A guide to the French Parliamentary elections

 

legislatives-2017

(Image courtesy of bassussarry.fr)

 

 

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.

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

2017-05-14t101301z_283531244_rc1598c91620_rtrmadp_3_france-election_0

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

2048x1536-fit_french-president-elect-emmanuel-macron-waves-to-the-crowd-as-he-delivers-a-speech-at-the-pyramid-at

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)

 

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.

Macron and Le Pen, winners of the first round

by Alice Ferré

18057634_10156157753159625_2128141904667852718_n

Image with courtesy of “LaLibre.be”

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.

France’s second presidential debate

presidentielle-les-declarations-de-patrimoine-des-11-candidats-disponibles_0

From top left clockwise: François Fillon, Benoît Hamon, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Marine Le Pen, Emmanuel Macron, Philippe Poutou, Jean Lassalle, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, Jacques Cheminade, François Asselineau, Nathalie Arthaud – (by ouest-france.fr)

After receiving criticism from the entire political spectrum for only having invited the five frontrunners at the first presidential debate, the national French broadcasting channel France 2 widened its panel of candidates. For the second debate, the six other candidates (or “little” candidates) were invited to participate; according to France 24, it was historically the first debate in France to host all the candidates of a presidential race.

Although it gave an opportunity to the smaller candidates – François Asselineau, Nathalie Arthaud, Nicolas Dupont Aignan, Jacques Cheminade, Jean Lassalle, and Philippe Poutou – to voice their ideas, this wider panel seemed to have spread confusion on the discussions of issues and shadowed the frontrunners.

It quickly became a “three-hour marathon” of attacks:

Philippe Poutou, affiliated to the far-left, ridiculed Marine Le Pen’s main claim to being “anti-system” as he declared that she used her parliamentary immunity to protect herself from judicial prosecution in the affair of illegal payments to her staff.

Ms. Le Pen was relatively passive throughout the debate, although she threw a cutting remark at the centrist Emmanuel Macron (who currently leads the polls). Ms. Le Pen mocked Mr. Macron’s self-proclamation of “the candidate of a new hope,” advancing that his politics were new in form but not in content.

Nathalie Arthaud (Workers’ Struggle) and Philippe Poutou (New Anti-Capitalist Party), both sharing ideologies for the empowerment of the working class, heavily criticized most of the frontrunners for their lack of political ethic: François Fillon from the right party and Ms. Le Pen for the scandals and other corruption affairs they were involved in a few weeks ago.
Mr. Poutou said to Mr. Fillon: “François Fillon, the more we dig, the more we smell corruption, cheating; these are guys who tell us that we need rigor, austerity, when they steal from the coffers,” according to France 24.

Mr. Poutou, who refused to join the ten other candidates on the picture taken before the debate and wore a plain white shirt with blue jeans, also greatly accentuated how he is the only candidate, with Ms. Arthaud, who work a job. (Mr. Poutou is a Ford mechanic). He denounced the “corrupt politicians, disconnected from reality,” according to France 24.

Mainly, it seems like the debate was an excellent opportunity for “little” candidates to settle accounts with the big political figures and the fruitless political establishment they embody.

The third debate has been scheduled by France 2 for April, 20th; however, Mr. Mélenchon and Ms. Le Pen have refused to participate so far, considering it would take place three days before the first election round.

In any case, the race to presidency remains one of the most unpredictable in years, with scandals and surprises that undermined the big players and reinforced the smaller ones.

According to the latest polls published by L’Internaute on April, 15th, Emmanuel Macron  (yellow line) remains winner of the election, closely followed by Marine Le Pen (black line). Jean-Luc Méchelon (red line) has gained 6% of voting intention since March 27th and is now on an equal footing with François Fillon (blue line). Conversely, Benoît Hamon has lost more than 5% of voting intention.

Capture d_écran 2017-04-15 à 23.02.47

Article by Alice Ferré

Recap: François Fillon’s corruption cases: a legal, ethical, private, and public affair

fillon

Courtesy of JAMnews

The French presidential election’s first round will be held on April 22nd; here is a recap of the corruption scandals that surrounded the candidate François Fillon over the past weeks.

So far, the right party has been in hot water. Although its candidate had always claimed their honesty and high morals, recent events proved the contrary.

François Fillon from the right party Les Républicains (LR) has been involved in more corruption scandals over the past few months than he has been during his entire political career as revelations poured:

On January 24, the French newspaper “Le Canard Enchaîné” revealed that the right party candidate’s wife, Pénélope Fillon, was paid for fictional work as a parliament assistant for 15 years, earning a total of 680.000 euros. Her severance pay amounted to 45.000 euros. Later on, during an interview on French channel TF1, Mr. Fillon declared that, while he was Senator, he employed his children as parliamentary attachés, which violated the Senate’s legislation. They earned 84 000 euros.

Mr. Fillon is also charged with influence peddling, as Penelope Fillon was employed by « La Revue des Deux Mondes, » from 2012 to 2013, and paid 5000 euros per month, regardless of having written only two notes for it. The publication’s owner, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, is close to the Fillons and received the Legion of Honor in 2011.

Finally, Les Républicains are accused of misappropriation of funds earned by the parliamentary aides from 2005 to 2007. Mr. Fillon received 21.000 euros.

Following these revelations, Mr. Fillon’s investigation procedure started on March, 15. He, nonetheless, chose to remain in the presidential race. The investigation procedure allowed Mr. Fillon to access the accusation files and build a defense against all the charges. The investigation is however disturbed by the electoral calendar: if Mr. Fillon is elected, he cannot be prosecuted.

The seventh article of the French Constitution allows postponing the election if a candidate withdraws themselves from the race, or is impeached, and if they are not replaceable by another candidate from the party’s primary election. The Constitutional Council decides whether the election should be postponed.

However, such scenario seems unlikely, as Mr. Fillon declared he will remain in the race. The UDI (Union of Democrats and Independents), which had previously abandoned their support for Mr. Fillon early March, changed their minds and agreed to endorse him again – for the sake of the party. Thierry Solère, Mr. Fillon’s campaign spokesman who also resigned early March, stayed in his position.

Article by Alice Ferré

France: More surprises in primary elections process lead to uncertainty on presidential race this May

benoit-hamon-manuel-valls-primaire-gauche-second-tour-ps-francesoir_field_mise_en_avant_principale

Benoît Hamon (left) Manuel Valls (right) – France Soir

 

France’s upcoming presidential election in May is sure to be full of surprises. The Right Party presidential primaries held in December ousted former President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chirac’s former Minister Alain Juppé from the race and nominated former Prime Minister under Sarkozy, François Fillon, a less charismatic but quieter figure.

The second round of the Socialist Party presidential primaries will be held this Sunday, with two completely different profiles competing: former Prime Minister Manuel Valls and Yvelines’ deputy Benoît Hamon. Under Hollande’s presidency, Mr. Valls had drifted from the socialist ideology to a more conservative one, especially with the El-Khomri law. On the contrary, Mr. Hamon advocates for more left-oriented policies and radical change. The French press mentions a “left with two faces.”

No second chances?

Recent polls are not in Mr. Valls’ favor, owing to his unpopularity as Prime Minister. He also has to face contradictions during debates: to defend what he stood for over the past four years whilst also promising change. Unfortunately, many fear a continuity of policies if Mr. Valls gets elected. The candidate claims the El-Khomri law was an ultimatum for him and promises to abrogate the 49-3 article that validates it, since they do not represent “our society of participation,” he told France 2‘s news channel.  Addressing the nation’s current preoccupations with Islamophobia, Mr. Valls contends all religions are compatible with republican values; and “although the Republic protects and helps all victims of intolerance, it belongs to them to defend themselves against obscurantism,” he told L’émission politique in January. He also intends to open up a dialogue on Islam and “free French Islam from outside influences.”

Hamon: from third man to rising star of the polls

After the disappointing mandate of François Hollande, the surge of terrorist attacks, and the alarming rise of unemployment, France needs to dream a better future. There is no desire to recycle politicians, and Mr. Hamon appears to provide enough dream material for the French to win the primaries this Sunday. Polls estimate Hamon to lead the race by 4%.

The main line of his program is the cancellation of the El-Khomri law, which facilitates the ability of firms to fire employees when faced with competition. Mr. Hamon also hopes to see a France move toward utilizing renewable energies by 2050, and away from nuclear use and schist gas. He advocates for the legalized use of cannabis – a concern rarely addressed in national debates – which could reduce underground trafficking and other related troubles within concerned communities.

Results from this primary will likely determine the candidate that will measure himself against the two other main running parties, Le Pen’s far-right and Fillon’s right. This panel of candidates was unexpected to make it so far, leading to many questions and uncertainties for the May election.

The second most popular competing parties are Emmanuel Macron’s independent party (neither left nor right), Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s far-left, and Yannick Jadot’s green party.

Edit, 01/29/2017: Benoît Hamon wins with 58,88% of the votes against 41,12% for Manuel Valls

Article by Alice Ferré, CAS’19