(Currently updating this from the beach. This is currently my view, above!)
Firstly, sorry for not updating this recently. I have started a new job a week ago which is now taking up a lot of my time. All good though!
Last Monday, on a rather overcast day here in Marseille I organised a small apéro at one of my favorite café overlooking the port to discuss the French elections with Guardian journalist Jon Henley. Jon was on a mission to travel around France through the week, hearing ‘normal’ people’s opinions on the French elections so far. He was then live blogging his experience through The Guardian website and twitter, to create an interactive map of his journey along he way. He arrived in Marseille on Monday morning, and would leave Paris on Friday, and his journey in between would be entirely spontaneous, based on suggestions of issues in certain regions and people who wanted to talk to him about it.
I gathered a few friends I have here, including my fiancée, and some choice opinions from the discussion can be found HERE.
(NB: I was more involved in the organisation of the project, and didn’t share any views that I have, as it was more based on people who had lived in and knew Marseille for a long time.)
Here’s a short report in English from AFP news, which I had a tiny part in helping organise. The piece talks about the history of immigration in France, and the rise in popularity of the Front National.
Just a quick update to say that the site for the election results in Marseille is now live, and is being updated as soon as the results come in. You can search by arrondissement or polling station.
Click the image above or click HERE to go to the site
So the Presidential Election race has now officially commenced, with each of the candidates campaign adds flooding French television. They take turns to appear on all the major talk shows and their campaign posters are now lined up on official boards outside most public spaces and schools. As someone who can’t vote, I have to admit that I really can’t wait for the whole thing to be over and done with, and for normality to resume! anyways, here is a little update of some of the recent events from the front-runners.
I have ordered the following candidates in order of their positions in the most recent Sondage (Poll).
After being well behind in the early stages of the campaign, Sarkozy is now a few percentage points in front of the PS leader Hollande. It is hard not to draw a link between the tragic events in Toulouse, and the Presidents rise in popularity – but his sensitive speeches and supposed tough stance since the events have seemingly struck a chord with a population reeling in shock. Arriving on the scene of the school shooting later on the same day certainly raised a few eyebrows from people who thought the police really didn’t need any distractions whilst they did their job, Sarkozy went on to send his foreign minister to the funerals in Israel. At this speech the foreign minister made the bizarre claim that “Every time a Jew is cursed, attacked, or injured on French territory, we will react. Attacks on French Jews are not just attacks on the Jewish community, but on millions of French citizens who cannot tolerate such behavior.” The cynical side of me can’t help think that what he means by this is the death of an arab or other French minority would not be given the same importance. The whole episode seems even more sad, as the week previous to the shootings Claude Guéant was aiming angry comments in the direction of the Jewish and Muslim communities, attacking their traditional slaughter methods amongst other things and saying they needed to do more to modernise in order to integrate better into French society.
Sarkozy has recently been trying to show more of his sense of humour, appearing on the French equivalent of The Daily Show, Le Grand Journal recently and laughing along with presenter Yann Barthes as he played a show-reel of embarrassing clips and gaffs. He has been constantly making what can only be described as ‘dad jokes’ on the campaign trail with the general public, and generally trying to shake the image of a glamorous out of touch millionaire and re-connect with the people.
The epicentre of balanced, fair and open-minded journalism (!!!) The Daily Mail last night published a story that Sarkozy has apparently attacked The UK AAA rating and deficit reduction measures, fueled by Standard and Poor stripping of the French rating a few months back. Whether there is much truth in the story is open to debate, as I can’t find this story in any other news agencies, it didn’t feature on French news and the journalist hasn’t been named in the article. Hmmm….
Hollande – PS
“Why do you think your campaign hasn’t evoked much passion from the French people?“, a journalist from Liberation asked the self-styled Mr Ordinary last week. Unfortunately, for someone who has modelled his election campaign themes so strongly on the successful Obama campaign, his lack of charisma and awkward campaign posturing has left an underwhelmed feeling with many voters. Certainly, some of his more extreme claims such as 75% taxes for top earners and separate swimming pool opening times for men and women in the Muslim community have been met by bemusement, even from those within his own campaign team who seem to have no knowledge of them being formal policy. Although the reaction that has met Hollande on the campaign trail, including the frenzy of Martinique recently – Hollande still looks slightly like a rabbit in the headlights addressing large crowds, and struggles to command a stage like Obama.
Sarkozy recently accused Hollande of acting “like Thatcher in London, and Miterand in Paris”, in relation to his mixed messages about the financial markets, and in particular the regulation on the City of London. You can’t help but feel that the events in Toulouse were a gift for the right, and it was very difficult for Hollande to know how to react to this. In the end he attacked Sarkozy for not doing anything to prevent the tragedy, and questioned how the authorities could keep him under surveillance, but not link him to the first or second shootings quicker. This was a fair point, but his message was being drowned out my the incredibly angry rhetoric from the right, who were seizing the initiative to dominate every talk show and news broadcast which followed. All very depressing…
Mélonchon – Front de Gauche
Mélonchon’s steady increase in popularity has surprised many, as he recently overtook the Front National in the polls. Mélonchon has the charisma which Hollande so painfully lacks. His campaign has recently been built around enormous rallies held in famous locations in major French cities. His recent Paris rally attracted many tens of thousands of people, all captivated by his fiery calls for the people to rise up and trigger a “civic insurrection”. He is due to hold a large rally on the Prado beach in Marseille this weekend, although it looks a bit too windy for me to trek down their to investigate!
His anti-capitalist leanings have attracted many who were left disillusioned and angry after the financial crisis. His policy claims go even further than Hollande in many respects, with the same promise of 75% tax band for high earners and a salary upper limit to re-address the balance in the French societies finances.
Many have also warmed to his vitriolic attacks on Marine Le Pen, although his attacks on the Anglo-Saxon and, particularly the English are a little personal for me! Speaking at a recent rally Mélonchon ranted “We speak fluently “globish”… the language of the occupier – the occupier of our minds” and “Our battle is a cultural battle”, he added, calling French the “language of the heart” and English the language of “accounting”
….. ok then, I’m definitely not going to your little rally now! Connard.
Le Pen – FN
Marine is still hanging about like a bad smell. As stated above, the recent shootings in Toulouse turned out to be an absolute gift for her anti-immigrant campaign, and yet somehow her percentage has seemingly decreased in the polls since. It was very interesting that immediately after the first few shootings, when the media was speculating that the perpetrator was a far-right extremist or Nazi like the case in Norway last year, Marine stayed suspiciously quite in the media. Possibly she was scared that it might come out that the gunman was somehow linked to her party in some way. As soon as it was established that the shooter was A) of Arab ancestry B) an islamic extremist called Mohamed and C) was unemployed and had his 500 euro per month flat paid for by the local authority VOILA! Marine magically appears on every single new channel going simultaneously, spewing her usual bile about immigration, integration and French identity.
What is even more shocking is how she has continued to use the case since as a sign of an out of control immigration system. At a recent rally in Nantes, when talking in relation to the shooting she said “they arrive here by boat, and take everything they can from us”. This is obviously a very dangerous thing to say, as the shooter was a French citizen born in France and hadn’t arrived in France at all.
One of the most interesting pieces of information coming in from the Front National in the last week is how popular they are with younger voters. In a recent poll Marine Le Pen’s party lead among voters aged between 18-25, which dispels the belief that the FN’s core vote is older people who still cling to the old idea of French colonialism. In the poll she scored a 26% rating, compared to Hollande in second place with 25%.
Bayrou – Movement Democrat
Finally Francois Bayrou, the centre candidate. Bayrou has had a relatively quiet campaign so far, and is still struggling to connect with a larger proportion of the French vote than the previous election. His worries about the French national debt in particular have seen his support drop, as it is seen as being unpatriotic discussing such matters.
Bayrou does, however seem to be the only candidate who can speak English. This may not seem that important to your average French voter, but it can be crucial on the world stage. Even Francois Hollande didn’t manage to speak any English at a campaign stop in London recently, and a visit to the labour party offices. He could have at least rehearsed “terrible weather today!” or “More tea please!”
Here is Bayrou talking in English…
…and here he is slapping a small child on a previous campaign trail for trying to steal his wallet. Nice!
I know there are a few Expats living in France who, like me can’t vote in the elections and view the whole thing with similar bemusement! I have created a anonymous poll below to see who you would vote for if you had the vote. I would be interested to see your answers.
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.
L’Estaque is a small fishing port to the north-west of Marseille, made famous for being the destination of choice for artists of the impressionist era. Although getting there can be a challenge – owing to an irregular bus service, it is well worth a visit. As well as the small harbour, there is also a small beach to the north, and a large boule pitch, as well as the usual mix of small café and restaurants.