A guide to the French Parliamentary elections

 

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(Image courtesy of bassussarry.fr)

 

-Article by Alice Ferré

The French parliamentary election will take place on Sundays June 11 and 18, a few weeks away from the presidential election that flung France’s formerly unknown political prodigy fighting doublespeak, Emmanuel Macron, on the political scene.  Similarly to the United States, the key movement for the French executive power’s party “La République en Marche” (previously “En Marche!”) – or other concurring parties – is to win as many ideological allies in Parliament as possible. For this reason, this legislative election is often referred as “the third round.”

577 deputies will be elected in the 557 implicitly delimited districts (the “circonscriptions”). The dividing up of those districts is based on population, one district having 120,000 inhabitants.

Candidates must be French citizens and at least 18 of age. However, they are not required to live in the district they will represent, for the national, not local, status of their position; although the tradition wants the deputy to have a permanent residence in their district, “parachuting” is accepted. Political experience is also optional.

The electoral mechanism is identical to the presidential elections’: it is an uninominal and traditional 50%-plus-one-vote system. A second round is scheduled if no candidate is elected by a majority during the first one. Eligibility for the second round means to have had at least 12,5% of the votes.

According to the French newspaper Le Monde, there would be approximately 14 candidates per district or a total of 7882 candidates. Most of them are already politically active and known actors of the political scene, like Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the extreme-left of “La France Insoumise” who unsuccessfully ran for president this year and is now a parliamentary candidate in France’s second biggest city, Marseille.

A political party has to win 289 seats for legislative control, as this number represents the absolute majority at the National Assembly.

So far, the brand new presidential party seems to win by a landslide, regardless of its candidates’ political experience. Amongst the important political personalities of the different shades of the political spectrum running for parliamentary seats are Jean-Luc Mélenchon in Marseille, former President Hollande’s Minister of Housing and Territorial Equality Cécile Duflot and Minister of Education and Research Najat Vallaud-Belkacem (first woman to be appointed to this ministry) in the Parisian districts, Marine Le Pen in one of the Northen districts of Nord-Pas-de-Calais.

Jean-Paul Bret, the Socialist mayor of the city of Villeurbanne, told French radio broadcast France Info that “even if En Marche! announced a potato sack as one of their candidates, they would have a high chance to win.” The Socialist Party, amongst other ones, is indeed doomed after Hollande’s unpopular term and catastrophic presidential election results.

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Polls by L’Internaute.com (June 10) 

According to today’s polls by L’Internaute.com’s polling institute, “La République en Marche” would score 30%, the right party “Les Républicains” 23%, and the National Front 18% (meaning they have significantly lost popularity since the presidential elections). It is a vote for legitimacy and approval for the presidential party.
“France Insoumise” and the Socialist party would respectively score 11% and 9% of the votes.

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French President Macron’s hard line diplomacy on Russia

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Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron at Versailles on May 29, 2017 (image courtesy of wbur.org)

 

-Article by Alice Ferré

Three hundred years after Peter the Great’s visit to Versailles, Russian President Vladimir Putin was hosted in one of France’s most emblematic monument yesterday by French President Emmanuel Macron. While this venue seemed less official than the Elysée for a presidential meeting, the grandioseness of the golden palace set out that President Macron did not underestimate the importance of the international affairs to discuss, which included Ukraine, Syria, and human rights.

Over the past few years, the Franco-Russian relationship has plummeted to an unprecedented level as Russia tightened its grip on the Crimean region and destabilized eastern Ukraine, in disregard for the European Union’s sovereignty. In October 2016, former President François Hollande made it clear that President Putin’s visit to the opening of an Orthodox cultural center in Paris would have been inappropriate owing to Russia’s multiple vetoes on Syria at the United Nations Security Council. President Putin’s last unilateral visit goes back to 2012.

Wishing to advance the Ukrainian dilemma, President Macron explained during the conference that a “Normandy-like” meeting, gathering the Russian and Ukrainian presidents under the “chaperonage” of Berlin and Paris, would be needed to work on the Minsk agreement of February 2015. This meeting would be an ultimatum to Russia for possibly waiving its sanctions.

Regarding the Syrian conflict, President Macron called for an “inclusive” political solution in the long term to generate discussion “amongst all the parties, including Assad.” The talks would aim at limiting “the disintegration of Syria and fragilization of the region” while still fighting to eradicate the Islamic State and terrorism.

The news conference with the two leaders also presented an unexpected Russian news media backlashing from the French president.

President Macron had set a firm tone a few days earlier in an interview with the French weekly newspaper “Le Journal du Dimanche” by saying that before interlocutors such as Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan or Donald Trump, one has “not to miss any chance to gain respect in such power struggle.” 
In this optic, President Macron was intolerant in his critic of Russia’s controversial handling of human rights, such as the repression of the homosexual community and human rights non-governmental organizations (NGOs). President Macron also shed light on Russia news media outlets such as the Kremlin-funded Russia Today and Sputnik, accusing them of having spread “fake news” to undermine his campaign.

NATO, Trump, Macron, and Counterterrorism

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New NATO headquarters (Image courtesy of interbuild.be)

-Article by Alice Ferré

In their first official meeting at the United States Embassy in Brussels, President Donald J. Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron mostly tackled the terrorism and climate change issues, two of the many transatlantic major concerns. The 43rd G7 summit in Taormina, Sicily, Italy, this week will allow European leaders and President Trump, along with Canada and Japan, to further discuss these topics.

Mr. Macron and Trump’s handshake caught everyone’s attention: in a “white-knuckled handshake,” the two leaders confirmed their collaboration and marked their territories, with Mr.Trump’s aggressive grip and Mr. Macron’s withholding Trump’s palm longer than expected.

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US President Donald J. Trump and France’s President Emmanuel Macron in the United States Embassy in Brussels. (image courtesy of LeFigaro.fr)

Although Mr. Macron wishes that Mr. Trump “does not make any precipitated decision” regarding the Paris agreement, he said the talk was “frank” and “pragmatic” and demonstrated a “will to reinforce our partnership and cooperation regarding our fight against terrorism.” Mr. Macron had previously sent signals of hope to Mr. Trump on the U.S. role; while visiting the soldiers of the “Barkhane” operation in Mali, Mr. Macron claimed that Mr. Trump’s allegations against Islamic terrorism did not make him doubt that he will maintain this kind of cooperation.

In this optic, President Trump convinced the European leaders to join him in an international coalition against the Islamic State, after a year of reluctance. European leaders, although already fighting terrorism nationally and internationally and engaging in this Washington-led coalition, feared that the formalization of this union under the North Atlantic Treaty Organization banner would trigger hostile comments from recent allies in the Middle East. “We will win this battle,” concluded President Trump referring to the Manchester bombing, an event that influenced the European leaders in their decision.

Jens Stoltenberg, the 13th Secretary General of NATO, said this union would “send a strong political message of unity in fighting terrorism. However, this will not mean that NATO will engage in fighting abroad.” 
One fear remaining is that Mr. Trump did not explicitly endorse the article 5 of the Washington Treaty, NATO’s mutual defense pledge assuring that the WWII allies must bring assistance to one of them if they are attacked; such omission might frighten the Baltic states that wish to escape Russia’s exponential hegemony in the region.

One condition for President Trump to abide NATO (the President previously declared the organization was “obsolete”) is that European nations spend more on national defense and the military, which echoes Trump’s claim in Saudi Arabia that the fight against terrorism is a “shared burden.” So far, the decision taken in 2014 that each country should spend 2% of their GDP on defense seems to be slowly but surely achieved; according to NATO, the nations’ cumulated budgets raised by 3,8% in 2016 (or 10 billion dollars). Europeans have until 2024 to achieve their goal. Mr. Trump, however, complained about “chronic underpayments” to the military alliance during his speech yesterday. “If NATO countries made their full and complete contributions, then NATO would be even stronger than it is today.” Mr. Trump later said that the assembling of the 2% was a failure, “with 23 of the 28 member nations still not paying what they should be paying.”

Regarding other defense resources, France, for instance, will not invest in NATO-stamped missions, such as the failed “Unified Protector” operation launched in Libya in 2011 to oust dictator Muhammad Qaddafi.

Mr. Trump was received in the new NATO headquarters, which will officially open this December. The new building, representing eight fighters crisscrossing each other, will have at its entrance a vestige from the Twin Towers, a symbol of the counterterrorism fight.

President Macron’s government disclosed

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L’Elysée (courtesy of Thomas Samson from APF via LesEchos.fr)

– Article by Alice Ferré

This article has been updated. 

As Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated on Sunday as France’s new president, he is now expected to announce his Cabinet’s choices. According to the French newspaper Le Monde, a high official declared Macron’s government will embody “the unexpected mating of Michel Rocard and Dominique Strauss-Khan,” resulting in technocratic and practical leftist politics.

The Elysée Secretary of State is the 44-year-old Alexis Khoner, also part of France’s young political elite. His role is to coordinate the cabinet officials, advise the president, and take decisions that are considered to be within the president’s political line of action. Khoner graduated from Sciences Po and the prestigious ESSEC and ENA, three schools that form the politicians of tomorrow. He also worked as the secretary of the Treasury and for the IMF before 2012. In 2014, he moved to Geneva, Switzerland, where he became the director of the Italian cruise company MSC Cruises. Described as “loyal” and “always enthusiastic” by one of his relatives, according to Le Monde, Khoner will become Macron’s right arm.

Patrick Strozda was named the Elysee Chief of Staff. The former prefect of Bretagne and head of the defense and security zone in the West of France is remembered for his iron fist during the protests last summer against the El Khomri law. He was also prefect of Corsica, one of the most delicate prefectural functions in France, from 2011 to 2013, and of other regions over the past ten years. He seems to have had no political attachments or preferences in his career, according to Le Monde.

The head of the National Security Council is Philippe Etienne, former French ambassador in Berlin. This choice underlines Macron’s will to keep strong links with Germany in a European-oriented politic. Etienne is also part of the French political elite and is a polyglot, mastering seven languages other than French, including English, Romanian, German, Russian, Spanish, and Serbo-Croatian. Etienne’s diplomatic career amounts to Belgrad and Bonn in the 1980s, and to Brussels where he was a prime counselor at the European Union in the 2000s before becoming the EU’s ambassador from 2009 to 2014. He directed Former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner’s cabinet from 2007 to 2009. Etienne’s team is also supposed to be composed of specialists in the Middle-East and the United States.

The new president seems to have chosen an experienced cabinet aligning with his intentions and wishes for the president’s five-year term. President Macron’s pick for Prime Minister is the former mayor of the city of Havre, Edouard Philippe.

The 16 ministers appointed by the Prime Minister are:

  • Gérard Collomb as Secretary of the Interior. Collomb was one of the first politicians to endorse Macron and was in charge of collecting sponsorship signatures for his candidate. He was also the socialist mayor of Lyon since 2001.
  • Nicolas Hulot as Minister of the Ecology (equivalent to the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency in the U.S.). President Macron respected his promise of implementing a partly civilian government with half of the ministers having no previous political background albeit being specialists in their fields. Hulot is a widely-known ecology activist who co-founded and hosted the ecological awareness campaign and TV show “Ushuahia” for 25 years on France’s first TV channel. Former presidents Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy, and François Hollande solicited his expertise in the past, without success.
  • François Bayrou as Minister of Justice. Bayrou is well-known on the political scene: he is the MoDem leader (a centrist party) and unsuccessfully ran for office three times. Bayrou was, however, nominated twice as Minister of Education in the 1990s and also accumulated the titles of Mayor of the city of Pau, Congressman over 35 years of political service.  He was Macron’s devoted supporter even before the first round.
  • Sylvie Goulard as the Secretary of Defense. Goulard is a pro-Europe and centrist Congressman who joined Macron’s party in 2016. Working at the European committee since 2009, she is a member of a “europhile” association over the past four years. She is defending the idea of a federal Europe.
  • Jean-Yves Le Drian as the Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs. He was previously Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs under Hollande’s government.
  • Richard Ferrand as the Minister of Territorial Cohesion; he was the first socialist to leave the Socialist Party to join En Marche! in 2016 after 18 years at the SP. Macron’s blacksmith and ally in the implementing of the “Loi Macron,” Ferrand worked at the Ministry of Social Affairs since 1991 and was one of the Finistère’s Congressmen.
  • Agnès Buzyn as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. She is also unknown in the political sphere; she is a doctor and medical studies professor, head of the National Cancer Institute. In 2016, she was the first woman to be appointed as the head of one of France’s highest independent research centers.
  • François Nyssen as the Minister of Culture. Nyssen also has no political experience but is a heavy-weight in the editorial world: she is the head of Actes Sud, received the Legion of Honor in 2013, and the title of best businesswoman in 1991. She has been co-coordinating Luc Besson’s movie label group EuropaCorp since 2011.
  • Bruno Le Maire as the Minister of Economy. Le Maire was candidate during the right party’s primaries and is accustomed to political life as he was L’Eure’s regional counselor, Secretary of State and minister. He was the first rightist politician who offered his services to Macron on May 7.
  • Muriel Penicaud as the Minister of Labor. Penicaud is Danone’s previous director of human resources. She also worked at administrative councils for SNCF and Orange. In the 1990s, she was the counselor of previous Minister of Labor, Martine Aubry.
  • Jean-Michel Blanquer as the Minister of Education. Blanquer, being the director of the prestigious management and business schools l’ESSEC, is well-respected in the educative community and could be seen as an expert, a technocrat of the educative system. He also previously worked at the Minister of Education as the right arm of Luc Chatel from 2009 to 2012.
  • Jacques Mézard as the Minister of Agriculture. Congressman of Cantal since 2008, Mézard is also representative of the extreme-left movement; however, he was a fervent Macron supporter during the presidential campaign.
  • Gérald Darmanin as the Minister of Budget (Secretary of the Treasury). Darmanin, 34, is the youngest minister. His ministry includes the management of the Treasury and Social Security. Darmanin is one of the rising stars of the rightist party Les Républicains and was Mayor and Congressman of Tourcoing.
  • Frédérique Vidal as the Minister of Superior Education, Research, and Innovation. Vidal is also not a politician but is a researcher and director of the famous Nice university and predominant research pole Sophia Antipolis.
  • Annick Girardin as the Minister of Overseas Territories. Girardin worked under the Hollande’s administration and was a regional counselor and Congressman of Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon.
  • Laura Flessel as Minister of Sports. Five years after returning her sword, the former fencer, who received an Olympic medal and was six times world champion, enters the political scene. She is a member of numerous Handicap International associations.

Presidential inauguration in France: Emmanuel Macron becomes the 8th president of France’s fifth Republic

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France’s new president Emmanuel Macron during his first presidential speech, on May 14. (courtesy of RTL.fr)

– Article by Alice Ferré

On May 14, only a week away from the election, Emmanuel Macron officially became France’s newest president.
Mr. Macron is the 8th president of the Fifth Republic launched in 1958 after then-president Charles de Gaulle had orchestrated constitutional changes to reinforce the executive’s powers.

The inauguration ceremony started with a private meeting between President Macron and former President Hollande in the presidential office, the Golden Salon. Although the talk was supposed to last thirty minutes, the two politicians reappeared an hour later. Once they walked out of the Elysée, Macron walked Hollande to his car. As Hollande’s Renault Espace drove away under the applause of Macron and the public, the new president was led inside.

The swearing-in ceremony continued with the president receiving the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour, the highest French order of merit for military and civil merits since 1802. President Macron entered the room to the rhythm of the symphony he had himself chose for the event, Camille Saint Saëns’ “Lauriers,” written in 1919 to celebrate the Allies’ victory.  A speech from the president of the Constitutional Council Laurent Fabius followed; it traditionally announced the results of the presidential election to remind the legitimacy of Mr. Macron’s investiture. Traditions, although, were momentarily put aside as Fabius declared Macron to be “a man of our time” with a “revolutionary” campaign.

The new president then gave his first presidential speech before television cameras and 300 guests. “The French chose hope and competitive spirit. They entrusted me with a responsibility that is an honor of which I measure the solemnity.” Macron called for more business innovation and creation in France, as well as a newly founded hope in Europe. “We need a more efficient, democratic, and political Europe because it is the instrument of our power and sovereignty. I will make sure of it.” Macron also claimed that he will devote himself to bringing the French together after years of division.

The President then saluted the military before going to La Place de L’Etoile with a presidential escort (the motorcycle cops and cavalry of the Republican Guard) to pay homage to the unknown soldier, buried under the Arc de Triomphe and symbol of all fallen French soldiers of any war France fought.
The president also insisted on visiting the three French soldiers, that were wounded in Mali and Afghanistan, at the hospital where they rest. “For my first presidential trip, I would like to be at their bedsides to defend our nation and freedom around the world,” said Macron.

Macron’s first international presidential trip will be in Germany today to meet Chancellor Angela Merkel.

 

Emmanuel Macron, the new French president to bring a fresh air of optimism and relief

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President-elect Emmanuel Macron imposed himself as the symbol of renewal, hope, unity, and resistance against extremism. The sign reads, “Together, France!” (courtesy of 20minutes.fr)

 

-Article by Alice Ferré

Emmanuel Macron, leader of the centrist party “En Marche!” was elected the new president of France this Sunday. He ousted Marine Le Pen of the National Front out of the race with a score of 65,8%. Le Pen scored 34,2%.
The participation rate amounted to 74,7% according to the French polling institute Ipsos-Sopra Steria, meaning that 25,3%, or 12 million people, did not vote. 4,2 million people left their ballots blank. It is the highest abstention rate for a second presidential tour since 1969.

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Vote participation at the presidential second tour over the years from 1965 to 2017 (courtesy of LeMonde.fr)

‘The lost credibility and legitimacy of the main political parties’

During her defeat speech, Le Pen announced that she had congratulated Macron for his victory and wished him luck to fight against “the immense challenge that France is facing.” She thanked the 11 million voters and the royalist François Dupont-Aignan from the political party La France Debout that “trusted and supported” her over the past months of campaigning for “their courageous and founding choice.”

“With such a historical and massive result for the National Front, the people designated us as the only legitimate patriotic and republican force of opposition. Those who took the responsibility to elect Mr. Macron lost their credibility and legitimacy to represent an alternative political force.”

Le Pen also pointed out that this election signed off “the decomposition of the French political scene through the elimination of the two main parties, Les Républicains and the Socialist Party, and thus reorganized the division between patriots and globalists.

She called her supporters to prepare for the legislative elections of the French Assembly on June, 11. “For those who want to choose France, defend her independence, liberty, prosperity, security, identity, and social model. For those who are worried about the next five years.”

‘Renewal of faith and strength’

President-elect Macron also thanked his voters for their trust and expressed his “profound gratefulness.”

“Nothing was written, so I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your votes and support. I will invest all my energy in being worthy of your trust.”

He also addressed the National Front and France Insoumise voters. “To all citizens, difficulties have weakened us for a long time now. I would thus like to salute all of you and respect those of you who voted for the extremes and those who doubt. I respect you.”

“I want to ensure our nation’s unity because behind each one of my words, there are men, women, children, and families. Tonight, I am talking to you. The people of France have duties to their country: we are the heirs of a grand story and humanist message. We have to transmit this story, this message, and those values to our children and carry them towards the future to give them a new lifeblood.”

“I will defend France’s interests and image; I hold this commitment before you. I will reforge the links between Europe and the peoples that form it.
I also address to all nations in the world a fraternal, peaceful, and respectful salute from France…from a France who respects its commitments towards the fight against terrorism and climate change.”

“Tonight is the night of a new page of a long story: the story of renewed hope and faith, democratic vitality, and pluralism. I will endorse the responsibility to appease the fears, rebuild the optimism, and gather the French to fight the great upcoming challenges.”

“Let us love France from tonight and for the five next years. I will, with humility and devotion, serve this country on your behalf. Vive la République et vive la France.”

Unlike in the United States, the president-elect will hold office a week after he got elected, on May, 14. Choices for prime minister and its newly formed government will also be unveiled mid-May.

Macron and Le Pen, winners of the first round

 

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Image with courtesy of “LaLibre.be”

-Article by Alice Ferré

At 8 p.m., Paris time, Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen were the selected candidates for the second round of the French presidential election, at 24,01% and 21,30% respectively.

“En Marche!” 

Emmanuel Macron achieved to incarnate the people’s demand for change, something which can be considered quite spectacular as Macron founded the “En Marche!” party, a mix of left and right ideologies, just a year ago.

Few minutes after the release of the results, many members from the entire political spectrum minus the extreme right appealed French voters to rally behind the centrist Macron: Rightists Christian Estrosi, François Baroin or leftists Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Benoît Hamon (the socialist party’s candidate who scored 6%) and President François Hollande all joined the call.

A slight divide in the right party “Les Républicains” can although be seen, as some rightists like Laurent Vauquier nuanced their statement, not appealing voters to vote for Macron but against Marine Le Pen. Two dangerous trends could be developing in the right party that would need to consolidate itself before the legislative elections early June.

Bleu Marine

The National Front candidate, Marine Le Pen, made it to the second tour without surprise. It is the second time since 2002 in the history of the French elections that the National Front qualifies itself for the second tour; last time was, however, less expected and caused a horrified reaction in the political sphere. Le Pen’s more expected score this time could be explained by the French’s frustration and fear triggered by a high rate of unemployment, the refugee crisis, and the repeated terrorist attacks on France and Europe over the past few years. Marine Le Pen claims to be the candidate of anti-mundialization and anti-European Union. She calls for a strong, united, and independent France.

However, Le Pen will still have to fight the “Front Républicain,” the gathering of politicians of diverse ideologies against her own party. This multi-party coalition failed her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2002 and led to the victory of the rightist candidate Jacques Chirac. Rightist François Fillon (who scored 20%) called for a gathering behind Macron, as “extremism can bring only despair and division in France.” Benoît Hamon, in a similar spirit, called for “fighting at our best the extreme right.” One dissenting voice was Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s from the extreme-left; He claimed of having no “mandate to speak on the behalf of French voters.”

Nonetheless, the possible tension in the right party “Les Républicains” could certainly lead to Le Pen’s victory, said David Rachline, campaign director of the National Front: Extreme-right and right voters often share common values on fighting the laxist judiciary system, immigration, and unemployment. He added that Le Pen’s score today was a great leap forward for the party and showed that the people want their voice to be heard. Marine Le Pen declared that her first-round victory was a sign that it was “time to free French people from arrogant elites.”

A historical election

Such an unpredictable future for France underlines the historically unique aspect of this election. Moreover, we can notice the development of an unprecedented quadrualism political system as the addition of Macron’s and Le Pen’s scores are only about 45%, less than the majority. Indeed, the four first candidates shared the French’s convictions.

The French political landscape is currently exploding but one thing remains stable: the need to block the National Front from the path to victory with a call for an amplified dynamic of recomposition throughout the country.