by John Lichfield
Monday, 7
November 2022

Could Jordan Bardella split the French Right?

Marine Le Pen's replacement as RN leader may hurt the party

All is not what it seems in France’s powerful far-Right party. And all is not well. Marine Le Pen has been replaced as party president by Jordan Bardella, a plausible and good-looking man of 27. He becomes President of the Rassemblement National (RN) but not its spiritual leader. Le Pen will continue to lead the party’s 89-strong group of deputies in the National Assembly. She will no doubt run, for the fourth time, for President of the Republic in 2027.

Bardella, an anti-immigration politician of Italian and partly Algerian origin, will do the hard work of running a near-bankrupt party. His promotion to become the first leader of the party in half a century not to bear the name Le Pen will in theory make Marine stronger, not weaker. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Thursday, 14
July 2022

Emmanuel Macron: no longer Jupiter, but Vulcan

The President now sees himself as a different kind of Roman God

Since his re-election almost three months ago, President Macron has been strangely quiet, almost invisible at times. There have been rumours that he was physically and emotionally exhausted after back-to-back domestic and global crises and a difficult election campaign.

He took a month to choose a new Prime Minister and government and then was all but absent during the even tougher parliamentary elections last month. Result: a poor performance which robbed his centrist alliance of its absolute majority in the National Assembly.

A comparatively bouncy and combative Macron re-appeared on French television screens yesterday. He gave an hour-long interview for France’s National Day — a traditional exercise which he scorned on several occasions during his first five year term. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 20
June 2022

Calamity for Macron two months after his re-election

The French President is staring down the barrel of a hung parliament

You can’t say the French don’t have a sense of humour.

Two months ago they voted to make Emmanuel Macron the first president in 20 years to win a second term. Yesterday they voted to humiliate Macron by denying him a clear, or even a near, majority in the National Assembly.

President François Mitterrand fell 14 seats short in 1988; Macron will be 44 seats short after  the second round of parliamentary elections yesterday.

Two months ago French voters rejected Marine Le Pen as President for the second time. Yesterday, they gave Le Pen’s party its biggest ever bloc of seats in parliament — at least 88. This is the largest far-Right presence in national politics in France since the fall of the Vichy regime in 1944. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Tuesday, 26
April 2022

Vaccine mandates hit Macron… in the Caribbean

Anger at last year's Covid restrictions boosted support for Marine Le Pen

The sun never sets on France. Last Sunday’s presidential election took place in 12 different time zones, from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean to the Caribbean to the “Hexagon” itself. And if the national ballot had reflected the voting in the fragments of former Empire — which are constitutionally part of France — the result would have been very different.

Martinique in the Caribbean (population: 355,000) voted 61% for Marine Le Pen. Its neighbour Guadeloupe (375,000) was 69% pro-Le Pen. The score in Guyane (294,000), which borders Brazil, was 60.7% for the far-Right candidate. Even St Pierre-et-Miquelon, tiny islands in the North Atlantic off the coast of Newfoundland (Pop. 6,008) voted narrowly for Le Pen. She scored 41.5% in France as a whole. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 25
April 2022

Emmanuel Macron still faces ‘round three’

Parliamentary elections could be a big stress test for the re-elected President


Two weeks ago Emmanuel Macron was staring at the possibility of defeat. Yesterday, he vanquished Marine Le Pen by over 17 points – 58.8% to 41.2%.

How on Earth did that happen? There are two answers to that question.

First, Le Pen was never really in with much chance of becoming President. The narrowing of the polls in Round One was real but Le Pen — more extreme than she pretended and a long-time Vladimir Putin fancier – was always likely to fail the true presidential stress-test of Round Two.

Second, Macron finally started to campaign energetically after floating through Round One preoccupied by the war in Ukraine. He shifted enough towards the Left and the Greens to win the extra votes he needed — and more than he needed. He ignored advice from his campaign managers and made a frontal attack on Le Pen in their televised debate on Wednesday. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Thursday, 21
April 2022

The Presidential debate revealed a new side to Macron

The French president was aggressive, bordering on angry

The Macron v Le Pen TV debate last night was a strange affair. It was gripping and dramatic but also irritating and sometimes crushingly dull.

Who won? President Emmanuel Macron won because he did not lose.

Marine Le Pen also “won” because she performed so much better than in her calamitous presidential debate performance in 2017.

The instant view of French media was that the 150 minute slanging match was a draw with, maybe, a slight edge for Macron. That should be enough for him to win Sunday’s presidential election run-off comfortably.

The President had average 12 points lead in the opinion poll before the debate. Nothing that happened last night is likely to threaten that lead. It might conceivably widen his advantage slightly. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 11
April 2022

Don’t write off Marine Le Pen

Emmanuel Macron faces a much tighter contest this year

Almost against expectations, President Emmanuel Macron topped the poll by more than four points in the first round of the French presidential elections yesterday.

Macron may not be everyone’s hero. And he is not yet home free. The second round of the election, a re-match of 2017, will be a much closer-run thing. Opinion polls yesterday gave Macron a lead over the far-Right leader Marine Le Pen varying from 54-46% to 51-49%.

All the same, this was an excellent result for Macron. Over the last month Le Pen has surged by 7 points in the opinion polls and seemed capable of building even greater momentum by snatching first position yesterday. Despite outpolling her polls with 23.41%, she ended further behind Macron than she did in the first round in 2017. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 28
March 2022

Is Emmanuel Macron frightened of Vladimir Putin?

Fear is one explanation for the French President's diplomatic efforts

President Joe Biden’s suggestion over the weekend that Vladimir Putin was a “butcher” who should not be allowed to “stay in power” has been widely criticised. But President Emmanuel Macron was the only Western leader to suggest that Biden’s ad-libbed words were dangerous. “I would not use this kind of language because I continue to talk to Putin,” Macron told a French radio interviewer yesterday.

“We want to stop the war that Russia has started without starting a war ourselves. That’s our aim and we cannot achieve that aim if we escalate either in words or deeds.” His comments will re-launch the debate on President Macron’s performance as a would-be middleman or Western envoy to Vladimir Putin before and after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For whom is Macron speaking exactly? There has been strong criticism of his role in Poland and other eastern European countries, and in parts of the US media. ...  Continue reading

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