Day 27 – The Official Campaign started at midnight on 9 April

The Election is about to be more visibly all about us

Those 11 candidates’ notice-boards await posters in some 80,000 locations in mainland France. Posters are all printed and paid for by the State. The company putting them up is paid €2/poster (max size 59.4cm x 84.1cm) plus €1.20/A3 sheet announcing meetings or campaign addresses. The posters must not use national bleu-blanc-rouge colours (except for Party emblems) and a totally white background is forbidden (to avoid confusion with administrative notices).

Monday’s front pages … Tuesday’s fish ‘n chips

‘How far will he go?’ (Le Parisien – with a pic of Marseillais Melenchon – Les Echos reports a ‘Melenchon risk’ now priced in the bond market with a poll showing Fillon behind him)

‘Fillon – Two weeks to change destiny’ (Le Figaro – with a pic of his rally)

‘The unprecedented uncertainties of a ballot’ (Le Monde – over pix of the Fab Four)

25,000+ fan(atics) would give anyone a buzz … all it gave Fillon was sweat (no blood no tears)

‘Why he still believes’ shouted Sunday’s Le Parisien above a pic of a deeply-determined, fist-clenched, intent-on-fighting Fillon … hours before he presented himself as The Saviour of the Nation before 25,000 fans. Le Journal de Dimanche had the even more apposite: ‘Fillon believes in a miracle’.

He has developed a way of arriving at his rallies. He goes past as many of the faithful as is practical: arms reach out in the hope of touching The Man. The Great and Good are then sought out: men get a vigorous ManHandShake and women get kissed on each cheek. He finally works his way to his seat [all the while some poor sucker is trying their best to sing his praises from the podium] … at which point Fillon leaps on to his seat, standing head and shoulders above the crowd, he raises his arms triumphally aloft and clenches his fists. They love it.

After a dramatic start like that there’s only one way to end an hour’s peroration. You refer to de Gaulle and Jeanne d’Arc in the same breath. It clearly worked a treat for everyone at Porte de Versailles yesterday.

Alas though. It turns out that what Fillon’s team really most needed yesterday were millions of fans. It was hot outside; inside it was a broiling hell. Fillon’s (inappropriately-named) warm-up men (plus a few women, such as someone from Sens Commun – the political wing of the anti-gay-marriage-movement Manif pour tous) took their turns to glow, perspire and sweat pig-like during their few minutes of fame.

Fillon’s 65 minutes unsurprisingly produced a near Darcyesquely-dripping wet shirt. And that resulted in his buttoning up his jacket extra-smartish (having previously just undone it) … as soon as he looked down and realised this was deeply unphotogenic. The cameraman helped [all meetings are now presented by the candidates’ teams – they put out the feed] by going into deep long-shot and avoiding too much focus on That Shirt.

Every Républicain who’d previously wanted Fillon gone has rejoined the family. ‘Save The Right’ being The Order of the Day. The soi-disant ‘barons’ have returned, though Sarkozy and Juppé evidently felt their respective Facebook comment and minimalist tweet sufficed. [Maybe Fillon’s team didn’t get to see the tweet? ‘Cos Sarko got thanked by Fillon, yet nothing for Juppé.]

Fillon absolved rally attendees: ‘I don’t ask you to love me, but to support me, because that’s in the interests of France’.

Fillon confirmed the Right’s position that opinion polls are rubbish. But revealed that he sometimes peeks at them: he mentioned ‘Melenchon’ a few times, rubbishing his programme, and made a somewhat convoluted reference to Melenchon wanting to be Captain of the Potemkin, while being the Captain of the Titanic (that jibe’s so old it’s well out of copyright).

However, I lost count of the number of times Fillon attacked Macron (Le Pen was barely mentioned). But I equally lost count of the chants of ‘Fillon Président‘ and ‘On va gagner‘.

Some quotes from Fillon’s speech:

  • ‘You are here today because you refuse to allow this victory to be stolen from you’
  • ‘I denounce this hatred of us, of France, which makes the French doubt themselves’
  • ‘Immigration without integration, without assimilation, must be stopped’
  • ‘Let’s be French and let’s be proud to be French’
  • Several times he repeated his aim to be an ‘exemplary President’
  • ‘Re-establish the balance between liberty and equality which has been broken’
  • He condemned ‘multicultural nonsense’
  • Fillon got a huge cheer for supporting ‘the Christians of the Middle East’
  • ‘It is more than time we had a Gaullist at the head of France’
  • ‘There is a French voice … and its survival concerns us all’
  • ‘I will not act like Macron; I will not bury  the coffin of French culture in the earth’
  • ‘With Macron the concept of ‘national’ is outmoded; En Marche is the ideology of change for the sake of change’
  • Macron is ‘an imposter’/’the young heir of Hollandisme’/’Emmanuel Hollande’ [but some of the harshest anti-Macron comments were from Fillon’s wannabe PM, Baroin, accusing him of: ‘duplicity, hesitation, imprecision, unreadiness and improvisation’]
  • ‘WE are the political change’

It was this afternoon that investigating website Mediapart stated Fillon had been found to have lied once again. He had initially said he employed Mme Fillon since 1997. In February he changed that to 1986. Mediapart claim (in French) that Fillon actually employed her since 1982. This claim will go down well with the 65% in the 5 April Ipsos poll who said ‘honesty and integrity’ were the most important Presidential qualities.

The peace candidate 

‘Fortified’ (?) by Hamon’s TV promise that in Round 2 he would support Melenchon rather than Macron or Fillon, an increasingly ‘Presidential’ (or was it that he was just tired – he certainly sounded less energy-filled than usual) Melenchon strutted his wonderfully unscripted oratory in sun-drenched old Marseilles port against a stunning backdrop of smart yachts.

His crowd was claimed to be 70,000 [allegedly they had hoped for 20-30,000]. Before he spoke, the crowd amused itself by chanting ‘résistance, résistance‘ and waving the tricolore flags which had been handed out. This enormous Melenchon meeting will be followed by rallies in Lille and Toulouse … and a final meeting at Dijon while he will be hologramatically presented in 5 other towns and La Réunion.

The shortest-ever (?) Melenchon speech (barely an hour) contained the following:

  • ‘We have to say that emigration is always an enforced exile, it is suffering’ – and he called a minute’s silence for those migrants who had lost their lives at sea
  • ‘We must leave NATO’ (huge applause)
  • ‘Victory is within reach of all our efforts.’ The crowd punctuated his speech with chants of ‘Résistance‘ and ‘Dégagez‘ [Dégagisme: the political movement popularised in the Arab Spring, firstly in Tunisia, calling for the departure of all those in power … and not necessarily proposing anyone to replace the departed leader]
  • ‘American air strikes – intervention is irresponsible – it will aggravate tensions’
  • ‘I am the peace candidate’ he said, ‘If you want peace don’t make a mistake with your vote’ – and he played with a small olive branch, putting it in his buttonhole
  • Once the crowd started chanting ‘Mélenchon Président’; nearly angry, he professorially told the crowd to stop chanting. ‘You are not devotees; you are here to put a programme in place’
  • The speech ended with Melenchon reading a poem, ‘Peace’, by Greek poet Yannis Ritzos (unsuccessfully proposed 9 times for the Nobel Literature) [here it is in English tho’ I’m not sure if the link will survive long; the French translation is here read by Melina Mercouri]; the poem was heard in total silence.

Question. What’s the difference between the end of a Fillon and a Melenchon public meeting?

Answer. None – La Marseillaise is sung at the end of both. [That Internationale is so 2012]

‘The fragile favourite’

That was Le Journal de Dimanche‘s headline. Questioned whether he would get a majority in Parliament, Macron called up history: ‘We have never, since 1958, seen the French people give a different answer in the Parliamentary Elections to what was said some weeks earlier in the Presidential’. [That ‘rule’ is about to change, M. Macron]

His first 100 days will begin, said Macron, with a law to make political life more ethical (even before June’s Parliamentary Elections): this will ban MPs from employing family members, make all monies paid to MPs taxable and ban consultancy activities. By the end of 2017 MPs will be reduced by a third. He also proposes pushing further than the ‘much-contested-by-the-left’ mild revisions to Labour Law introduced by Valls. ‘Simplification’ will be brought about by greatly decentralised negotiations which Macron intends to introduce by decree and without Parliamentary approval  … and for that to be done this summer. A double advantage: avoid a Parliamentary marathon and take on the trade unions when, traditionally, they’re less active.

He did a good interview on BFM last night – for what it’s worth, I’ve never been so impressed by him. He said there’d be no new taxes under him for the entire 5 year term. Asked about French culture, he said it came from several different sources; he emphasised that France was not multi-cultural, but that it equally did not have a sole identity, and it was certainly not a Christian country.

Her father’s daughter

Le Pen got big Monday headlines (in French) without all the boring effort of a rally.

One of the darkest events in France’s history was the arrest of 13,000 Jews (including 4,000 children) in Paris in 1942, placing them in a velodrome, the Vel’ d’Hiv, and then sending them to Auschwitz. The French Government consistently refused to apologise for the role played by the French police or any other part of the State: the argument was that the French Republic had been dismantled when Pétain took over and therefore France was not responsible. Finally, in 1995, President Chirac acknowledged the role that the French State had played: ‘France … delivered those it protected to their executioners’. Presidents Sarkozy and Hollande both attended the annual commemoration. While President Hollande said, on the 70th anniversary, that it was ‘a crime committed in France by France.’

On TV yesterday, Le Pen said ‘[The Vel’ d’Hiv] was the responsibility of those who were in power at the time. It’s not France. It’s not France’.

Out on the Streets

Macronista Pink: the shade of the week

20170409_120911

And to show there’s not just politics being hawked in this oft-referred-to market

20170409_112806

There were lots of Fillonistes out, some preparing to rush coachwards and be whisked to The Big Rally. One ‘lady’ militant of mature years told me she wasn’t the least depressed about prospects: with Macron at 14.5% and Her Man sharing the lead, all was well in the world. Asked where she’d heard this poll, she replied it came from Canada via Germany, from a source that had correctly predicted every electoral upset. Every Filloniste knew the truth of what was happening. She then went on (hence the earlier quote marks) to let me know that France’s plight was all tied up with all ‘those people’ who have ‘three wives’ and abuse the social security system.

Their seriously downsized A5 leaflet (see Day 44) still highlights the ’10 KEY MEASURES OF MY PROGRAMME’

Some slightly sad Hamonistas are evidently still hoping for something (anything?) to turn up. They refuse stiff-upper-liply to contemplate the possibility of an electoral wipe-out.

And there were lots of chirpy Macronistas, hyped up and hyper-positive. Two separate leaflets:

20170410_124353.jpg

One says Macron’s the candidate to make ‘urban living’ work and the other gives us 10 reasons to vote for a programme and not just against someone [plus they’ve made it so much more credible and persuasive by providing the first names of 29 people (such as Laetitia, Marcel, Matthieu and Nathalie, from all of 25 different Départements) who’ve apparently contributed to the creation of Macron’s programme.]

 

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