Politics

What happened to French politics?

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2017 French presidential candidates. Credit: The Telegraph

We, the French, are nearing the first round of the 2017 presidential elections. As a first-time voter in the general elections myself, I have found that my civic duty is quite different from what I’d expected.

There’s a fresh, new atmosphere in French politics, after a sorry – some would say quiet – five years for President Hollande. His victory in 2012 was due more to weak adversity than to his political merits. He was a candidate confident in two things: that he would be the seventh president of the Fifth Republic, and that change in the country was necessary.

Or, so he’d campaigned.

Whereas his mandate went by nearly unnoticed, his personal life – like that of his predecessor – was featured in international publications. He had shown a lack of morals in his love life and, because he’d not actively brought his programme to reality, the media fed off his relationships.

He cannot be faulted for that. Far be it for world leaders to be discreet about their love lives. Former Minister of Economy and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron (En Marche! movement) was similarly exposed for his unconventional marriage. He had met his girlfriend at a private school in Amiens, France, when she was his literature teacher.

Gathering information to choose the candidate I believe in, I realised morals would stunt my decision. Republican candidate Francois Fillon (Prime Minister under Sarkozy) has his campaign under fire after satire paper Le Canard Enchaîné exposed his embezzlement and sexism. As Senator, he’d paid his wife to carry out administrative duties in an office whose employees say they’d never met her. His children had been hired while in law school. His daughter was succeeded by his son, who’d be paid 27% more than her.

Macron’s relationship was illegal, and while his wife is the legal criminal, he is the public figure normalising it. Front National (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen has been to court after using European Parliament funds for her own campaign (car hires, luncheons…).

Some would argue one’s programme is key, but politicians have begun selling their campaign. The idea of politics being an object to sell has been suggested by the Ile de France region’s FN Vice-President Jean Lin-Lacapelle. Former Commercial Director for L’Oreal, Le Pen hired him when she felt her party was plagued with an outdated reputation for racism and needed a revamp in the campaign.

He said: “Today, a political party is an enterprise, we have seven million consumers… and we need to recruit more… I’ve been hired to [motivate our] salespeople.”

Meanwhile, Macron’s programme is a light one which reflects heavier tones of populism than it does political intent. He has endorsed feminism and has said the Algerian War was an era of crimes against humanity which the country should move past. He believes Africa is the future of world economy and wants to work alongside it, though his manifesto does not elaborate on it.

Predictions regarding the next French President were heavily right-leaning, and current polls confirm this idea. Socialist Benoit Hamon has now been endorsed by the Green Party’s Yannick Jadot, who has dropped out of the race. Meanwhile, Jean-Luc Mélenchon persists, with little promise to be elected.

My working knowledge of French culture is limited to news outlets. I am therefore aware of how the candidates are progressing on the polls. My understanding of the general appreciation for the Left may be affected by what I’ve read, but it seems as though the Right have the Elysée wrapped around their finger, what matters now is who will take it.

The options are simple: fascism, elitism, or an improvement of education, women’s place in the workplace and re-instating France as an international business hub.

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