Englishman attempts to understand the French Election
So, Sorry for not updating this more regularly. I had my parents visiting me for the last week, so things have been a little hectic to say the least.
It is pretty hard to escape the forthcoming presidential elections here in France at the minute. The TV is full of debates in which everyone talks over each other, passionately arguing their side to the point where no one can understand what is being said anymore – let alone me! We have already had people canvasing in our street – although the FN soon cleared off when they realised I was a foreigner! The whole city seems to have been covered in a kind of election campaign poster wrap, and you can’t walk two feet down a street without seeing some brightly coloured poster displaying a slogan and awkwardly styled headshot. The one thing that struck me is just how many political parties there are in France, as opposed to the UK. Politics here seems much more black and white, and the differences between the main political parties seem very obvious. As an Englishman, I am of course not able to vote. I have however tried to follow the daily incidents and updates of the campaign so far, however to me all the candidates seem desperately uninspiring.
The other thing I have really noticed is how the rhetoric has really heated up in the last few months, through a variety of different channels. The main issues that The FN and the UMP seem to speak most about is Security, Immigration and The Economy. You notice an abundance of programs on the TV now showing the police tackling crime in the major cities and suburbs, and these programs feature worrying statistics which, if you believed them would make you never leave the house again. After talking to friends here about this, they said exactly the same thing happened in the run up to the last election campaigns and that it just so happens that these channels are all owned by friends, donors and political allies of Sarkozy. This is very worrying if true.
For those not in the know, here are the 3 frontrunners and a little about them – (from what I understand!) I should also point out I have no political ties and my opinions are purely as an impartial observer.
Francois Hollande – Party Socialist (PS) currently polling 32%
Francois Hollande is currently ahead in the polls and has styled himself as mister ordinary. His main policies include harsher curbs on the financial system, a re-alignment in the relationship with the EU, higher taxes on top earners and the creation of thousands more public sector jobs – particularly in teaching. To me Hollande is very bland, uninspiring and uncharismatic as a leader. One of the most exciting moments of his campaign so far was a rather miffed lady from Lille pouring flour over him just before a speech (yes, it is that exciting!). The current slogan for the PS is ‘Le Changement c’est Maintenant’, or ‘The Change is Now.’ A slogan clearly taken from the succesful Obama campaign. This slogan has been much derided however, as it is accompanied by a rather funny bodily action. This has created many parodies on the internet, one of which I have embedded below…
Nicolas Sarkozy – UMP currently polling 26%
Current French President Sarkozy is deeply unpopular at present and is desperately trying to realign himself with the French people, after people took offence to his flamboyant scandal-ridden tenure, when many were suffering due to the recession. His campaign focuses of a Nationalist pride and Conservative values, including opposition to gay marriage which he called a “fashion of the moment”. Sarkozy used a recent meeting in Marseille to state that only he had the political strength and leadership to get the French economy back on top, and said that he had saved France from a similar fate as Italy, Greece and Spain. His campaign has moved further to the right to try to take votes from the FN, and he uses ministers such Claude Guéant to be his right-wing mouth piece. Guéant recently hit the headlines for saying that Arab cultures were less important than the French culture – seen as a anti-arab attack by many, echoing the rhetoric of former FN leader Jean- Marie Le Pen. The UMP slogan for this election is ‘La France Forte’ or ‘A Strong France’.
Marine Le Pen – Front National (FN) Currently polling 18%
Marine Le Pen took over from her father, and former leader Jean-Marie in 2010, and has worked hard to try to bring the party into the mainstream, and be the voice of the French people who have been badly affected by the economic downturn. She has broadened the appeal by have a larger policy on many issues, and not just the anti-immigration policies of her father. Her policies include pulling out of the Euro and going back to the Franc, cutting immigration to tens of thousands a year and legislation giving first preference for native French people in new job openings. So far Marine has struggled with apparently not receiving the 500 signatures from mayors to certify her candidacy, as well as Jean-Marie’s conviction for Genocide denial in the past few weeks. Jean-Marie is still a large force in the FN, and attends many of the political rallies that are held. I would look up what the FN slogan is for this years election, but I really can’t be bothered… probably something unpleasant though.
There are other parties also doing battle in the polls with smaller percentages, but I thought I would just focus on the top three, as in my view it is certain one of these will succeed.
I will try to keep my blog updated if something interesting happens in the campaign in the coming weeks, although this doesn’t look likely at present!
FYI: I have had to translate a lot of the information above from French articles, so if I haven’t got something quite right or have made any serious errors please let me know and I will correct it.