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Source: (consider it) Thread: French elections 2017
Eutychus
From the edge
# 3081

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I think it's high time we covered another presidential election.

For the moment there are four serious contenders.

Benoit Hamon has just won the left-wing primary, trouncing favourite Manuel Valls. He is a former far-left rebel from the Valls government and will have trouble uniting mainstream Socialists.

Emmanuel Macron, another ex-Socialist minister, is running as an independent. Wags say he has promised to announce his campaign platform once elected. A lot of voters will be stuck for choice between him and Hamon.

François Fillon is yet another surprise winner, this time of the centre-right primary. He looked like a dead cert given the disarray on the left, until this week when he has become mired in fake job scandals involving his Welsh wife Penelope that look like they might sink him. Some of his policies are actually to the right of...

Marine Le Pen. All the surveys put her in the second round run-off. They also have her losing to whoever makes it through against her, but I'm not counting on it [Ultra confused] especially now Fillon is in trouble.

Marine's chances got a huge boost with Trump's election and Brexit, and this is the first major election due in Europe following either of those two events. Hold onto your hats.

[updated thread title because I can]

[ 07. June 2017, 06:57: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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anteater

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Eutychus:
If Fillon does get discredited, is there a mechanism to deselect him or offer an alternative? Or is the Right stuck with him?

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Eutychus
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It's a good question.

Fillon has rather cleverly maintained he will not stand down unless he is charged.

(The consensus seems to be that the charges about the fake job for his wife in Parliament will not stick because Parliament is prissy about its independence; the one that is looking more ominous is the allegedly fake magazine job. But if someone is charged there, it will be the owner and Penelope, not Fillon).

I think he is more likely to try and cling on to the nomination than go. If he did get forced out, it's hard to know what will happen.

The runner-up, Alain Juppé, has said he would not stand (but might want to be entreated to do so). Juppé might be a more unifying candidate (I sold my soul by voting for him in the primaries, as did not a few of my compatriots, basically to keep Sarkozy out) but he does not have Fillon's "Mr Clean" image, now permanently tarnished whatever happens. Time is perilously short for a re-run of the primary.

Marine Le Pen, meanwhile, is doing her best to sit tight and say nothing.

[ 31. January 2017, 18:47: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Ian Climacus

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So have the left's chances been scuttled with Benoit Hamon and his inability to unite? From my reading they were in trouble anyway and favoured to be the first to be knocked out.

Do you think this was solely due to Hollande's low popularity? Is France just itching for a change, and throwing a party out rather than enthusiastically bringing one in? Or has the right, and extreme right, made significant gains in this seemingly world-wide right lurch?

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chris stiles
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:

Some of his policies are actually to the right of...

Marine Le Pen. All the surveys put her in the second round run-off.

Some commentators feel that the FN may ride high on an economic populist ticket, regardless of whether or not they actually plan to put anything like that into action.
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Eutychus
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The only party anybody will be bringing in with any enthusiasm will be the FN.

The FN has been steadily gaining ground since Marine's father Jean-Marie made it through to the second round in 2002 (and I started thinking seriously about getting French nationality). Since then they have become much more outwardly respectable and built up some solid political experience, mostly in local government.

Marine has a way with words. It pains me to say it, but when something happens and politicians are asked for their reactions hers is often the one I most spontaneously think "well, she tells it the way it is". She very much has the common touch and is pretty much unique in the field on that score.

Of course the policy ramifications behind this "straight talk" are much the same as they ever were.

The left at the national level has been in a sort of permanent psychodrama ever since Chirac became president in 1995. I think Hollande got in basically because everyone was so fed up with Sarkozy. His revelations to journalists and affair have not helped him, to say the least, but I think he has not actually been as bad a president as his ratings suggest. He was much more consensus-based than Sarkozy, succeeded in passing at least some much-needed reform legislation (to howls of protest from the Trotskyist left of course), and has been surprisingly decisive and somewhat successful in foreign policy, for instance in Mali.

It's very odd. On the issues I care about Sarkozy was even more to the right than Fillon who was in turn more to the right than Le Pen, while Hamon, reputedly a far-left socialist who could thus be expected to be rabidly anti-clerical, appears to have a much more reasonable stance on secularity (laïcité) than anyone else. Nobody is sure how he could balance his budget though.

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Ian Climacus

Liturgical Slattern
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Thanks Eutychus.

quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
The only party anybody will be bringing in with any enthusiasm will be the FN.

Is this around the country, i.e. large cities, towns, rural centres? Or is support for the FN more marked outside the big cities?

[ 31. January 2017, 19:37: Message edited by: Ian Climacus ]

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Eutychus
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I would guess the FN polls highest in high-immigration, economically depressed areas. More urban than rural support in terms of local government, but non-negligible rural support in a presidential vote I would guess.

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la vie en rouge
Parisienne
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The Socialists are going to get a hiding AFAICT. I’m expecting it to play out between Fillon, Macron and Le Pen.

The FN do very well down our way in the South-West where their success has a lot to do with monstrous unemployment. On the upside, I think France is protected more than other countries by its electoral system. Recent times have shown the problems with opinion polls, but I think (hope? [Help] ) the FN can’t win a second round. Certainly in the last round of elections, they did extremely well in the first round and ended up with exactly no MPs after the second.

ETA: While the South-West does have high unemployment, it doesn't have all that many immigrants. Similar to other places where people change their minds about immigrants once they get to know them, I suspect.

[ 01. February 2017, 08:48: Message edited by: la vie en rouge ]

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Callan
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I am really hoping that Macron can pull it off. Mostly because of his politics but also because the sight of a French President lecturing the US at international summits on the evils of protectionism will be absolutely freaking hilarious. Nearly as good as the Chancellor of Germany lecturing the US on the evils of nationalism. If we can get a decent Italian government, as well, we might get the Italians on the subject of governmental corruption for the trifecta.

Someone has already come out with "the trouble with the French is that they don't have a word for dirigiste".

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mr cheesy
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Sorry to be a dumb-arse, but how do the election mechanics work?

Is it that there is a popular vote in the first round (I guess everyone votes and they're tallied nationally?) and then everyone gets a second in some kind of run-off vote between the two most popular candidates? Or is it some kind of tally of constituencies?

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Eutychus
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The presidential election is in two rounds. The first round is traditionally when one votes with one's heart, choosing between a whole plethora of candidates from royalists to Leninists.

The top two scorers go through to the second round, when one is supposed to vote with one's head.

My son has just come out with a paranoid conspiracy theory that Macron is actually France's version of Trump, and not Marine. I'm glad Callan knows what Macron's policies are, because I don't think anybody else does*.

I have now read Hamon's manifesto and find myself agreeing with huge chunks of it [Eek!] He is the only one to talk sense on prisons [Big Grin] and I like his energy policy (link - in French).

He might get my first-round "heart" vote in defiance of my commitment made when voting in the centre-right primary (after Paisley: "that was then, this is now").

**

*Macron must be reading the Ship. This just got released this minute.

[ 01. February 2017, 09:46: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Callan
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Originally posted by Eutychus:

quote:
I'm glad Callan knows what Macron's policies are, because I don't think anybody else does*.
[Big Grin]

Luckily for The Republic I don't get a vote. Based on what I have read and heard Le Pen is Fash, Fillion is a Thatcherite without the Thatcherite virtue of being sound on The Bear, Hamon is your version of Jeremy Corbyn and Macron is a Blairite. Forgive my rudimentary schoolboy French but I think the conclusion can only be Les choses ne peuvent que s'améliorer*.

*Things can only get better...

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Eutychus
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The local version of Panorama has just dug out a video interview with Fillon's wife Penelope from 2007 in which she says "I'm not his assistant, or anything like that, I don't deal with his communication" - at a time when she had already been handsomely paid as his parliamentary assistant.

I think it will be difficult for him to survive this. I hope their marriage does [Frown]

[ 02. February 2017, 20:04: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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la vie en rouge
Parisienne
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On France Inter yesterday, Fillon was roundly lampooned for his hypocrisy. His answer to the accusations of financial shenanigans: “how could a Christian like me possibly have done a thing like that?” I am very angry with him for this at several levels. I am also expecting the return of Juppé. He has dirty linen of his own but it’s dirty linen that everyone knows about so supposedly that’s ok.

Meanwhile a petition is going round to try to get the left (Hamon, Jadot, Mélenchon*) to unite behind a single candidate.

*Fun fact about Mélenchon: I used to work in the same building where Standard & Poors have their Paris office. After France lost its AAA, Mélenchon et compagnie turned up to protest outside and we all had to sneak in through the back entrance for a week. From watching the TV news, you would have thought there were thousands of them. It was very carefully filmed. I swear there were two hundred people max.

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Eutychus
From the edge
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quote:
Originally posted by la vie en rouge:
His answer to the accusations of financial shenanigans: “how could a Christian like me possibly have done a thing like that?”

The cartoonists seem to have noticed as well. The top one is self-explanatory in any language. The others are quite fun, too, albeit in French (I particularly like the Sarko "plan B-Z" one).

Invoking Christian values to further political ambitions by people behaving unChristianly seems to be rather catching at the minute.

[ 03. February 2017, 07:45: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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Martin60
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Fillon's self declared righteousness lacks letting his yes be yes and his no be no. Unless he did initially and it's lostin translation. Caesar's wife needs to declare too. She's declared she wasn't an assistant or whatever, but has she declared she didn't receive €700,000 of tax payers' money?

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Eutychus
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I wonder whether she was even aware of the fact.

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Callan
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Originally posted by la vie en rouge:

quote:
On France Inter yesterday, Fillon was roundly lampooned for his hypocrisy. His answer to the accusations of financial shenanigans: “how could a Christian like me possibly have done a thing like that?”
I think that once you have to tell everyone about your integrity it's pretty clear that you have lost your reputation for having it. It was a long and tortuous path from Messiah to pariah for Mr Blair but a key point in the tragedy was when he had to go on television and tell us all that he was a pretty straight sort of guy.

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Augustine the Aleut
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quote:
Originally posted by Callan:
Originally posted by la vie en rouge:

quote:
On France Inter yesterday, Fillon was roundly lampooned for his hypocrisy. His answer to the accusations of financial shenanigans: “how could a Christian like me possibly have done a thing like that?”
I think that once you have to tell everyone about your integrity it's pretty clear that you have lost your reputation for having it. It was a long and tortuous path from Messiah to pariah for Mr Blair but a key point in the tragedy was when he had to go on television and tell us all that he was a pretty straight sort of guy.
Trollope had Archdeacon Grantly say it best: Whenever a man speaks of his honesty and integrity, I straightaway check to see if my pocketbook is still in place.
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Ricardus
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Question: what happens if either Macron or (God forbid) Le Pen gets in, given that neither of them have any MPs of their own? On the face of it, that would seem to be taking 'lame duck' to a new level.

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Barnabas62
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[Paranoid]

It looks increasingly like a run-off between Macron and Le Pen, which Macron is forecast to win.

But this is not a good year to be a proclaimed centrist. Rampant nationalism is the zeitgeist.

Holding my breath, for fear of "an 'orrible post-truth triple".

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Eutychus
From the edge
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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
Question: what happens if either Macron or (God forbid) Le Pen gets in, given that neither of them have any MPs of their own? On the face of it, that would seem to be taking 'lame duck' to a new level.

Some people say the French would in the end be consistent and elect MPs in line with the political stripe of the president in the subsequent general election.

(The FN could probably field enough candidates, a good chunk of them with experience in local government).

Others say the electorate would be perverse and give us cohabitation. We have had some practice in these, but I'm not sure how it would turn out with Le Pen. There is apparently a provision in the constitution to granting the president the (theoretical) powers for direct rule [Eek!]

Practically, it is political wisdom that you need about one hundred people to be able to govern France: not necessarily elected poiticians, but senior civil servants, Préfets, magistrates, and so on. If the nightmare scenario happens, I think finding the right 100 of those might be Le Pen's biggest challenge.

The Républicains don't seem to have realised what a sinking ship they appear to be at the minute.

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mr cheesy
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Wow, that seems to be a very messy system. So Le Pen could win the Presidency but have to appoint a PM from an opposing party that had a majority in parliament. But then that leaves a battle between the PM and President as to who has executive power.

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Eutychus
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One of the reasons the presidential seven-year term was aligned with the five-year government term was to try and make it less messy, but it's certainly not ideal.

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Augustine the Aleut
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quote:
Originally posted by Eutychus:
One of the reasons the presidential seven-year term was aligned with the five-year government term was to try and make it less messy, but it's certainly not ideal.

I cannot find the exact reference but there was an historian who said that the constitution of the Fifth Republic was written for the person of de Gaulle and for the political dominance of the Gaullist parties. At the time, there was little thought of other possibilities ever arising.

At the time the French changed from the septennat of seven-year terms for the reason Eutychus quotes, I thought it would have the opposite effect. Cohabitation of any sort, of course, works when those involved want it to work, and that will depend on who gets the presidency, and how the Chambre gets set up.

At a dinner last year, a French academic was asked if there was any interest in the Bonapartists returning and we were informed that the pretender was an ideological republican, so he could not rule anything out, no matter how unlikely.

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Eutychus
From the edge
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Talk of a Sixth Republic (this currently being the Fifth) keeps coming round. Hamon actually has it as one of his campaign pledges.

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DaleMaily
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quote:
Originally posted by Augustine the Aleut:
I cannot find the exact reference but there was an historian who said that the constitution of the Fifth Republic was written for the person of de Gaulle and for the political dominance of the Gaullist parties. At the time, there was little thought of other possibilities ever arising.

From what I recall, the creation of the Fifth Republic and the new constitution that led to the semi-presidential system was de Gaulle's chief condition for returning from writing his memoires in 1958 and sorting out the Algerian war.

The only way I can see a return to cohabitation would be a Le Pen victory in the presidential election, swiftly followed by a backlash from the electorate. The problem with the two-round system though is that it often results in the population being split down the middle. Macron could conceivably overcome this, but I can see him being attacked by Le Pen as a Monti-like technocrat/member of the "elite".

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Barnabas62
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Le Pen is certainly playing the Trump card. Best thing that could happen to France between now and the election is an emerging global awareness that Trump is a busted flush.

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mr cheesy
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So help me understand the mechanics. Let's say that Le Pen wins and begins a proto-Trumpish presidency beginning the process of (I don't know) leaving the EU.

If there is a majority in parliament which is not from Le Pen's party and she is forced to appoint a PM who disagrees with her..

What happens then? Can the parliament do anything to prevent Le Pen taking executive action? Can the President undermine the authority of the PM in domestic decisions (for example by changing the immigration rules) or can the PM undermine the President by refusing to exact whatever-it-is that might be needed to leave the EU?

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Eutychus
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I Am Not An Expert In The French Constitution, and I very much hope we don't have to put this to the test.

A cursory reading of this page confirms my suspicion that the French President is in a stronger position than their US counterpart, in that they have sole authority to appoint a government.

However, the National Assembly has the power (Article 49.2 of the Constitution) to put a motion of no confidence and thus overthrow a government without a majority, so it probably wouldn't last that long.

On the other hand, the prime minister can force through legislation by decree without a majority (the notorious Article 49.3 which has been used several times by the current Socialist government in the face of a backbench revolt).

Meanwhie, Article 16 of the Constitution allows the President to assume emergency direct rule for an initial period of 60 days, after which the Constitutional Council gets to decide whether it's constitutional or not.

This has been done once under the Fifth Republic, in 1961 after an attempted coup in French-controlled Algeria.

So if Le Pen gets in and the subsequent general election failed to produce a majority coalition that could work with her, I think we'd have a major constitutional crisis on our hands.

However, the electorate seems to have drifted so far to the right, with Les Républicains "hunting on the lands of the FN" as we say here, for so long, I think it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that if she did win, such a coalition might be formed. Especially when you look at how the US Republicans have (for now) rallied round Trump.

I would expect protests on a scale far beyond anything we've seen in the US so far, though; more on a scale of 1968 at the least. Fun times.

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Eutychus
From the edge
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I'm not sure leaving the EU is a Le Pen campaign pledge. She's just brought out a 114-point manifesto. I know it includes a pledge to leave the Euro but I'm not sure it includes one to leave the EU. I confess to not having read it yet though.

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mr cheesy
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I'm not claiming to know anything about French politics, but a headline in today's Guardian is "Marine Le Pen promises liberation from the EU with France-first policies".

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Eutychus
From the edge
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Headlines and articles are two different things.

From your linked article:
quote:
Published on Saturday, the document (...) pledges to take France out of the eurozone and – unless the EU agrees to revert to a loose coalition of nations with neither a single currency nor a border-free area – to hold a referendum on France’s EU membership.
So you can see there is no pledge to leave the EU.

Her position is much more nuanced than the Brexiteers' and her approach much more subtle than Trump.

That statement leaves her plenty of wiggle room and bargaining power, and in my view makes her far more electable, because people will think "well, at least she'll give us a chance to have our say and perhaps stay in the EU with a better deal".

[ 06. February 2017, 08:06: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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One has to take part. Scary as it is. - Martin60
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mr cheesy
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OK, according to France24 from yesterday's speech

quote:
Other countries have shown us the way,” Le Pen declared triumphantly from the podium. “The awakening of those nations is historic and marks the end of an era. The winds of history have changed,” she proclaimed.

The leader of the anti-EU National Front pledged to organise France’s own referendum on leaving the bloc within the first six months of her term, if she is elected president.

I'm not arguing, I have no idea. Make of these reports whatever you like.

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Eutychus
From the edge
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There is no doubt she is pitched as an "anti-EU" candidate, and left-leaning and establishment sources obviously paint her as one. This is broadly correct but not an entirely accurate reflection of her campaign promises.

Cameron was elected on a pledge to hold an EU referendum but as I recall was not in favour of Leave.

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One has to take part. Scary as it is. - Martin60
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DaleMaily
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I don't think it's enshrined in law/the constitution, but there is a convention (again, from CDG) that foreign affairs are the "domaine réservé" of the president, which would be interesting considering the FN is being bankrolled by Moscow...

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Eutychus
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That is certainly how Mitterrand and Chirac got along during their cohabitation, but I'm not sure how that could apply in 2017.

Fillon is up for a make-or-break press conference at 3pm GMT.

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la vie en rouge
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Nobody in my neck of the woods was very convinced by Fillon’s nonpology yesterday.

If the election was tomorrow I think we would end up with Macron after two rounds.

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Eutychus
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Yes, the bits I saw weren't much good.

Apologising for placing one's trust in one's immediate family members because it's unacceptable to contemporary voters sounded more like a thinly veiled insult than an apology to me.

It's this arrogance and out-of-touchness that is in danger of opening a boulevard for Marine. I'm not convinced Macron has the common touch either. As of today, I think I'll vote Hamon in the first round, though I reserve the right to change my mind.

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Eutychus
From the edge
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In any event, it looks like Sarkozy has no further hope of being a "Plan B" for Les Républicains. The prosecutor's office has just decided he must stand trial for illegal campaign financing last time round.

Although this could and probably will be contested, it will put him out of the running once and for all I should think.

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stonespring
Shipmate
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If Macron were to win the presidential election, what would be the likely composition of the Parliament he would have to work with? What party would be likely to prevail in the parliamentary election after a Macron victory? Is his En Marche movement running candidates for all parliamentary seats?

If En Marche is not trying to or is not likely to have a parliamentary majority, would he prefer to work with Socialist majority, a Republicain majority, or have a hung parliament that allowed him to pick off centrists of different parties to form a cabinet? Does he have allies in En Marche or other parties that would be likely candidates for Prime Minister and other cabinet positions?

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Eutychus
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As I understand it, the French party political system is much more fragmented than in the US or the UK. The Parti Socialiste is probably the nearest thing to an established Anglo-Saxon political party.

The right has mostly been made up of a coalition of smaller parties, some quite well-known (such as the Gaullists) and some virtually unheard-of (I recently discovered an attorney I have worked with as an interpreter a few times is a leader of one of these tiny parties).

The other thing to bear in mind is that voters do not tend to be lifelong party devotees as they would often be in the US, as I understand it. (FWIW, I voted for Hollande last time round, and Sarkozy the time before that, and my vote in local and regional elections is something else again).

If Macron were to get through to the second round, the first thing would be to see which politicians endorsed him. Depending on who they are and the parliamentary groups they represent, there might be scope to cobble together a cross-party coalition government. I doubt the Socialist Party would join in, but they might see some defections.

The big question is whether Macron could or would really shake up the political scene. Between the anal rape of a youth in a Paris banlieue by four cops last week on the one hand and, on the other, Fillon's nineteenth-century values and seeming obliviousness to how much his family was earning represents to the average Frenchman even if legal*, things are ripe for change.

I hate to say it, though, but I think Marine Le Pen has a better chance of winning than anyone else right now.

All of the above is just guesswork. I'm not really a political junkie at all, but the stakes are hugh here and the feuilleton (series) is more compelling than anything on Netflix.

==
*More allegations are being published by Le Canard Enchaîné tomorrow about Penelope's redundancy payments, although at first sight these look less dangerous than the previous salvos.

[ 07. February 2017, 17:28: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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One has to take part. Scary as it is. - Martin60
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Eutychus
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Mired in accusations of paying family members for nonexistent jobs, or overpaying them for real ones, François Fillon's loudly-proclaimed christianity has been put to the test at mass this morning in Reunion Island, the lectionary text being about settling with your adversary and failing this, not being let out of jail until you have paid the last penny.

[Two face]

Story (in French).

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One has to take part. Scary as it is. - Martin60
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Sober Preacher's Kid

Presbymethegationalist
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I love French politics. It's like a secular version of Presbyterianism.

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Ian Climacus

Liturgical Slattern
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How are the demographics for French voters?

Is there a wide city/rural divide? Do farmers, as a rule, generally vote conservative [as they do here]? I get the sense organised labour unions are quite strong, or at least people are willing to get out on the streets to protest their working conditions. Does this mean tradespeople tend to be more leftist? Or am I applying my experiences here incorrectly on the French?

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Eutychus
From the edge
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French people traditionally don't display their politics in the way people in Anglo-Saxon countries do.

I would expect Fillon to have more support in relatively well-off rural areas. Hamon and Macron will be carving up the urban, educated vote. They would get votes in the banlieues (deprived suburbs) but voter turnout there is lousy.

I don't know what the farmers' lobby vote might be. It might well be an anti-system vote more than anything else. And how the working poor will vote is anyone's guess. Overall, the far left is losing out big time to the Front National and I would think Fillon is shedding votes daily in that direction.

In a meeting of religious leaders that I attended last week, the real fear of a Le Pen victory was palpable, and it is one I share.

As for the Greens, if France is like Presbyterianism (according to SPK) the Greens are the evangelicals. Endless splits, factions, immaturity, incapable of national organisation.

[ 13. February 2017, 08:00: Message edited by: Eutychus ]

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One has to take part. Scary as it is. - Martin60
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Ian Climacus

Liturgical Slattern
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Merci, Eutychus.
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Jack the Lass

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This Guardian article, whilst conceding it's still early days, is suggesting Macron is the most likely winner, against Le Pen in the second round. Eutychus and LVER (and others closer to the ground than me), do you think this is wishful thinking, missing the point, or accurate (as things stand at the moment, at any rate)?

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la vie en rouge
Parisienne
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That's what I would have predicted as well.

I think Fillon is holed below the waterline. People close to me who are natural Républicains voters are starting to say they are going to go for Macron.

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