From top: Emmanuel Macron Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen; Shene Heneghan
With four candidates within 3% of one another in the polls, France’s presidential election remains volatile. The two most dramatic statistics frequently ignored in the past few weeks, however, are the high level of undecided voters (as much as one third) and those who say they won’t vote (about 28% in a country where 80% turnouts are the norm).
All this, together with the tragic shooting of a policeman in central Paris just days before voting make this easily the toughest French presidential election to call in the history of the 5th republic.
A year ago, many pundits would have said the election of Marine Le Pen as president was considerably more likely than that of Donald Trump or a vote for Brexit and she has done her best to make the most of these two events.
Her campaign has been scandal-ridden from the off with allegations of misappropriation of funds from the European Parliament to loan agreements with those close to the Kremlin in Russia. Despite all this, and despite her party’s poor record in other recent elections (the FN was expected to make breakthroughs in the most recent regional elections but failed) she is still the woman to beat.
If she wins, France’s place in the euro and the EU itself are both very much up for discussion and without France, the continued existence of both is unlikely.
Her main rival began this campaign as an outsider, but as a man who fell in love with, then subsequently married his secondary school French teacher, Emmanuel Macron is used to overcoming the odds.
Apart from a brief stint as economy minister under President Hollande he has no government experience. He left government to set up his own centrist, grassroots, staunchly pro-EU political movement, “En Marche” which has since gone from strength to strength. He now has a strong chance of meeting it through to the 2nd round.
Another candidate firing up his party base is veteran left winger Jean-Luc Mélenchon- who is perhaps best described as a French Bernie Sanders. Like Sanders, he has been drawing big numbers to rallies recently – even to ones where he appears by hologram. Though turnout with the far left is always an issue and most polls have him a few points behind he cannot be ruled out from getting through on Sunday.
The early favourite for this contest was the centre-right’s Francois Fillon who saw poll numbers tumble when it emerged he may have been paying his wife around half a million euro a year to do more or less nothing.
Despite this fall from grace, he is still hovering around 20% in polls, doing very well among the over 60s and Catholics (two groups with consistently high turnout) and benefits from a well-resourced campaign. Staunchly opposing adoption rights for same sex couples and in favour of limiting immigration and stronger relations with Russia, Fillon can be described as being on the right of his own party.
One of the main advantages Fillon would have over his rivals if he were elected is the ability to form a Parliamentary majority after the election. Officially speaking at least, none of the other three can count on more than a handful of MPs in the Assemblee Nationale.
The legislative elections that happen within a few weeks of the second round of the presidential election are bound to give the incumbent a boost but it would be highly unlikely that any of these three movements came close to an outright majority. Fillon himself has his rivals in his own party and may not always get his own way in Parliament.
We can say therefore that the next President of France is likely to be a weak figure whose tenure may change the relationship between Parliament and Presidency for the foreseeable future.
Lost in France, Irish director Niall McCann’s documentary on the fertile Glasgow indie scene of the 1990s gets a special screening next week at the Triskel in Cork, with a very nice added bonus for those in attendance.
Writes Tina Darb:
Broadcasting live from Glasgow Film Festival to Triskel Christchurch Cinema Tuesday, February 21 Niall McCann’s film ‘Lost in France’ is treated to a unique screening and once-in-a-lifetime gig.
This exclusive cinema event followed is followed by a once-off concert performance broadcast LIVE via satellite from the Glasgow O2 ABC, featuring supergroup which includes Alex Kapranos (Franz Ferdinand), Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), RM Hubbert, Emma Pollock & Paul Savage (The Delgados).
From the heart of Glasgow ‘Lost in France’ brings you a story of friendship, memory and making music. Set in the mid-90s Glasgow, the film follows flourishing indie rock band The Delgados who established cult record label Chemikal Underground, heralding a renaissance of independent music in the city that would bring the likes of Mogwai, Arab Strap and Franz Ferdinand to the world.
U2 were rehearsing in Paris when that city was beset last November, and now, according to The Mirror, the U2singer,who owns a house in the nearby town of Eze, was eating at a restaurant with friends, including the former mayor of Nice, when blocks away an armed terrorist drove a truck into a crowd, killing 84 people.
According to the New York Daily News Bono was eating on the terrace of La Petite Maison restaurant with chef Alain Ducasse and others when the 18-ton refrigeration truck sent the crowd streaming toward the restaurant.
Bono was ushered into the dining room and left the eatery “with his hands on his head” a half-hour later, after police had given the all-clear.
Irish Lorries boarding the car ferry at Rosslare heading for Cherbourg, France
Eamon Delaney of the free market think tank Hibernia Forum, writes:
The French Government intends to press on with their plans to enforce the French minimum wage law for transit workers, even for Irish workers from July1
Ireland has the second highest minimum wage in Europe (second only to Luxembourg).
However, when calculated on the basis of a 35 hour week, the French minimum wage equates to €9.61 per hour, against Ireland’s €9.15.
Irrespective of this fact, there is no justification in law for the French (or any other member state) to impose their domestic laws on transiting workers.
This is against the spirit and letter of the Single Market, and a blatant infringement upon the rights of free movement of people, goods and services. It is also only one of a number of creeping administrative measures on the continent that are reducing free movement.
It is not merely the minimum wage itself, but the imposition of more administrative burden on transit operators to demonstrate compliance. It slows everything down, and completely defeats the purpose of the Single Market.
In the case of the French Government., it also appears to be pandering to a trade union movement that is not interested in compromise in any case….[more at link below]
Five new Irish caps, all fine, young, inordinately hairy men, They heaved against the veterns de rugby francais and gritted it out for an historic and most unlikely victory (France 9 Ireland 14).
Paul McWeeney writing in the following Monday’s Irish Times said:
It was a sobering thought before the match, when asked if I had ever seen Ireland win at Colombes, to realise that, in fact, only myself and one or two other of my British press colleagues had ever had the pleasure, nor was I all that optimistic that I would ever see it again.