breaking news from the world of ideas

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

by John Lichfield
Friday, 4
March 2022

Emmanuel Macron’s party is filled with odd-balls and misfits

En Marche has many colourful characters

A sole French parliamentarian, Buon Tan, voted recently against a resolution condemning China’s repression of its Ouigour minority as “genocide”. 

Was he a Communist with a Capital C? No. The pro-Beijing ballot was cast by a member of the ruling party, President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche (LREM).

Until recently, the Cambodian-born Buon Tan was known mostly as the richest and least active of the 577 members of the Assemblée Nationale. Now, the newspaper Le Monde has published an investigation linking Mr Tan with the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party. It reports that Macron’s party, then only-one-year old, was warned against Mr Tan by the French security services in 2017. LREM nonetheless endorsed him as its candidate in the eastern part of the Paris Left Bank, an area with a large Asian population. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Friday, 11
February 2022

Nicolas Sarkozy plays coy in French election campaign

The former French president has refused to endorse Valerie Pécresse

For a man Barack Obama once described as prone to “emotional outbursts”, Nicolas Sarkozy’s involvement in this year’s French campaign has been rather muted.

That is, until the last few days in which the former president has let it be known that he will snub a big rally in northern Paris on Sunday — where Valerie Pécresse, the candidate of his centre-Right party is expected to lay out her “vision” for the future of France.

In private remarks reported in the French media this week, and probably intended to be so, Sarkozy savaged Pécresse’s limp campaign. She is, the former President complained, both “non-existent” and “all over the place”. Worse, from his viewpoint, she often praises the late centre-Right President Jacques Chirac and rarely mentions Sarko. ...  Continue reading

by John Lichfield
Monday, 31
January 2022

Grading the French Left: less than adequate

The highly touted popular primary failed to unify Left-wingers

You can take the teacher out of the classroom but you cannot take the classroom out of the teacher.

The Popular Primary of the Left, just completed, was invented by French academics in an attempt to create a strong and united Left-wing campaign for the French presidential elections in April.

The seven candidates were graded like undergraduates or PhD students with scores ranging from ‘good’ to ‘inadequate’. The winner, Christiane Taubira, a former Socialist justice minister, received a “bien plus” (somewhat better than good). Anne Hidalgo, the official Socialist candidate, came fifth with “passable plus” (slightly more than adequate). The last of the seven candidates, an unknown 24 years old, Anna Agueb-Porterie, was judged “insuffisant” (inadequate).    ...  Continue reading

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