A guide to the French Parliamentary elections



(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.

Capture d_écran 2017-06-10 à 09.49.55

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.


French President Macron’s hard line diplomacy on Russia


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.

Netflix’s newest series “13 Reasons Why” helps taboo dialogue of suicide in Brazil


Image courtesy of “familyzone.com”


-Article by Rebecca Giovannetti

Launched last March, the Netflix original series phenomenon 13 Reasons Why opened a worldwide debate about suicide. Based on the 2007 Jay Asher’s novel, the 13-episode series revolves around a teenager, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide after experiencing successive tragic and traumatizing events, such as bullying, cyberbullying, and rape.

The series starts with a sequence that shows one of Hannah’s classmates, receiving 13 tapes recorded by her. In each of these, Hannah explains to each person that failed her the wrong they did and the part they played in her suicide.

In Brazil, the effects of this series amongst young people are palpable. In April, one month after the series premiere, there was a 445 percent increase in help calls and emails to the Brazilian center for suicide prevention, the Centro de Valorização da Vida, attributed to this extraordinary increase to the themes the Netflix series portrays.

According to a Latin American University of Social Sciences study, the suicide rate in Brazil had a 62.5 percent increase from 1980 to 2012, making suicide the third cause of death behind homicide and car crashes. However, this topic is still not easily discussed among families and news outlets.

While it is very hard to pinpoint exactly what makes young people want to end their lives, the common factor for more than 50 percent of suicide amongst teenagers is a major and continuous depression, according to a study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses in Brazil, with 80 to 90 percent diagnosed responding well to treatment and gaining relief from the symptoms.

However, understanding that depressed young people can also take their own lives is hard, even in modern days.

Psychiatrist Neury José Botega says that shedding light on the subject and opening the conversation in Brazilian family circles can help prevent such tragedies. “Since suicide is still a taboo subject, we can have the wrong impression that the problem doesn’t exist on a big scale. But this is not true,” he said in an interview for a Brazilian magazine.

 13 Reasons Why sparked many conversations and critiques as suicide is the final and absolute narrative of Hannah. Yet, the way factors that led to her death are shown to viewers opened up discussions on how most people consider adolescents’ emotions.

Experiences during teenage years, formatting the transition to adulthood, mean the most to the psychological and emotional growth of the teenager. However, not many Brazilian families talk about suicide and the reasons behind it, dismissing these factors as teenage drama.

The fact that 13 Reasons Why caused an astronomical 445 percent increase in calls for help in Brazil should not be ignored. It displays an intrinsic and desperate need for this topic to gain importance in the Brazilian community, a need many psychologists already agree should not be brushed aside.

The Netflix original series opens up the suicide topic in many other countries that still consider suicide as taboo, the United States included, where suicide is also the third leading cause of death among American young people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Right now, it is too soon to tell how much more the topic of suicide will expand in the Brazilian familial dialogue, but it is clear that 13 Reasons Why stirred the need for Brazilians to address these issues. New generations won’t be easily shut down by tradition and taboo anymore.


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


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.

Capture d_écran 2017-05-07 à 20.40.52

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.

Where is Raymond Koh?

by Maneesha Kaur Khalae

Today, Malaysia guarantees religious freedom to all its citizens. A special moment in its history helped cement the secularism that it prides itself upon; the drafting of Article 11. After all, post-colonial Malaysia was witnessing a new era of rapid modernization. The newly enlightened populace had finally shed the sticky chains of imperialism by embracing modernity and secular ideals.

This was mostly the case until an unassuming pastor came along. Skinny to the point of being gaunt, with a handlebar moustache and gentle eyes, Pastor Raymond Koh does not seem like a particularly dangerous man. But around 10:30 PM on February 13, 2017, he was kidnapped. 62-year-old Koh was driving alone on the Jalan SS4B/10 in Petaling, Jaya when a band of unknown persons in three large SUVs, a sedan and on motorbikes, forced his silver 1990 model Honda Accord (number plate: ST5515D) to stop, according to his wife, Susannah Liew Sow Yoke in an article for Free Malaysia Today.

Pastor Koh was targeted for what has been described as a kidnapping with ‘military precision’. He does not appear to have links to drug lords or even criminals, nor loan sharks. He is a decent, middle-class man with three children and a wife. And also, unfortunately for him, he holds a passion for Christianity that ran too deep for the comfort of some.

Koh first made Malaysian headlines in 2011 when he was accused for converting Muslims to Christianity through his ‘Harapan Komuniti’ (which translates to The Hope of the Community). This led to Selangor’s Islamic Religious Department (Jais) raiding an event run by him at the Damansara Utama Methodist Church, but due to inconsequential evidence, these claims could not be proved. He received at least one death threat following the incident and also received a bullet in the mail. Several Muslims later lodged police reports against Mr Koh, claiming he had tried to proselytize Muslims. The Star reported that “a police report was lodged by a few individuals alleging that Koh and two others went to Kangar, Perlis, on Jan 19 and Jan 20 to influence a group of youths to convert to Christianity.

Perhaps, the worry and concern over Pastor Koh’s disappearance would not be so great had there not also been reports that another pastor, Joshua Hilmy and his wife Ruth, have been missing since November of last year. Koh’s disappearance has forced Malaysians across the world to revaluate the religious freedom that their government promises. Even as candlelight vigils in his support become prominent, there is a growing concern: Is this the beginning of encroachments of Malaysian secular rights in favor of religious autonomy?


Violent Protests Rein Maduro’s Regime


Venezuelans protesting in Caracas – (picture by Fernando Llano/AP for the New York Times)

by Rebecca Arce

Last Friday, the Venezuelan Ministry confirmed that 11 civilians were killed and six were wounded during protests against Nicolás Maduro’s government in El Valle, a city southwest of Caracas, the capital. This raises to 20 the number of deaths due to riots in the last three weeks.

NGOs such as the Venezuelan Program of Education and Action in Human Rights (PROVEA), stated that manifestations were heavily repressed by the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) and by “chavists,” defenders of Maduro’s dictatorship.

During the protest, a children’s hospital in El Valle, where 54 infants were hospitalized, was forced to be evacuated. According to the Venezuelan government, the hospital was attacked by armed groups financed by the opposition, known as the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), that denied any involvement with the case.

Riots have become more intense since last Tuesday, as Maduro announced the activation of the FANB’s “Zamora Plan,” to maintain internal order against “coup threats convened by Washington.”

“Given this scenario, I decided to activate the special civil-military strategic plan to ensure the country’s functioning, its security, internal order, and social integration,” added Maduro during a speech at his official workplace, the Miraflores Palace.

The content of the plan was not stated, causing the MUD to question if all opposition to the government will be viewed as a coup. “The military has a lot of power in Venezuela, so there could only be immediate changes if this system crashes,” said Rafael Uzcátegui, member of the PROVEA.

Last Thursday, nine Latin-American countries released a statement mourning the tragic events of the Venezuelan protests. The governments of Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay strongly condemned “the violence unleashed in Venezuela” and lamented “the loss of more lives.”  The Chilean Foreign Minister, Heraldo Muñoz, added that “it is urgent that the Venezuelan authorities adopt measures to ensure fundamental rights and preserve social peace.”

The nations also urge the Venezuelan government to “take back the path of a democratic institution” and to “set dates for compliance with the electoral timetable, release political prisoners and ensure the separation of the constitutional powers.”

Demonstrations against Maduro’s undemocratic administration have been raging since February 2014 when Leopoldo López, opposition leader, activist, and former Mayor of Caracas’ Chacao district, assembled students to protest peacefully against the lack of basic daily products supplies. Following this protest, Lopez was sentenced to 14 years for public incitement to violence.

Three years after the first protest, the lack of such products is still a predominant issue in the country. On March, 25, the city council of Barute promoted public bartering between civilians under a reinforced police control for safety purposes.


The Saffron Tide of the 21st Century


Source: NDTV

by Gowtham Ashokan

India, a nation of 1.2 billion people with hundreds of faiths, thousands of languages, and hundreds of ethnicities is possibly one of the most diverse democracies in the 21
st century (Morin). In many ways, India is a forced conglobation of an entire geographical region into a singular nation state.

Yet, one person believed in the great experiment that is Indian democracy; Mahatma Gandhi. He aspired for a state that would be completely self-sufficient and inclusive of all human beings regardless of faith, caste, ethnicity, and gender. With the help of B.R Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian constitution, they crafted a secular and democratic constitution with ideas borrowed from the Americans, the British and the French.

Today, the bedrock of democracy and secularism is being shaken in India, as tides of saffron-clad (saffron being a color widely associated with Hinduism) Hindu nationalists have channeled economic anxiety and disdain for corruption into hate towards the minority groups.

Hindus constitute 79.8% of the population while Muslims and Christians form 14.2% and 2.3% (“The World Factbook:INDIA”). These groups have coexisted for centuries through the Mughal dynasty, the Hindu kingdoms, and British rule.

The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power in 2014 promising economic reform, a corruption-free India, and a strong emphasis on Hindu pride. (“Promising the good times”) Mr. Modi’s ideological background is inspired by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a far-right Hindu nationalist paramilitary volunteer organization that upholds the values of Hinduism and a conservative agenda, mainly through the education of a young public and the training of a “moral police” within society. For example, the RSS often targets university campuses and separates couples on Valentine’s Day. (Mishra)

However, the RSS has tampered with the benevolent Hindu faith, one that is tolerant of all faiths and beliefs, and has transformed it into a vile, chauvinistic, and hateful political tool. This perversion of Hinduism started with Prime Minister Modi’s negligence of the massive Gujarat riots in 2002 (Timeline) that opposed Hindus and Muslims.

Nowadays, as cow protection squads routinely harass Muslims and Dalits (Alder)– people from India’s lowest caste— in the name of their beliefs, it seems like there is an even thinner separation of the state and the faiths.

Narendra supporters

Source: Independent UK

Modi’s BJP passed an immigration bill (Garg) that allows only religious minorities from the neighboring South Asian countries to enter the country. This is eerily similar to Donald Trump’s first travel ban allowing only Christian minorities into the United States. While Modi may be more restrained with his rhetoric his use of dog whistle tactics and actions are similar to a demagogue like Trump.

Consequently, the government shut down a protest at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (“JNU..”), citing the protest to be ‘anti-Indian’ and arrested the leaders under colonial-era sedition charges.

These events are only a sample of all the religious hatred, suppression of dissent, and caste violence that have spawned since Narendra Modi took power. In fact, Modi and his party have readily started to downplay the role of Gandhi and have started to elate the role of more nationalistic leaders such as Subash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh, as Gandhi directly contradicts their view of “Hindutva” – that India is a nation with Hindu spirit. (Venu)

Modi’s attacks on the freedom of the press, right to dissent, and minorities has been effective in his quest to consolidate power, whether it be the Jawaharlal Nehru University crackdown, or silence during the Gujarat riots. His party recently won the state legislature in the biggest Indian state, Uttar Pradesh, and appointed a Hindu extremist who has murder cases filed against him. (Singh)

The people of India and the media cannot permit Modi and the BJP to incite hatred and divisiveness for political gains. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has enabled violence against Dalits and Muslims, cracked down on protests under the pretext of outdated sedition laws, and has emboldened the Hindu militants to gain power as seen in Uttar Pradesh. India can and must show the world that it is a transparent, secular, diverse, and free country for the better of its people and the example it sets to fellow developing countries.

Sources Cited:

Alder, Ketan. “A Short History of the Rise and Rise of Hindu Nationalism in India.” Quartz. Quartz, 02 Mar. 2016. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

“What Hindu Nationalism Means.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 18 May 2014. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Morin, Rich. “The Most (and Least) Culturally Diverse Countries in the World.” Pew Research Center. N.p., 18 July 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

“The World Factbook: INDIA.” Central Intelligence Agency. Central Intelligence Agency, 12 Jan. 2017. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

“Promising the Good times.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 22 May 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.

Mishra, Akshaya. “Kiss of Love:.” Firstpost. N.p., 09 Nov. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <http://www.firstpost.com/living/kiss-love-rss-better-watch-campuses-lead-charge-moral-policing-1794139.html&gt;.

“Timeline of the Riots in Modi’s Gujarat.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 06 Apr. 2014. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/04/06/world/asia/modi-gujarat-riots-timeline.html&gt;.

Garg, Lovish. “If India Wants to Stay Secular, the New Citizenship Bill Isn’t the Way to Go.” The Wire. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <https://thewire.in/67272/citizenship-amendment-bill-2016/&gt;.

“JNU Students Protest outside Home Ministry, Detained – Times of India.” The Times of India. India, 21 Oct. 2016. Web. 14 Apr. 2017. <http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/JNU-students-protest-outside-Home-Ministry-detained/articleshow/54979642.cms&gt;.

Venu, MK. Firstpost. Firstpost, n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017. <http://www.firstpost.com/india/why-rss-is-playing-with-fire-by-raking-up-mahatma-gandhi-1430385.html&gt;.

Singh, Rajesh Kumar. “How Yogi Adityanath Overcame Political Ignominy to Win the UP Crown.” http://www.hindustantimes.com/. Hindustan Times, 18 Mar. 2017. Web. 14 Apr. 2017. <http://www.hindustantimes.com/assembly-elections/how-yogi-adityanath-overcame-political-ignominy-to-win-the-up-crown/story-DJCQmdCvfbVGi7ZQXu2tmK.html&gt;.