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French elections 2017

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Since I'm French, let me keep you informed of what's happening in my country.

Next Saturday, France will have the final result of the presidential election. Since the end of the first round (April 23rd) this result is already known: the next president of France will be Emmanuel Macron. Of course, when I write these lines, he's still competing against Marine Le Pen, but she has absolutely no chance of being elected. Although she's popular in a part of the French, she (and her party) is still extremely unpopular for the vast majority of French. She will not be elected because of what is called in France the "glass ceiling", which means that she can never exceed a certain level in public opinion.

What happened in the first round?

The current president, Francois Hollande, is extremely unpopular and didn't have the capacity to present himself again.
So, in the first round, there were 5 important candidates (the other 6 are insignificant):
 

  • François Fillon (The party "The Républicains", the main party of the right in France, the party of Nicolas Sarkozy, who was president between 2007 and 2012. Fillon was prime minister throughout this period.
  • Emmanuel Macron (who was Minister of Economy under President François Hollande, but who launched his political movement since one year only.)
  • Marine Le Pen (The party "National Front", the party considered as extreme right, nationalist.)
  • Jean-Luc Mélenchon (His movement is called "Unsubmitted France", radical left, ideas close to Communism and Marxism.)
  • Benoît Hamon (Socialist party, party of President François Hollande, main party left in France for 40 years.)

The result of the first round was as follows:

  1. Emmanuel Macron 24%
  2. Marine Le Pen 21.3%
  3. François Fillon 20%
  4. Jean-Luc Mélenchon 19.6%
  5. Benoît Hamon 6.4%

This is the first time in a French presidential election that none of the main left-wing (Socialist Party) and right-wing (The Republicans) parties are absent from the second round.
A brief comment on what happened:

Benoît Hamon represented the Socialist Party, the party of the current president, François Hollande. Even if he was part of a faction of this party that was critical of the President, he could not change the fact that he represented a party that had become extremely unpopular, since Francois Hollande was extremely unpopular. More than its predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy (who was also very unpopular). So the score of the Socialist Party is historically low. It was never so low since the 60's.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon has almost doubled his score since the last election (2012). He withdrew the red flags and flags of the Soviet Union in his meetings to replace them with French flags, and he sings "La marseillaise" instead of "L'internationale". He was the most popular candidate for young people (18-24), because formally, he made a very modern campaign (despite his archaic ideas): he made a Youtube channel, he used the Social networks, meetings in holograms, his militants even made a videogame on him ("Fiscal Kombat"). Between Macron and Le Pen, he did not give his opinion for the second round, because for him Macron represents capitalism, and Le Pen represents fascism ...
(In my personnal view, he is the archetypal dictator. He is an admirer of Chavez & Castro...)

François Fillon was destined to win this election. But during the campaign, he was accused of fictitious employment (i.e. misappropriation of public money) for a situation dating back several years ago. This accusation has never been proved, but the presumption of innocence was not sufficient for public opinion to not considered him as guilty and corrupted. Especially since before that, Fillon said that if he was suspected of something, he would not be candidate. Some believe that these accusations have been secretly modeled by the current power in order to make the rival party losing (There are disturbing indications.). Anyway, these accusations made him considerably lower in public opinion, and prevented him from entering the second round.
Politically, this was the first time that a major French presidential candidate said he wanted to significantly reduce the size of the state, reduce taxes, reduce regulations and take care of the public debt. It was also the first time I heard a french politician defending liberty (by using this word) in this kind of election. His speech with regard to Islamist terrorism (which he calls "Islamist totalitarianism") was without concession.
 

Who are Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen?

Politically Emmanuel Macron is center-left. He is supported by people from right, left and center. He governed as minister under the presidency of François Hollande (Socialist Party) but he was always perceived as different, iconoclastic. He is young (39 years old), doesn't have a political background, he had never be elected, he worked as a business banker at Rotschild. He studied philosophy (his thesis was about Hegel). He is in favor of globalization. His popularity in France comes from the fact that it embodies the image of a change, a renewal because:
- He has a different style from most policies and he's young, he has an image of modernity.
- He doesn't have a political career (except as minister during 2 years), he does not come from the traditional parties, he comes from the private sector.
- He was still unknown 2 or 3 years ago.
- He has the image of someone very smart, who knows his files, especially in economy.

For the extreme left and far right, he represents capitalism, i.e. the evil. Actually it's true that when he was minister, his speech and his actions seemed "pro-capitalist" especially for a left-wing man. He's in favor of free trade, globalization, private sector... But since the campaign began, he wanted to show that he wasn't so capitalist, by multiplying social measures, protections, etc ... which makes him a centrist. Or a "pragmatist". Or a "moderate". Someone who want to "reconciliate", mix the hot and the cold, who is agree with everyone. He wants to be pro-capitalist and pro-protection in the same time.


Marine Le Pen (who was the most popular candidate among the workers) is far-right and her economic program is clearly socialist and protectionist. The two main ideas of his party (the National Front) have always been the same since his father created the party in the 70s: "Fight against immigration and insecurity". Its aim is to "re-establish borders", to regain the sovereignty of the country, to fight against "globalized finance", "ultra-capitalism" and, of course, her speech against Islamism is radical. Never has his party and its ideology been so popular in France. But despite this, for many people, Marine Le Pen (and her party) is considered racist and xenophobic. Many also consider it fascist.
She will lose the election, there is no suspense about it.

If you have questions, it will be a pleasure for me to answer to you about this elections.

Edited by gio

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Thanks for the summary.

In the U.S., prior to the elections, the polls showed Clinton clearly in front.  Many think that this is because many people would not admit that they were going to vote for Trump due to the pressures of political correctness.

Could this also be the case with Marine Le Pen?

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15 minutes ago, New Buddha said:

Could this also be the case with Marine Le Pen?

Nope. Totally impossible. (And I knew what happened in U.S. last election.)
Today at least.

Edited by gio

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Given that Macron is not from a mainstream party, it sounds as if he will become President but the legislature (National Assembly and Senate... says Wikipedia) will not be people from his young party. So, he will have to work with legislators from other parties. Is that true?

If so, what types of power can a French President exercise on his own, and for what does he need the legislature? Is it close to the American system where the President has executive power but no legislative power? Can the president decide the budget on his own, or does the legislature have to do that? Has the legislature given the President so many discretionary powers over the years (as Congress has done in the U.S.) that the President has lots of discretion in what he can do on environment, regulation and so on, without having to go back to the legislature?

Edited by softwareNerd

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4 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

Given that Macron is not from a mainstream party, it sounds as if he will become President but the legislature (National Assembly and Senate... says Wikipedia) will not be people from his young party. So, he will have to work with legislators from other parties. Is that true?

Actually this is a very good question and nobody can answer this right now. Just after the presidential election, in June, you have the legislative election, which will determinate the political majority of the country and thus, the government's color. Everytime, in the legislative election next to the presidential, it was always the same party which won.

But today that's different, because we don't know if the very young party of Macron has a sufficient structure to win this election. Maybe he will, since a lot of leaders from the mainstream party (from the right and the left) joined the young party of Macron. But Macron said they have to leave the party they come from. So...yes maybe, he will have to govern with a majority from mainstream party... but that's not sure actually.

And in fact this is a big problem and a critic that came regulary against Macron. If he doesn't have a parliamentary majority, he can't do anything, he will have very few power.

It already happened several times in France, it is called cohabitation. (Check out the Wikipedia article that develop a lot about this kind of situation in France.)

Edited by gio

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What's your impression of Macron, as a person? Is he honest, manipulative, arrogant, that sort of thing...(I can look up facts about French politics in English, but my French isn't good enough to make a character judgement, so it'd be interesting to know what your best guess is about him).

Also, what are his views on foreign policy? Does he support Holland's pretty aggressive/interventionist style?

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As I told you, Emmanuel Macron was widely elected. I regret not to have given you my prognosis before because I had bet on 65% Macron 35% and this is pretty much the result.

Now to answer Nicky, what do I think of Macron as a person? Well ... it's hard to answer, because we don't know him well, and his personality is hard to identify.

My first impression about him (but I have to be careful and be aware that this can change) is pretty positive. He gives the image of someone more rational and honest (or sincere) than practically all the French politicians I've known so far. He really has a very different style from the usual politicians. (Perhaps some points in common with Nicolas Sarkozy in the personality ...) But the systematic problem that there is is that he is sometimes very vague.

In general, what I noticed is the following (it is systematic):
When he speaks all alone and makes speeches, it is always great general ideas, but concretely we don't know what that means. It's blurry.

On the other hand, when he's in a debate with an opponent, or is questioned by an activist on the street, he is incredibly good and accurate. He doesn't make demagogy. He seems not afraid to say something that will no please everyone, but which is true.

Here are some examples of small sentences for which he made himself famous (because they were shocking in France) during his last two years, if that can give you an idea:

He was part of a socialist government. In reply to a journalist: « Honesty obliges me to tell you that I'm not a socialist. » (However, I don't know if he was referring to the party or the ideology ...)

Still in reply to journalists: « I recognize my liberalism. Liberalism is a value of the left. » (ATTENTION, here the word "liberalism" must be taken in the European and non-American sense, which refers to classical liberalism.)

On the radio: « We need young French people who want to become billionaires. »

About the law of 35h in France (it is the maximum legal working time): « It was believed that France could get better by working less. It was false ideas. »

« The state has its place, but it has taken too much. »

To a young activist against him in the street: « The best way to pay a suit is to work. » (The phrase is famous but is never presented in its context, so I do not know exactly why he was saying this to the guy.)

During the interval between two rounds, he went to see workers from a factory threatened to relocate to Poland. He was in the middle of the melee with the angry workers, with only a few bodyguards to protect him. And for more than an hour he responded to all interpellations (even the most aggressive), trying to make the pedagogy on globalization, explaining that the state shouldn't nationalize, that private property exists, and so on. (Unlike Marine Le Pen, very popular with the workers who spent a few minutes making selfies with the workers and promising them to nationalize their factory to save them.)

During the debate between two rounds with Marine Le Pen (who was incredibly ridiculous in this debate), she mades lot of promises as usual, and he asked her several times: « How do you finance all this? With whose money? »

Besides that, which gives him a very "pro-capitalism" image in France, he defends certain forms of protection and interventionism. There are a lot of interventionist measures in its program, and we also don't know who is going to pay. Some examples (non-exhaustive list):

  • 12 pupils per primary class in sensitive areas.
  • Auxiliary school life for each child who needs it.
  • Increase in number of policemen and gendarmes, military budget.
  • Increase in old-age minimum.
  • Increase in the disabled adult allowance.
  • Increase in activity premium.
  • Increase in unemployment benefits.
  • Increase in refunds for glasses and dentures.
  • Unemployment benefit for employees who have resigned.
  • 50 billion euro stimulus investment plan.
  • € 5 billion for the modernization of farms.
  • 50% organic in collective catering (school canteens for example)
  • Maintaining the budget of culture already very heavy.
  • Creation of assisted jobs in sensitive areas.
  • Prime of 1000 € to buy a vehicle less polluting.
  • Renovation of 1 million poorly insulated homes.
  • Construction of 80,000 housing units for young people.
  • Training for youth and the unemployed.
  • Creation of a fund for industry and innovation of 10 billion euros.
  • 5000 European Border Guards.
  • 15,000 new prison places.

(On the other hand, there are also tax cuts, and other measures that go in the direction of less state.)

I find it very difficult to make a real opinion about him today. His career is brilliant, he has always succeeded in studies and in what he has undertaken (he was called the "Mozart of finance") and never a French president has been so young in the whole history . (He is 39 years old. And he was never elected before.) He often looks very comfortable on very technical subjects, especially in economics or business, where most politicians are incompetent. (And in the debates, the contrast is blatant.) He seems much weaker on topic like security or terrorism.
As I said before, he seems to tell the truth, or at least his understanding of it. Yes he seems particulary honest, but it is very embarrassing that it sometimes keeps a blur.

Well, I don't know if it helps you a lot, but that's what I know. (And that's what the French generally know. I don't think anyone else can be more specific.)

Edited by gio

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On 05/05/2017 at 4:33 AM, Nicky said:

Also, what are his views on foreign policy? Does he support Holland's pretty aggressive/interventionist style?

And to answer you on this specific topic, I don't know, what are you referring to exactly when you talk about Hollande style here ?
(Anyway Macron seems very "open to the world". Very much.)

Edited by gio

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1 hour ago, gio said:

Besides that, which gives him a very "pro-capitalism" image in France, he defends certain forms of protection and interventionism.

Thanks for the informative posts. What are two or three of Macron's signature positions that he usually mentions in his speeches? For example: if you had to guess, what would he want to focus on in his first year as President?

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2 hours ago, softwareNerd said:

Thanks for the informative posts. What are two or three of Macron's signature positions that he usually mentions in his speeches? For example: if you had to guess, what would he want to focus on in his first year as President?

As I said, the big problem with Macron is that when he makes speeches, it's so blurry, so general ideas, that you have no precise ideas where he wants to go.
He was often mocked because of this, and many commentators said that he didn't have a program, or that we didn't know what he will going to do.
I can tell you he was not elected for his ideas. He was elected because he is new, fresh, he doesn't have a political background from the mainstream party, he looks different, modern smart, and competent.

For example, you can watch this video, very instructive, which was made by a Marine Le Pen supporter. The guy is asking Macron's supporter what are Macron's ideas :

 I'll translate you :

First person

 — You support Macron.
 — Absolutely.
 — Why?
 — Because he's hot! No seriously, because he represents the fresh, the renewal, and so on.
 — The renewal, what do you mean?
 — I mean he's not an 70 years old guy. He is less than 40.
 — He was in Hollande government.
 — Exactly. No problem.

Second person

 — This is a new vision.
 — What vision?
 — Gather people who do not agree. That does not mean it's blurry or...
 — Gather people on what ideas? What are the ideas?
 — What are the ideas? Julien, help us!
 — Julien, what are Macron's ideas?
 — I don't want to answer.
 — We'll see at the meeting.
 — OK, so in fact you don't know.
 — Yes I know, but I don't want to talk now...lol.
 — Thank you. I will seek for Macron's ideas.
 — You'll find it quickly I think!
— I hope! I doubt... Hey mister! What are Macron's ideas?
— I don't know.
— You don't know? 
— No.

Third person

 — What are Macron's ideas?
 — LOL. Am I obliged to answer?
 — Not at all.

Fourth person (with round glasses)

 — What are Macron's ideas?
 — Euuuuuuuuhh... eeeeeeeuuuuh.... [looking around] I don't know... eeeeuuuuuhhh... well... they're good!

Fifth person (young guy)

 — What are the political ideas he advocates for, concretely ?
 — Very good question. Euuuuuuuuuuhhh........... I don't know. Honestly, very complicated question. Moreover, I didn't understood everything. Euuuh....how can I say? Euuuuh.....

Last person

 — I must admit that I have very recently become acquainted with the various points. I watched some videos and...that's it.

Of course you can tell this is a political video where they show only people who did this kind of answer, but I think it's representative of most people who voted for him unfortunately.

What I can say about him if you ask me few of Macron's signature positions (but I don't say he usually mentions them in his speeches. His speeches are blurry.) :

  • He is open to globalization and free trade. Pro-EU.
  • He wants to free the work. More freedom for the private sector. But counterbalance with some protections.
  • He wants to gather different opinions. (He presents himself as pragmatic.)
  • He wants to "moralizing" and renewing French political life. New faces, new methods, new practical.
  • The school also has a recurring place in its speeches, he wants to reform it and develop the training.

And he wants also to fight against terrorism, but this is not particular to him, almost every politician say the same about.

In his first year as president, he's supposed to focus on reforming the labor code, "moralizing" political life and on reforming school I think. And pursue the fight against terrorism.

If you want, you can watch the debate he made against Marine Le Pen, there is voiceover in english :

 

Edited by gio

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Or you can also check his first two speeches since he was elected yesterday.
The first (5 minutes long) :

And few hours later, in a different style (12mn long) :

 

Edited by gio

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According to a poll, only 16% of the people who voted Macron did so for his program.


Somebody I know said : "This is rationnal because elected people don't apply their programm."

Edited by gio

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6 hours ago, gio said:

According to a poll, only 16% of the people who voted Macron did so for his program.

Well yeah, you're not gonna get 66% of voters to all agree with one platform. Only 24% voted for Macron in the first round. The rest are people with different political beliefs (from conservatives all the way to the far left) all voting against Le Pen.

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3 hours ago, Nicky said:

Well yeah, you're not gonna get 66% of voters to all agree with one platform. Only 24% voted for Macron in the first round. The rest are people with different political beliefs (from conservatives all the way to the far left) all voting against Le Pen.

Right but even then, 16% is few.

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Interesting commentary in WSJ. The author says that Macron won because the French brain drain removed the competition; anyone who might have run against him has left the country.

To skip the pay wall, if you move quickly enough, go to Real Clear Politics and click Where Has All the French Talent Gone.

Edited by Reidy

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On 12/5/2017 at 4:28 AM, Reidy said:

Interesting commentary in WSJ. The author says that Macron won because the French brain drain removed the competition; anyone who might have run against him has left the country.

To skip the pay wall, if you move quickly enough, go to Real Clear Politics and click Where Has All the French Talent Gone.

How the fact that french brains, in business (entrepreneurs), have actually left the country could explain Macron's success? It's seems a poor explanation from someone who doesn't know this country...

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9 hours ago, gio said:

How the fact that french brains, in business (entrepreneurs), have actually left the country

Only businessmen left the country? Other specializations didn't?

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Yes    1

Gio, I think your analysis at the foot of this thread is spot on. Much thanks for that.

That being said, I leaned towards Emannuele Macron.  I actually have a distant relative in France who is an ardent lePen supporter, the basis of which is his strong opposition to the open immigration policies of Hollande, which he shares with LePen.

I wish the French the best of luck with this new leader, a breath of fresh air, a supporter of capitalism, and the dose of energy France seemed to need- and here in America we sorely need!

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15 hours ago, Nicky said:

Only businessmen left the country? Other specializations didn't?

As a significant phenomenon, yes, it is mainly entrepreneurs and businessmen. People who wish to do politics or administration do not leave France, it is the country dreamed for it.

12 hours ago, Yes said:

I wish the French the best of luck with this new leader, a breath of fresh air, a supporter of capitalism...

Actually a supporter of mixed economy, you should say. Who is, however, a little more pro-capitalist than what France has known so far (especially from a center-left guy). He's a bit like Tony Blair...

But France has never known her Thatcher.

Edited by gio

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Here in California I've met a number of French expatriates whom I wouldn't call entrepreneurs, among them a real-estate agent, a custom woodworker and several in IT. The only one I'd call an entrepreneur, and a successful one (online French foods), occasionally spends a Sunday morning selling charcuterie at the farmers' market, and I know him only in that capacity.

I wish everybody the best, though what I've read about Macro doesn't lead me to share Yes's optimism.

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So, Macron's party outperformed expectations in the legislative elections. Does this mean France is committing to the "middle"? 

I see no better solution, even in the U.S.  Both "left" and "right" are pretty bad at their extremes. So, "gridlock" has been one possible solution. However, in the U.S., power has moved toward the executive branch; so, that party has a bit too much power. Also, no agreement can be reached on some important things: when a group of Democrats and Republicans suggested reforms to Social Security, those were dead in the water because there isn't a wide appetite for compromise. 

Can "middle parties" offer a solution? It is hard to be "militantly middle-of-road": it is almost a contradiction. So, can such parties last, or will the two other parties tweak their messages just enough to pull voters back? 

The world is going to look at France, to see how things turn out.  Bonne chance!

Edited by softwareNerd

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