Le Monde (25/03) editorial: The ‘Trumpisation’ of the campaign
‘For two months, the Presidential campaign has been crazy. The expected normal confrontation between candidates and their programmes, the national debate allowing the French to make their electoral choice has been replaced by a soap opera of scandals. Especially – even if he’s not alone in the hot seat – by those affecting the Républicain candidate. Since being charged by the newspapers and later by the judges, François Fillon has considered attack the best defence. He has engaged in endless, unlimited verbal escalation, hoping to cover the incessant noise of objections to [his candidature] … Still more disquieting is the sudden arrival in the campaign of the tone and certain practices which allowed [Trump] to take the American Presidential Election. The reduction of politics to scandals, unproved insinuations, groundless assertions, lying allegations, media hysteria: the entire arsenal of ‘Trumpism’ has been mobilised. That of a world where the denial of reality and the contempt for ideas triumphs. One would have thought François Fillon sufficiently experienced and informed to understand that … ‘Trumpism’ is morally bankrupt. Borrowing his weapons is an inexcusable political mistake.’
Journal du Dimanche (26/03) editorial: The nasty campaign. The tainted election
‘A climate of conspiracy theories reminds us of the worst moments of the American Presidential Election … Trump alone bellowed against the elites. Here in France nearly every candidate wants to be seen as anti-system, denouncing the elites while the media claim they speak for the people. How, then, do you choose between the candidates? On what criteria? The campaigns are there to enlighten the people’s vote. All this, alas, only helps obscure it. There are four weeks until the first round. For choosing a President, that’s short. In such an atmosphere, it will perhaps be long.’ (Gattegno)
Une election peut en cacher une autre
This particular immigrant quickly understood I would never speak perfect French. A public sign that can perplex is one placed next to railway level crossings: Un train peut en cacher un autre. A simple warning: just because the first train has gone by you must not assume there will not be another coming (it’s that pesky ‘en‘ I find difficult … don’t hesitate to let me know why there’s logic in that there en).
Anyway, it’s now clearly time – with less than 4 weeks until Round 1 of the Presidential Election – to remind you that May 7 is in no wise the end of it all. Those increasingly fearing silence, fear no longer. Voters will return to the polling booths (isoloirs) on June 11 and 18 to elect 577 MPs (députés) to the National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament (with half the upper house, the Sénat, being elected in September 2017).
One of Fillon’s more telling comments during the TV debate a week ago was his claim that he would be the only candidate who could deliver stable Government through getting a majority of MPs in those Parliamentary Elections.
En Marche was supposed (see Day 57) to have announced 100 candidates end-March – but this is looking increasingly unlikely. Their candidates will be decided in Paris, not locally, yet this is beginning to create tensions as an increasing number of ‘semi-favourite sons ‘n daughters’ seek to establish themselves locally and various conflicts emerge … many of the unhappiest being erstwhile-Socialist MPs. However, provided Macron continues to be an apparently winning ticket a lid will presumably be successfully kept on the issue.
It’s claimed The Big Mo will work once again. The idea is that following Macron becoming President, his appeal to the nation to give effect to that decision will get him a majority of MPs. And if he’s wrong? If En Marche candidates don’t win a majority? Macron has said he will not seek coalitions or agreements with other political parties. He will just get support from a very small number of centrist Bayrou MoDem MPs, and that may well be some way short of a majority. How long will Macron attempt to maintain that position?
Significant numbers of MPs are still likely to be Républicains and Socialists (very many less of the latter). If Macron wins, those Républicains who’ve not left the Party are likely to form the Opposition. But what of the Socialists? Do they soldier on as a small group? Or will they, more likely, split into 2 groups in Parliament, with the more social-democrat among them offering to join a Presidential coalition majority?
Le Pen met Putin while leaders of 27 EU countries (RIP UK) met in Rome to celebrate the Treaty of Rome’s 60th anniversary (when the leaders of the Six signed blank pieces of paper to get everything up and stumbling). That Putin smirk really does deserve viewing and re-viewing. Putin had welcomed Le Pen as a ‘representative of a European political force that is growing quickly’ – in French, the expression was a ‘spectre politique‘ (a phrase with deliciously wraith-like undertones).
She said ‘The problem facing us is that France has stopped being fully sovereign. I am fighting so France will again find its sovereignty and liberty, with a well-rounded foreign policy, as strategically defended by de Gaulle … That’s my battle, my strategy, and I dare to hope that Donald Trump’s victory will accelerate and simplify the process.’
I constantly praise Le Monde for the intelligence, objectiveness, depth and courage of its coverage. Yet, Saturdays, there’s a glossy magazine with the paper which I’m normally happy to avoid. The paper’s more expensive; I usually find little remotely readable in the magazine, with its collection of seriously upmarket advertisers. But for a few weeks, I’ve decided to purchase even Saturday’s edition so as not to miss out. And I’m glad to have passed on the editorial about the ‘Trump effects’ on the Election.
Yet this glossy page surprised me. N° 9 in a series The Big Fashion Parade: ‘The candidate of the FN refuses to appear before the judges. But she doesn’t as easily escape from the fashion police.’ A few lame jokes about her clothes at different stages in her life. Wittingly or otherwise contributing to that ‘Le Pen normalisation process’. Odd. Distasteful even.
In front of 5,000 people in Lille yesterday, Le Pen [Political Fashion Note (see – it’s catching): Blue dress/White face/Red jacket] attacked Macron and Fillon, but mostly Macron (she wants Fillon’s voters in round 2). The usual chants interrupted her speech: ‘Marine Présidente’, ‘We’re going to win’ (the latter sung to 2 different tunes) and the Front National’s ever-charming ditty ‘On est chez nous‘ (This is our home). Every interruption welcomed by an ever-growing, beatific Le Pen smile.
Some phrases to give you a flavour:
- ‘I shall be the leading defender of employment for you and your children’
- Fillon and Macron ‘want still more European Union … I choose otherwise, I want more France’
- ‘Our combat is for our identity, and therefore of our sovereignty’
- ‘I’ll repeal the Socialist labour law which reduces job security, especially for women’
- Le Pen quoted Churchill to huge applause: ‘Politicians think of the next election. Statesmen of the next generation’. She being the latter. Only one teensy problem. It wasn’t Churchill. Actually one James Freeman Clarke, 19th century American theologian. Lies, damned lies and misquotes.
- ‘In this election there are the candidates from the system and me’
- ‘Fillon and Macron are the representatives of private interests’
- ‘We don’t want Mme Merkel’s migrants’
- She ran off a list of the Great and Good she had met: the Presidents of Lebanon, Chad and … Putin: ‘Real statesmen’. Thunderous, long applause,
- She variously referred to both de Gaulle and Mitterand (sic) and even Solzhenitsyn, but stumbled on ‘samizdat’ and apologised.
- ‘Macron says there’s no French culture’ (boos and hisses) [He had said: ‘There is no French culture, there is culture and it is diverse’]
- ‘The hour of the struggle between patriots and globalists has arrived’ AND ‘The hour of the defeat of the globalists has arrived’. Bliss was it in that hour to be alive.
- ‘The people have an inalienable right to to be and stay themselves’
- ‘If I am elected the European Union will die’
- ‘Macron is the Jean-Claude van Damme of politics’. [You may be surprised to hear that this was greeted by the crowd as hugely witty. Wikipedia advises: ‘In the French-speaking world, Van Damme is well known for the picturesque aphorisms that he delivers on a wide range of topics … in a sort of Zen franglais’]
- Le Pen also called Macron filandreux. I am advised by Ben (warmest thanks to him) this means ‘incoherent/insubstantial/bitty’ (better than my dictionary which only came up with ‘stringy’). But at least the latter’s better than what I first thought when I heard it … I thought she had ‘accused’ him of ‘philandering’.
- [That fits with the exchange I should have reported from Monday’s TV debate. Le Pen to Macron (in a well-rehearsed jibe): ‘You’re so talented. You’ve just spoken for 7 minutes and I’m unable to summarise your thinking. You’ve said nothing. It’s an absolutely empty space. I want the French people to try to understand that every time you speak there’s a bit of this and a bit of that and you never decide. One doesn’t know what you want and, honestly, that’s very worrying.’ Macron immediately retorted: ‘If you haven’t understood, unlike you I don’t want to do a deal with Putin. If you haven’t understood, unlike you I want strong but responsible national policies, neither ruination nor expenditure that you don’t know how to fund. If you haven’t understood, unlike you I want a France that will be strong within Europe. I take full responsibility for that. That’s our major disagreement.’
Overall, Le Pen perhaps wasn’t as fiery and one-directional as previously. Maybe she has started to give effect to a policy of trying to make herself more credible as a Presidential candidate to pick up more voters. There was stuff on her calling a referendum on Frexit: so the people will decide [she announced today that if she lost that Frexit referendum she would resign since her project is inexorably linked to getting out of the maw of Brussels]. I thought it was a well-written, well-delivered speech – using clever transparent tele-prompts on either side of the lectern.
After over an hour of Le Pen on a wonderfully sunny First Day of Spring, I felt it was well beyond my Blogging Call of Duty to join the 5,000 inside a hall in Rennes, with an alleged further 4,000 outside, and listen to more than a few minutes of Melenchon. He was, as ever, an excellent speaker. Confident; he must have feeding off his universally-hailed ‘victory’ in the TV debate, and the increasing distance between Hamon and himself. He spoke for a couple of hours virtually without notes, roaming a small square stage in the midst of a giant hall, surrounded by his audience … and enjoying his mastery of it all. Impressive. And he revealed his new slogan: La force du peuple (The strength of the people). His campaign now say their next objective is to get ahead of Fillon
He has been hammering away again at Macron’s wealthy supporters. Saying Macron ‘has registered 550 donations of over €4500, meaning half his donations are linked to wealthy people. But can you be independent of those who have made you king? That’s a serious question. Emmanuel Macron says he can. But that’s insufficient. … While his plans for the ISF [wealth tax] will benefit 3,400 taxpayers with an average tax decrease of €588,000. Among these 3,400 taxpayers will necessarily be several of his sponsors and associates of his campaign’ (his word ‘actionnaires‘ also means ‘shareholders’ – subtle stuff, eh).
- Fillon said on TV the existence of an Elysée Palace black cell operating against him had been proved by a new book. Next day, Trumpishly, he told Ouest France ‘I do not know if that’s true.’ [But then went and spoilt things later by ramping-up the hysteria in Biarritz, saying: ‘The only way to save the left is by killing Fillon’ (sic)]
- Some will recall a vile Républicains cartoon (see Day 57) – characterised in essayist Glucksmann’s tweet: “They’ve reached this point … hooked nose, the alliance of capital and Bolshevism (cigar and red sickle) … Even the [Front National] wouldn’t dare.” Fillon was firmer than his team. He called the cartoon ‘unacceptable’. He said those involved would be disciplined. Yet he went on ‘Political combat is tough but must remain dignified’ (sic): can we assume those chaps didn’t have to stay too long on the naughty step.
- SuitsGate – Fillon’s rich friend actually bought him 3 suits not 2. That 3rd one was a bit pricier at €7K (the others a tailor’s snip at €6.5K each) … and bought with readies. The Républicain Mayor of Vesoul (east France) said: ‘There’s a Peugeot factory in my town. I don’t see how I can defend suits costing €6500.’
- Tomorrow (subject to last-minute changes following a successful ticking of the ‘No Publicity’ box) Mme Fillon will be with the judges to hear whether charges will be brought for receiving misappropriated public funds (Parliamentary Assistant), receiving misused company monies (another rich Fillon friend’s publication) and aggravated fraud (suspect documents found in Parliament describing the hours Mme Fillon worked). Questions (says JDD) to be asked again: As Parliamentary assistant, were you never in Parliament – even when living in Paris? As analyst of the literary review’s future, did you never go to its offices or speak to the staff? And how did you (2012-2013) simultaneously perform 2 full-time jobs (€3900 monthly net from the review + €3300 monthly net from Fillon then a Paris MP) AND do an Eng. Lit. Open University degree? Last time with the judiciary she said: ‘I organised my work time as I wanted, and there weren’t really any weekends nor weekly time off.’
- Front page lead (Le Monde today): ‘François Fillon’s campaign throws the right into total confusion.’ Inside: ‘The right despairs of Fillon’s campaign.’ The departure of two ex-Ministers of Justice to support Macron is seen as symbolic of a rejection of Fillon’s campaign.
Serious Macron Supporters
Le Parisien claims Chirac’s former PM, Dominique de Villepin, may announce support for Macron (a ‘friend’ is quoted: ‘Dominique wouldn’t be against returning as [Foreign Minister])’. Following Socialist Defence Minister, Le Drian, the arrival at Macron’s side of the man who spoke eloquently at the UN against the Iraq war, will add further weight.
And Hamon ‘warned’ last night that Valls (Hollande’s former PM) was also intending to ‘walk the floor’ and that would be another attempted blow by ‘party bosses who wanted to remain in power’ and were ‘stabbing him in the back’.
And in further good news for Macron, the Transparency Authority, HATVP, advised Anticor (the corruption body) that there was no inconsistency between Macron’s income and declared patrimoine. (Day
Out on the Streets
8 supporters of Dupont-Aignan distributing ‘Different man. Different politics!’ 4 page A3 leaflet. Pix galore: two of D-A dog-hugging (no huskies), D-A in a vineyard, D-A at a market stall selling wine. Can he be all bad? Yes. His troops said the difference between him and Le Pen was that he’d negotiate a new Europe à la carte, her people are extreme and the D-A supporters are not clannish (like all the others).
6 Hamonistes giving out his 40-page programme. Pix: A clenched fist aloft in front of his slogan ‘Make the heart of France beat’; THIRTEEN pages of pictures of Hamon (being studious/being hugged in front of an enthusiastic crowd/a bit-Osborne-like with hard-hat and hi-viz jacket high on some platform/in front of a crowd either showing the way Delacroix-Liberté-like or leading a round of applause for the lighting man); the scales of justice; Le Grand Eléphant ‘midst a giant crowd (if you don’t know it you should … utterly brilliant … go to Nantes or plead for it, or another machine, to be brought to your town); some pensioners; a light rail vehicle; a child on a man’s shoulders in the countryside; a female engineer in front of a wind farm; 157 pledges written in red .. with a green tick next to each (showing individual approval by the Greens?); demonstrators on the statute in the place de la Bastille; a Euro-flag waved in a crowd; a tricolore next to a (a statue of?) a soldier; a statue of justice; Berlaymont with 2 big birds hovering (vultures?); marching fire officers (?); a house being built near mountains; a carpenter.
A few Fillonistes were giving out an 8 page A3 leaflet. Headlines: What I want for France; It’s urgent, It’s vital; It’s for France; It’s for you; It’s possible. Page 2 is ‘Law ‘n Order’ with a pic of a police car and a highlighted part at the bottom of the page ‘An implacable struggle against Islamic terrorism’.
And Macronistas were there too … no change to his ongoing leaflet. But an invitation on his billboard to go to a local cafe weekly and discuss Matters Political for several weeks.
A revolution had occurred since last Sunday. No idea about casualties. Where once a proud Fillon display had stood, there was now one for Macron and one for Hamon. Really very close. Almost next to each other. This could be a portent of something bigger.
And finally. Opinion polls.
Virtually no change again.
Except that with it looking increasingly likely that Macron and Le Pen win through to Round 2, some people may be choosing to vote in the 1st round to make some sort of political point. Hamon’s vote is going down and Melenchon’s is going up … with the possibility that Fillon could be in his sights.