In just over a year, the French will elect a new president. Or they will re-elect the current one for a second term. Slowly but surely, the election campaign for 2022 begins. Moreover, former President Sarkozy has a busy day ahead of him today (Monday). These seemed two good reasons to reboot this Newsletter and inform you regularly again about French politics’ nitty-gritty.
Bonne lecture !
Bonne lecture !
🌊 BREAKING THE DYKES
‘Faire barrage’, to put up a blockade, has been a common thread in French elections since the National Front became a serious factor in French politics in the 1980s. This boiled down to that if an extreme-right candidate were to stand a chance, the left would support the right and vice versa. This happened, for example, in 2002, when Jean-Marie Le Pen made it to the second round. In the end, Jacques Chirac won with a Soviet score of 82.2%, thanks to the support of the left. He was subsequently paralysed for the rest of his 2nd term by not choosing between left and right policies). In 2017, the dyke reinforcement also played a part. Emmanuel Macron won then partly thanks to the left’s support with 66% against Marine Le Pen’s 33%.
Now four years later, those (and many other) voters are pretty disillusioned. So much so that cracks are beginning to appear in the ‘dike’. The daily Libération published an article on Saturday (€ paywall) on left-wing voters who are supposed to form a barrage against the extreme-right. They no longer intend to support a candidate they don’t actually like, just to build a dike against Le Pen (Jr.). According to some, the most significant difference between Macron’s LREM and Le Pen’s RN is that whatever the latter talks about, the first one turns into law.
Whether this is right is food for much debate. Macron has indeed done a lot in recent years to attract voters from the right, hoping to take the wind out of Le Pen’s sails. With little success. The latest polls show that Macron may lose out to Le Pen in the first round next year. Harris‘ poll this weekend caused some panic: the result in the second round could be 52%-48%, in favour of Emmanuel Macron. That’s a victory, on paper at least, but considering the margin of error of two points, it comes down to fifty-fifty. So in the second round, Macron needs every vote he can find, including those from the left.
It is questionable if we should attach any values to polls more than a year before the elections. Yet, opinion polls do give an indication of trends. In the coming year, you can follow the presidential rat race in this Newsletter.
🚓 JAILHOUSE ROCK
Since the debacle with François Fillon in 2017, there is not much left of what was once the conservative right. There are few illusions about the chances for 2022. Yet part of the right still pins its hopes on Nicolas Sarkozy. But he has other things on his mind. The ex-president will walk nervously to the imposing skyscraper of the Parisian Palace of Justice tomorrow afternoon (Monday). In the 32nd Chamber, he will hear if he is guilty of corruption and will become the first ex-President to disappear behind bars.
The number of affairs in which Sarkozy is involved could fill a whole book – some have done so, as far as comic books go (see below). Besides this case, Sarkozy also has to answer to at least two other criminal cases. And to add insult to injury: he allegedly jumped the queue to get a coronavirus jab.
💔 THE EX’S EX
Recently, another scandal was added: Sarkozy’s ex-wife Cécilia is said to have had a fake job in Parliament in 2002-2003. The weekly Le Canard enchaîné revealed that at the time, she received 3,088 euros net per month for doing absolutely nothing. What is more, at that time she also had her own office at the Ministry of the Interior. She used the office space to work pro bono as a personal adviser to the Minister, a certain Nicolas Sarkozy. When she was still the ‘Première dame’, she was regularly described as a modern-day Marie-Antoinette. The latter was ended her career under the guillotine. It is not yet known whether similar legal action will be taken against Attias.
👩❤️👨 GULLIBLE GANG
The ex-president may find some comfort in the support of his disciples. Some still believe in their master’s innocence. Sarkozy’s fellow villager Valérie Pécresse, now the boss of the Île-de-France region, is one of them: “I believe in the justice of my country, but I find all these affairs hard to understand,” she said on Sunday. Perhaps she should have paid a little closer attention to Sarkozy’s dealings when she was his Education and later his Budget Minister…[tweet https://twitter.com/LCI/status/1366004197125193731]
If Sarkozy ever finds himself behind bars, there is a good chance that he will run into some of the ministers from his own government. George Tron, secretary of state for public affairs under Sarkozy, was sentenced last week on appeal to three years in prison for the sexual assault and rape of a former employee. Tron was also a close associate of Edouard Balladur, Sarkozy’s tutor. The 91-year-old former prime minister was given a one-year suspended sentence in February for his involvement in a corruption case. Earlier, Sarkozy’s Interior Minister, Claude Guéant, was sentenced to one year in prison, the Balkany couple, with whom he has been close friends for decades, received heavy sentences for fraud and corruption, while his old prime minister, François Fillon, has to serve five years (although he has appealed).
🥇 PREMIER LEAGUE
French presidents are always suspicious of their (prime) ministers. Before you know it, he is your most formidable competitor: Chirac took on Mitterrand, Sarkozy took on Chirac, and Macron stabbed François Hollande in the back. Macron’s first Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, was quite popular, but even before he could really drive Macron into the ground, he switched Paris to become the mayor of Le Havre last summer. No doubt to Macron’s relief. An additional advantage: Philippe left just in time to avoid being held responsible for the disastrous handling of the corona crisis. Although he seems to be happy in the port city, Philippe may have presidential ambitions after all. Last week, he set up the micro-party Le Havre ! Such a micro-party makes it possible to receive donations for possible future campaigns. Philippe already leads the list of politicians the French think would do better than Macron. Will he be the surprising outsider of the fight in 2022?
🍰 HEAVY WEIGHT
Do not despair! You are not the only one struggling with a few corona kilos. Emmanuel Macron himself has also put on weight. His cheap suits have clearly tightened in recent months. The fresh young man of 2017 has given way to a President beset by many misfortunes. His body is visibly suffering under the yoke of office. The Elysée confirms the weight gain and sees it as a sign that the President’s health is doing well after recovering from Covid-19. “Those few kilos give him extra depth in photographs, more maturity,” says an admiring Palace spokesman about the presidential corpulence. Still, with five kilos, Macron’s growth is modest compared to his predecessor: François Hollande gained 15 kilos on the job. Maybe a new cook can make Macron slimmer. His current chef, Guillaume Gomez, announced last week that he will leave the Elysée after 25 years and having served two million meals at the Palais.
👌🏼 MERCI !
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