French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced new government after ongoing corruption investigation leaves doubt on ministers’ integrity

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French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (image courtesy of Ouest-France)

 

-Article by Alice Ferré

On June 9, a preliminary investigation was launched to enlighten an alleged fund embezzlement by major figures of the centrist party MoDem and extreme-right party National Front.

France’s new government was affected by the investigation as many ministers, also members of the MoDem party, resigned this week. Those concerned are the Minister of the Armies Sylvie Goulard, the Minister of European Affairs Marielle de Sarnez, and the Minister of Justice and MoDem party leader Francois Bayrou, who had viscerally supported President Macron during his campaign. The Minister of Territorial Cohesion Richard Ferrand also resigned after rumors of a real estate affair that would have benefited his wife in 2011.

The information that put oil on fire was disclosed by the famous weekly satirical newspaper “Le Canard Enchaine,” the same publication that unveiled the Fillon scandal and caused the rightist candidate his presidential bid last January.

Although the government was supposed to be redesigned after the legislative election results on Sunday- as the tradition wants it –  to reinforce the executive power by limiting ideological cohabitation between the legislative and the executive branch, the reform took an unexpected turn.

“Le Canard” accused Francois Bayrou, as the same time as the now-former Minister of Justice was working on “a moralization of the political life” law project to fight corruption and facilitate transparency in politics, and other MoDem European deputies of using the European Parliament’s funds to pay their personal aides, thus creating fake jobs. On June 8, a former MoDem employee, who wished to remain anonymous, revealed to the highest Paris court, that he had been remunerated as a parliamentary aide to MoDem-affiliated deputy Jean-Luc Bennhamias in 2011 while his contract postulated he was simply working for the party.

This method of falsely recruiting party members as parliamentary aides increased over the years in the MoDem, according to France Info. Each European deputy or national deputies and senators have at their disposal a 24.000 euro-credits to pay their assistants, would they be either in Brussels, Strasbourg, or other circumscriptions. They are not allowed to employ aides that already have a position in their party, as it not only creates illegal mandate accumulations but also fake jobs. This fund embezzlement means the party leader and members don’t spend much of the party’s money.

Mr. Bayrou told the French newspaper “Le Monde” that his decision was “a personal choice” that will “simplify” the current investigation. Echoing Mr. Bayrou, Mrs. Goulard, who quit the day before, said her move was out of “good faith,” regarding the ongoing investigation planning over her party.

Edouard Philippe’s second government remains in line with President Macron’s promises of parity and involvement of civil personalities and new faces. Mrs. Nicole Belloubet, who now replaces Mr. Bayrou as the Minister of Justice, was a former law teacher; Mrs. Genevieve Darrieussecq, 61, a doctor and the mayor of a small town in West Southern France, was named as Minister of the Armies.

“La République en marche” wins the most parliamentary seats as France faces a historically low voter turnout

-Article by Alice Ferré

On Sunday, the presidential party “La République en marche,” in coalition with the MoDem, won 361 over 577 seats in the French National Assembly during the second round of the legislative election, achieving the most outstanding majority since 1958.

 

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Graph showing the proportion of parliamentary seats held by each party and their allies (courtesy of BFM.TV.fr)

 


Although Marine Le Pen’s National Front made it to the second tour of the presidential election in May, it seems to have lost its short-term glory, winning only eight seats in the Parliament. Major parties, including the Republicans, the Socialist Party, and France Insoumise, created coalitions with ideology-sharing, smaller political groups to maximize their number of seats – the National Front was the only party standing alone. The Republicans won 126 seats, the Socialist Party 46, and the France Insoumise 26.

French voters excelled in their voting abstention for this election: the first round was saluted by a 51,2% abstention rate which rose to 56,6% this Sunday. This result still questions the French’s acceptance towards President Macron even after a month and a half in office.

 

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Map of the abstention rate by districts (courtesy of LeMonde.fr)

 

 

 

“La République en marche” on its way to parliamentary majority

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-Article by Alice Ferré

It was a validation vote for “La République en marche” on Sunday’s first round of the French legislative elections. The newly founded presidential party (created by President Macron himself only two years ago) won most seats in the National Assembly with 32,32% of the vote – or between 390 and 430 seats over 577. The right party The Republicans and allies arrived second with 21,56% while the National Front and the “France Insoumise” arrived third and fourth with respectively 13,74% and 13,2%. The four parties will face voters once again this Sunday in a second round; “La République en marche” is expected to stay ahead with at least more than 400 seats over 577, one of the strongest parliamentary majority since 1958. Mainly, “La République en marche” would rule over 72 to 78,9% of the National Assembly, a positive sign for President Macron.

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Graph determining parliamentary seats after the first round on Sunday (courtesy of LeMonde.fr). 

However, the President’s main opposition may not remain in the party lines but on the street; this election’s abstention rate was 51.2% of the 47 million voters.

After the final results this Sunday, deputies will have to wait until June, 27 to become officially part of the National Assembly, and next week will announce the beginning of the parliamentary group forming. Parties like the National Front or the Socialist Party, owing little seats, opposing the majority party, and lacking important allies will encounter difficulties forming their group, which requires 15 deputies. The Republicans are likely to be divided over joining “La République en marche” as many of them had endorsed centrist President Macron during his campaign over the last months. Each group presents one of their members as their leaders, and the president of one of the political majority groups will be chosen to be the National Assembly Chairman.

The final step towards the officialization of this new assembly will be on July, 4. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will give a speech presenting his cabinet’s general political line and vowing it will be politically held responsible in front of the assembly, thus respecting the deputies’ representative power and voices.
This speech will be followed by the traditional “trust vote” introducing each new government; deputies will express their opinions on the legitimacy of the current administration. If the Prime Minister gets the majority vote, which is likely to happen this time, he is able to oversee the legislative branch under extreme and rare conditions to pass laws. A cabinet can be rejected only if the majority vote disavows it.

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.

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

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Image courtesy of JAMnews

-Article by Alice Ferré

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.

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

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

 

-Article by Alice Ferré

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