polls – http://tmsnrt.rs/2jLwO20

ABYSMAL RATINGS

The past six months have seen veteran politicians from the two mainstream parties that have governed France for decades kicked out of the race one after the other, losing party primaries or throwing in the towel because of abysmal ratings.

Instead, Le Pen and Macron are forecast to contest the run-off, with the ex-banker seen winning easily. Still, the first round is no forgone conclusion; Fillon is making a tentative comeback and Melenchon is emerging as the latest sensation thanks in part to his strong TV debating skills.

In percentage terms, support for Macron and Le Pen is in the low twenties and falling, while Melenchon and Fillon are in the high teens and rising; daily polls put as little as 6 percentage points between all four.

Across France, voters of all political stripes have been telling Reuters they’re not sure what to make of it all.

“I don’t even know if I will vote at all this time,” said Lungeri, the 38-year-old carer from Nice who was traditionally a mainstream right voter. “They’re all corrupt.”

The level of undecided voters has been falling but remains high. While about 80 percent of voters turned out for both rounds of the 2012 presidential elections, predictions for this time remain low, creating a headache for pollsters.

“There is uncertainty for all the candidates,” said Francois Miquet-Marty of Viavoice. “If voting intentions remain that close, abstention will play a key role.”

IMPOSSIBLE FORECASTS?

Macron, who launched his campaign only in November, has the extra handicap of lacking the support of a well-established party.

Polls consistently show Le Pen as having the most decided supporters, with over 80 percent being sure of their choice, but recent surveys have seen the level of certainty of the Macron vote rise, in one case to over 70 percent.

Miquet-Marty said Le Pen could yet be vulnerable as she relies heavily on support among young and working class voters, two groups where abstention is forecast to be high.

The one election in recent history when turnout was far below average was in 2002. Then, a 28 percent abstention rate helped propel Le Pen’s father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, into the run-off with only 17 percent of the first round vote. Mainstream voters then rallied behind the center-right candidate Jacques Chirac in the second round, returning turnout to its habitual 80 percent and giving him a decisive victory.

Today the political landscape is more blurred. Analysts say much will depend on who makes the second round. For instance, many left-wing voters would find it hard to back Fillon.

“It’s a real challenge for the candidates, they really need to convince voters to go out there and vote,” said Frederic Dabi of Ifop pollsters, stressing there was a growing feeling among many that voting “has become pointless”.

Voters’ loyalty to parties is much more tenuous than it used to be, and some are swinging across the spectrum.

Camille Diener, a physiotherapist from Strasbourg, backed Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative president from 2007 to 2012, in past elections. This time she is so disappointed by Fillon she has even contemplated a protest vote for Melenchon.

“I don’t have a candidate any more,” the 28-year-old said, adding that she was ultimately leaning towards Macron.

“This election is just unbelievable,” a minister in the Socialist government said on condition of anonymity. “What strikes me, even beyond the high abstention, is how impossible it is to make forecasts: people waver between Fillon and Melenchon, between Le Pen and Macron, based on the most bizarre reasoning.”

With the second round to be held in the middle of a long, holiday weekend, many voters might just opt to go to the beach or fishing rather than address their tricky, and in some cases distasteful, election dilemma.

“I’m telling people enough is enough, screw it, stay home!” said Doriane Slamani, a resident of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges near Paris, who for the first time will skip a presidential election. “No candidate deserves my vote.”

(Additional reporting by Reuters France reporters; Writing by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Andrew Callus and David Stamp)

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Which French presidential candidate is the best match for you?

April 5, 2017

AFP and FRANCE 24

© 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:

http://www.france24.com/en/20170404-french-presidential-candidate-best-match-you

Date created : 2017-04-05

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A month before France votes, undecideds in the lead

March 28, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File / by Marie WOLFROM | More than 40 percent of French voters have yet to decide how they will cast their ballot, with less than a month to go
LA FERTÉ-SAINT-AUBIN (FRANCE) (AFP) – Having a flutter on the horses in his local bar, Eric Belouet picks his favourites without hesitation. But when it comes to France’s presidential election, he can’t make up his mind.

“Really, I can’t,” said the 59-year-old, his eyes on the TV screen broadcasting the races. “I’m on the right. But for Francois Fillon, it’s over.”

Belouet, a former funeral goods salesman who lives in the little town of La Ferte-Saint-Aubin in central France, said “the door had been wide open” for Fillon to become president when the country votes in the two-round election on April 23 and May 7.

But that was before Fillon’s campaign was rocked by multiple scandals over expenses and conflicts of interest, including allegations that he paid his wife for years as a parliamentary assistant with little evidence that she did any work.

Unable to forgive Fillon, Belouet finds himself among the 40 percent of voters who have yet to decide how they’ll vote with less than a month to go — or even if they’ll show up on election day at all.

It is the highest rate of indecision France has ever seen at this point in a presidential campaign, and adds yet another element of uncertainty to one of the most unpredictable elections in living memory.

For Anne Jadot, a political science professor at the University of Lorraine, it is the string of scandals and surprises in the campaign so far that have left so many voters on the fence.

“This has created a lot of uncertainty and unexpected developments, so we’re talking less about the issues and policies,” Jadot told AFP.

– Going fishing –

La Ferte-Saint-Aubin was divided at the last election in 2012, voting narrowly for rightwinger Nicolas Sarkozy ahead of the eventual winner Francois Hollande.

Five years on, many in the quiet red-brick town of 7,400 people, at the edge of the hunting forests of Solognes, could hardly be bothered with politics in this election cycle.

“At the outdoor market, only one person in 20 talks to me about the presidential election,” says Constance de Pelichy, the town’s conservative mayor.

“It’s worrying, because that shows a lack of interest.”

France endured many months of speculation before knowing who was actually running for president.

Hollande held off until December to announce he would step down, forgoing a run for re-election after five difficult years at the helm.

It then took until late January, after a two-round primary, for Benoit Hamon to emerge as the Socialists’ candidate.

On the right meanwhile, Fillon suffered weeks of pressure to abandon his presidential bid because of the fake jobs scandal, but he has insisted on staying in the race, even after being formally charged with misuse of public funds.

“There’s major confusion,” sighed 65-year-old Jacques Drouet as he sat in the 1960s-style bar in La Ferte-Saint-Aubin.

“We’re trapped between voting with our hearts and voting tactically,” said the former trade unionist, who usually votes on the left.

The typical election scenario is for the French to vote for their favourite candidate in the first round before trying to eliminate their least favourite in the second.

Drouet’s ideas are closest to Hamon’s — but he’s considering breaking with tradition and voting for centrist Emmanuel Macron even in the first round, hoping to minimise far-right leader Marine Le Pen’s chances of making it into the run-off, as polls predict she will.

For many, the most dramatic example of tactical voting was in 2002, when Le Pen’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen rocked the political establishment by reaching the runoff. In that second round, voters of various political stripes reluctantly got behind conservative candidate Jacques Chirac to block the far right.

This time, the major remaining unknown is who will face Marine Le Pen. Fillon started the campaign as her most obvious rival, but the scandals have battered his ratings. Polls predict that Le Pen is most likely to square off against Macron, formerly seen as an underdog, at the May 7 run-off vote.

But if her opponent is Fillon, Drouet said: “I’d leave my ballot blank as things stand now.”

Other undecided voters are planning on simply staying away on election day, meaning abstention rates could be high — perhaps beating the 20 percent who abstained in 2012.

Eric Belouet is contemplating doing something else on April 23 instead of heading to the ballot box — going fishing, perhaps, though not even that is a certainty.

“It’ll depend on the weather,” he said.

by Marie WOLFROM

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”
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