Le pen

How democratic are the French elections?

There are just 59 days to go until voters turn out for the first round of the French presidential election and it is not even clear who will make the starting gate. For now, all the pundits and the bookies are predicting the re-election of President Emmanuel Macron. But the real story is about how French democracy operates. General de Gaulle designed the Fifth Republic to keep extremists out of the Elysée. So, to get into the presidential election, a candidate must present the Conseil Constitutionnelle with 500 sponsorships (parrainages) from geographically dispersed senior elected officials. The real story is about how French democracy operates Previously this was not a problem.

Le Pen, Zemmour and the two French far rights

Just about two months ahead of the French elections, a first poll for Le Parisién suggests that Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour are at the same level: 14 per cent. This is one out of many polls, most of which still show Le Pen ahead. But polls have been bad predictors in the past, and they can create their own momentum. Both Le Pen and Zemmour held big rallies this weekend. We now see two different economic visions emerging: one social, one liberal. The only economic point that the two have in common is that they both want social services to be accessible only to the French, not to

France’s silent majority has rejected Macron – and Le Pen

I popped down to the Salle du Peuple on Sunday to see how the voting was going in the departmental and regional elections. Although I’m no longer a municipal councillor – à cause de Brexit – and am no longer required to help invigilate the polling, I thought I’d take the temperature. Which was frosty. The French have a reputation for strong participation in elections, but not this time. By the time the votes were tallied, the winner was clear. Abstention won by a landslide. Two-thirds of my commune’s voters stayed at home, reflecting the national turnout. It was the lowest participation in at least 25 years and a vivid illustration of

Macron is using Islam to outmanoeuvre Le Pen

There was a rally in Paris on Sunday at which a couple of hundred protestors vented their anger at the French government’s ‘anti-separatist bill’ which was passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday. It was a disparate but predictable gathering of what one broadcaster described as ‘anti-racism, left-wing, pro-Palestinian and other activist groups’. The demonstrators were repeating the claims made by some left-wing politicians that the bill will stigmatise the country’s Muslims. On the contrary, retort the government, who define the bill as a ‘Respect for Republican values’. They say it will protect the majority of Muslims from the minority of extremists whose objective is to create a separate society in