We are entering an era in politics in which statements beginning ‘It would be the first time that…’ often announce that something previously inconceivable may be about to happen. This French presidential election is the first in which the Front National (FN) going through to the second round is not in doubt: there is a possibility (still highly improbable) that it might win. For the first time, no one is defending the record of the past five years, even though two of the outgoing president’s former ministers are standing: Benoît Hamon of the Socialist Party (PS) and Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! (Forward!). It is also the first time that the candidates from the PS and the right, which have governed France since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, could both be eliminated in the first round.
Tag Archives: France
On the afternoon of July 19, Adama Traoré was riding his bike through the center of Beaumont-sur-Oise, a picturesque hillside town north of Paris. The day had been uncommonly hot, more than 90 degrees. Even on the narrow, winding streets of Beaumont, the shade lay in narrow ribbons along the storefronts of the bakeries, groceries, pharmacies, and computer repair shops; restaurants were just opening back up after a midday siesta.
It was Adama’s 24th birthday. He was working construction and had saved up the money for a celebratory trip south that weekend. Gliding into the cobblestone plaza by the public library, he joined his older brother Bagui at the wicker chairs and marble-topped tables of the Balto, a corner bar where a coffee costs a euro and change.
Two plainclothes police approached. They were looking for Bagui in connection with an extortion case. The elder Traoré handed over his ID. But Adama didn’t have his on him. He had recently spent several months in jail, on charges of hitting a man, and he was not planning on going back. So he fled.
Two hours later, he lay dead in the courtyard of a police station. The cause of death was later found to be asphyxiation.
Marine Le Pen has arrived in Lebanon to find out that the Christians she thought were her allies aren’t on her side at all
Marine Le Pen has been doing a little Trumping in Beirut. Yes, all the way from Paris she came to ride her French presidential election campaign through the sectarian thickets of Lebanon by refusing to wear a veil to meet the Sunni Muslim Grand Mufti. Given the nonsense she spoke to the (Christian) president of Lebanon and the schoolgirl interview she granted to the country’s (Christian) French-language newspaper, many Lebanese – and a few Christians, too – concluded that this wretched lady embarked on her visit with the sole aim of insulting the country’s Muslims.
Of course, it was a publicity stunt. Marine Le Pen doesn’t care about the votes of Lebanese Christians who hold French passports – her Front National (FN) anyway wants to get such dual nationals to choose their country of citizenship, so the poor old Christians of Lebanon whom Le Pen supposedly loves may have to abandon their country of origin if they want France to “protect” them from the Muslim hordes. No, her refusal to wear a veil – a mere headscarf to show respect to the Sunni Mufti, Sheikh Abdel-Latif Derian – was intended for her domestic audience in France. Muslims want to subjugate women. It was the old message. To hell with Lebanon. Which is surely why she was accompanied on this pantomime by more French than Lebanese journalists.
At the start of 2017, with the elections in France in the Spring and then in Germany in the Autumn, it may prove useful to return to one of the fundamental issues which plagues discussion at European level, that is the alleged economic asymmetry between Germany with its reputation as prosperous and France which is described as on the decline. I use the term ‘alleged’ because, as we shall see, the level of productivity of the German and French economies – as measured in terms of GDP per hour worked, which is by far most relevant indicator of economic performance – is almost identical. Furthermore it is at the highest world level, demonstrating incidentally that the European social model has a bright future, despite what the Brexiters and Trumpers of every hue might think. This will also enable me to return to several of the issues addressed in this blog in 2016 (in particular concerning the long European recession and the reconstruction of Europe) as well as in my December 2016 article « Basic income or fair wage?« .Let’s start with the most striking fact. If we calculate the average labour productivity by dividing the GDP (the Gross Domestic Product, that is the total value of goods and services produced in a country in one year) by the total number of hours worked (by both salaried and non-salaried employees), we then find that France is at practically the same level as the United States and Germany, with an average productivity of approximately 55 Euros per hour worked in 2015, or more than 25% higher than the United Kingdom or Italy (roughly 42 Euros) and almost three times higher than in 1970 (less than the equivalent of 20 Euros in 2015; all figures are expressed in purchasing power parity and in 2015 Euros, that is after taking into account inflation and price levels in the different countries).
Le paysan de la Roya, symbole de l’aide aux migrants, veut continuer son action malgré les descentes de gendarmerie et les risques de prison.
La boîte en fer qui fait office de boîte aux lettres sera bientôt trop exiguë. Chaque jour, le facteur y dépose des dizaines d’enveloppes. A l’intérieur, mots d’encouragement, chèques et dessins. Sur chacun des bordereaux est inscrit : «Cédric Herrou, Breil-sur-Roya, France». «Google m’a téléphoné pour retirer mon adresse des recherches parce que je reçois aussi des insultes et des menaces, explique leur destinataire. Avant de raccrocher, le gars au téléphone m’a dit que j’avais leur soutien.»
François Fillon’s victory in France’s rightwing presidential primaries shows that liberal progressive values in Europe aren’t just confronting the ghosts of fascist-type movements. There is now a threat from a new type of reactionary movement. Anyone who thinks that Fillon’s success clears the ground for a resounding defeat of far-right ideas in France’s 2017 presidential race should think again. Fillon’s most active support base has come essentially from hardline, traditionalist Catholics – people who generally aren’t described as far right, in the sense that they don’t affiliate themselves with Marine Le Pen’s Front National. But some of their ideas do overlap.
Have all elections become unpredictable these days? The former French president Nicolas Sarkozy must be asking himself that question after a humiliating defeat on Sunday in the first round of his party’s primaries for next year’s presidential election. This huge upset – for a man who believed he was the only one of the six candidates who could “save” France – didn’t come from Alain Juppé, the right-of-centre mayor of Bordeaux who had been leading opinion polls for months. It came from Sarkozy’s own prime minister for five years, a man he used to describe as a “collaborator”, François Fillon.
In April 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen stunned all of Europe by defeating the socialist candidate, Lionel Jospin, in the first round of the French presidential election, and advancing to the final round between the top two candidates. Terrified by the prospect of a far-right victory, the French left – including communists, Greens and the Socialist party – threw their support behind the incumbent president, Jacques Chirac, a pillar of the centre-right establishment who had served as mayor of Paris for 18 years before becoming president in 1995. This electoral strategy effectively isolated Le Pen’s Front National (FN), depicting it as a cancerous force in the French body politic.
Now here is a deeply contemporary story. When the French abandoned Algeria in 1962, they also betrayed the tens of thousands of Algerians who fought for them. Stealthily – sometimes, quite literally, in the thick of night – they stole away from the barracks in which their Harki warriors were sleeping, and left them to their fate at the hands of the FLN (National Liberation Front) nationalists who were to inherit this oil-wealthy and deeply corrupt country. Often, they disarmed the Harkis first, so that their fate came more speedily upon them.
Harki – from the Arabic harka – is probably best translated as “volunteers”, auxiliaries who fight for the local master race, in this case France. Their end in Algeria was a despicable affair. So terrifying, in fact – so racist – that the history of the loyal Harkis who fought for France during the 1956-1962 war of Algerian independence has been the last taboo for the colony which Charles de Gaulle betrayed 54 years ago.