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Yet another reason to love France: French President Emmanuel Macron launched a website urging anyone concerned with climate change to move to France: www.MakeOurPlanetGreatAgain.fr –
From Paris to NYC and beyond, we’re all in disbelief. When I listened to the French news today on TV5 Monde, I thought of all the words related to this political and economic turning point that my students wouldn’t necessarily understand. I will list and translate some of the more important and common ones below to help in future efforts at comprehension.
Trump défie (defies) la planète. Il tourne le dos (is turning his back) au reste du monde. Sa décision: retirer (withdraw) les États-Unis de l’accord de Paris sur le climat. Résultat: “une onde de choc” (a shock wave), “un coup de tonnerre pour la planète” (a clap of thunder), “une condamnation unanime de la communauté internationale.”
Le Président français Macron condamne la décision en français et – aux Américains – en anglais. D’abord, en français: “Sur le climat, il n’y a pas de Plan B car il n’y a pas de Planète B.” Puis, en direct (live) à la télévision américaine: “We all share the same responsibility, make our planet great again.” The irony stings!
En signe de protestation, Paris illumine son Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) de vert. NYC habille (covers) plusieurs de ces monuments de vert aussi.
Trump est seul.
Why can’t we have something like this in Boston or New York? Last night, Paris and 30 other European countries celebrated their Nuit européenne des musées, an all-night event with FREE entry to all kinds of museums. All that “dans une ambiance festive et conviviale,” according to its website. The photos on the website will make you want to go there immediately!
Petit Palais – Musée des Beaux Arts de la ville de Paris
Ouf, whew, the Good Guy won and the French Trump equivalent lost, thank goodness! Reasonable people in France can finally breathe with relief.
Now there is a new challenge: they have to win the legislative elections in about a month, for which there will also be 2 rounds. Why is that tougher than for past presidents? Macron only recently put together his party so he has no party members in place around the country to run for 577 positions in the National Assembly.
There are several differences between French and American elections, one of which is that, at least in this one, the loser never conceded. Another seems to be that Macron chose his own inauguration date – or, at least, the date was just announced.
An interesting new word: l’intronisation = inauguration. It literally means enthronement but the French are using it the way we use inauguration.
A campaign blackout covers France today – no news of tomorrow’s elections in the media. I could write my friends info from here but that wouldn’t be kosher (catholique en français). Plus, I hope CNN and the web are still functioning there.
To compensate for this lack of political news, I’m offering 3 new anglicisms to my students and other anglos for free if they don’t know the traditional French terms. First, two English cognates that were considered major errors until recently and, then, an English word stolen for lack of a perfectly good French term:
confus/e used to mean embarrassed, overwhelmed, moved and now returns to its roots to include confused. (con + fuse)
opportunité – native English speakers used to have to force ourselves to say occasion to translate the English opportunity but we’re now allowed to trust our langage instincts.
low-cost = à prix réduit. Or do you think low-cost connotes something a bit different in the following statement from a letter Le Monde sent its subscribers today, May 5, 2017?
“C’est la mission des 400 journalistes du Monde, en France et à l’étranger, d’être vos envoyés spéciaux, de donner la parole aux plus grands intellectuels, de raconter ce qui dérange, d’aller au-delà du bruit médiatique et de l’information low cost.”
The tension is growing in pre-election France. Stephen “Etienne” Roop, a political scientist, expert in polling, tries to enlighten us here.
Subject: One week out, is the French first round turning into a photo finish?
The French media are breathless this weekend over a new poll which seems to say of the impending April 23 first round presidential vote: it’s now a foursome, and any combination of two can win. I’d say we need to take a deep breath before buying in quite yet.
For months a familiar two-part scenario for April 23 has seemed fixed in the minds of observers and ordinary citizens. First part: the two leading candidates in the polls, newcomer Emmanuel Macron and outsider Marine Le Pen, would continue their leads and easily win the first round and face each other in the second round, which is limited to the top two vote-getters in the first round. Second part: Macron would demolish Le Pen in the second round.
But on Friday, April 14, Le Monde said there was developing “a situation unprecedented in the last 50 years….” It based its claim on the newest poll from its highly respected pollster Ipsos, hot from the field April 12-13. The poll results are very clear: the April 23 race us suddenly a foursome. Just three points separate the four top candidates. As they have for months, Macron and Le Pen still lead, but now with only 22% each. Hard right Républicain standard bearer Francois Fillon, long an also-ran candidate dogged by scandal but bouyed by incredibly loyal supporters, is an also-ran no more, at 19%. The big drama is the unexpected consolidation on the left. Jean-Luc Mélenchon, head of his own party France Insoumise, has surged dramatically to 20% while the establishment socialist party’s candidate Benoît Hamon has collapsed. The margin of error in the Le Monde poll is +2.7%. That’s a startling amount of overlap, and thus uncertainty, among the four top candidates. A clear implication of Le Monde‘s poll is that both the current poll leaders, Macron and Le Pen, could be excluded from the second round. Since Le Pen has been the cynosure of the 2017 elections almost since the previous elections in 2012, her exclusion is certainly a stunning possibility. Since Macron has been, for many (including perhaps many abstainers), the genial antidote to Le Pen, his exclusion may be no less stunning. One or both of these exclusions would make for the final boulversement of this extraordinary presidential campaign.
How persuasive is Le Monde‘s Ipsos poll? Le Monde‘s voice is disproportionately influential in France, its pollster is highly respected, and the Ipsos poll results are the talk of April 23 watchers everywhere. But there are five other quite current polls. All six agree that the socialist party candidate Hamon is foundering and far-left candidate Mélenchon is soaring. But the April 23 messages of the other five are not uniform otherwise. BVA’s poll, in the field April 12-14, also shows a three point margin separating the top four candidates. Ifop-Fidicial, in the field April 11-14, shows a four-point margin. Does the one-day-more-recent field sample explain Ipsos’s tighter result? Unlikely. Odoxa, in the field exactly the same days as Le Monde‘s Ipsos poll, shows Macron and Le Pen close but a six point spread between the top four candidates. The Harris and Elabe polls likewise show Macron or Le Pen close, but a five-point spread between the top four. Harris was in the field April 11-13, Ifop-Fiducial April 11-14. It’s hard, without torturing the data, to get a consistent pattern here–for example, that nearness to today of time in the field leads to tighter results.
Focusing on one poll, however tantalizing its import, is dangerous. Better to look at the aggregate of these six current polls. I take a simple arithmetic average of the results and do not adjust for each poll’s sample size; this average is for voters who express a preference. The two leaders are clustered together: Macron is at 23.08% support, with Le Pen just trailing at 22.41%. The two followers are clearly behind, but close to one another: Fillon is in third with 19.42%, and Mélenchon just trails him at fourth, with 19.25%. So the spectrum is a bit more than four points. (Compare the latest poll compilation result in Le Huffington Post: Macron, 23%; Le Pen, 22.7%; Fillon, 19.5%; Mélenchon, 19.3%. Almost identical both in terms of candidate support and spectrum!) I did the same computation with each pollster’s previous poll, just to measure dynamics a bit. The in-field dates are more skewed than ‘for the current six polls (thus álso making a comparison with prior composite results in Le Huffington Post impossible). The results in the immediately prior polls are the same shape: Macron barely ahead of Le Pen, 23.4% to 23.3%, and they lead the other two, who are themselves close, with Fillon at 18.92 and Mélenchon at 18.33. The spectrum here is slightly over five points. So the race is tightening slightly, based on the dynamics these six pairs of polls reveal: Macron and Le Pen are drifting downward (as they have been for several weeks–especially Le Pen); Fillon’is rebounding slightly; Mélenchon alone is really rising. But I wouldn’t, yet, quite call it a foursome.
Entering the last week, each of the four candidates has strengths and weaknesses . Le Pen’s voters are the most loyal, though some data I have seen recently suggests some desertions after the debates on March 20 and April 4, and, again, her numbers have been trending downward over the last several weeks: two months ago today her Le Huffington composite was 26%, one month ago today it was 26.1%. Fillon also has loyal voters, and he has managed to fight back extremely bad press over the no-show jobs he gave his wife, for which they are now both in deep trouble with the French legal system; nonetheless most non-supporters wish he had dropped out of the race when that system began putting the screws to him, and they are unlikely to reward his persistence on April 23. So it is no surprise he has moved barely at all over time: two months ago he was 19.6% in the Le Huffington composite, 18.8% thirty days ago, 19.5% currently. Macron is the boy-wonder, young and appealing, and widely believed, by many people for a long time, to be the likeliest next president; nonetheless he’s a newcomer, and–perhaps as a necessary correlate of his rhetoric about transcending the left-right divide of French politics and taking good ideas wherever he finds them–his platform can be annoyingly vague, so subject to onslaughts from his more ideologically predictable rivals. Late in March he (barely) overtook Le Pen to top the Le Huffington composite (24.9% v. Le Pen’s 24.8%) but Macron had already peaked and both have since then drifted down together in lockstep, Macron always just barely ahead of Le Pen. Mélanchon has been around French politics for a long time and has a lot of baggage from his far-left past; nonetheless his oratory and his crowds of late have been impressive, and he has fairly vaulted upward in the last four weeks: sixty days ago, he was 11.8% in the Le Huffington composite (with Hamon over 15%), thirty days ago just 12.1% (to Hamon’s 13.1%). Mélenchon has gotten to his current 19.3% in the Le Huffington composite in no small part because of his excellent performance in both televised debates, and very adroit followup; he seems to have neutralized most of the whiff of old party apparatchik that has long bedeviled him, though of course not everyone is persuaded. (The folksy sweater doesn’t hurt!)
Plainly the question on every observer’s mind this week will be: can Mélenchon’s rise continue until April 23?
Mélenchon’s favorability among likely voters is, no surprise, rising even faster than his poll support. That rising favorability is probably the key to any further Mélenchon poll progress. Support might continue to come from Hamon voters jumping ship. Perhaps abstainers will no longer abstain.
Of course, Mélenchon’s further progress is not inevitable. The other candidates are unlikely to sit quietly for the last week. And while some voters may shift from another candidate or abstention to support Mélenchon, others may react to stop or slow his progress.
We’ll just have to hope the remaining polls of this coming week will give us some clues about where this suddenly much more interesting April 23 contest is going.
Here is the latest on the French elections from our French politics expert, Stephen “Etienne” Roop.
Les présidentielles 2017 posted: April 2, 2017
The first round of France’s two-round presidential election takes place on Sunday, April, 23, the second two weeks later, on Sunday, May 7. Despite lots of news and even more speculation, there has been no real poll movement in weeks in terms of who’s ahead. If current polls are accurate, three things seem clear:
- Newcomer Emmanuel Macron and veteran Marine Le Pen will take the top two places in the first round, and will face each other in the second.
- Macron and Le Pen will take a similar number of first round votes; it is presently impossible to project who will get more; together, they might carry, between them, a small majority of votes; and
- Nonetheless Macron is projected decisively to win the second round.
The French system of electing a president under the Fifth Republic is a clear comment on the Fourth Republic. The Fourth was notorious for frequent changes of government and consequent charges of instability (though, often, the same people went from one government to the next, just changing roles). There were many parties and much of political life, at least cosmetically, was about patching together a succession of new governments. The Fifth Republic is designed around a strong and quite independent president. (Would one expect anything less of one of its key founders, Charles De Gaulle?) And though many parties persist, the two-round system is designed to produce a president with majority support by limiting the second-round candidates to the top two vote-getters in the first round. (If a candidate gets a majority of votes in the first round, there is no second round, but this has never happened.) Of course, this is the majority support of those who vote. Abstentions are a commonplace of French politics, as they are of most political systems with elections, democratic or not.
This has been an election of considerable turbulence in France. Many fixtures of French politics for decades have fallen on the field of political battle; party loyalty has slipped considerably and several candidates are running as heads of fig-leaf parties they created for themselves. And there are deep ideological divisions, at least apparently.
So where does France’s system for producing a president seem to be going, three weeks out from the first round of the presidential election?
Innovation is one element transforming French politics this year. Primaries, a commonplace of American politics for decades, are happening in France for the first time. In each of the three parties that has tried them, on the left, the center-left and the right, leaders with long experience, poll support and the nod of pundits have been swept aside, sometimes by virtual unknowns, other times by lesser knowns.
The first hint of this came last October on the extreme left, in the race to be the candidate of the green party, Ecologie Europe—Les Verts (EE-LV). For press and pundits, the presumed favorite was Cécile Duflot, one of the EE-LV founders and a minister early in the Hollande years. But ordinary party members had quite different ideas. Duflot placed a distant third behind two others not widely known outside EE-LV circles, Yannick Yadot and Michèle Rivasi. Yadot beat Rivasi in the EE-LV primary’s second round on November 7, 2016.
In the Républicain primaries which followed in November, 2016, two major French party lions were slain. In the first round former president Nicolas Sarkozy was eliminated, probably ending his political career. This left Francois Fillon, a prime minister under President Sarkozy, and Alain Juppé, a prime minister under President Jacques Chirac, for the second round. Juppé had shown strongly in polls all summer, and though he was faltering badly in some polls as the first round approached; nonetheless he continued to score well among pundits. But again, as with EE-LV members, the rank-and-file Républicains had other ideas. Fillon, who had barely figured in national polls, placed first with 44% of the first round vote to Juppe’s surprisingly low 29%. Sarkozy trailed even further behind, with not quite 21%. The effects were immediate. New polls after the first Républicain round showed Fillon performing already impressively against Marine Le Pen, the leader of the extreme right Front National whose possible presidency had become the political question overhanging all others in the 2017 race. Fillon went on to trounce Juppé in the second Républicain round on November 27, taking 66% of the vote.
On December 2, 2016, days after Fillon’s second round Républicain primary victory, France’s sitting president, François Hollande, announced he would not, in the socialist primaries upcoming in January, 2017, run for another term as president. Hollande had been plagued by unpopularity almost from the start of his five-year term, and before his withdrawal had been hemorrhaging public support for months. In January, though, Hollande’s sitting prime minister Manuel Valls, became the latest lion to fall to party rank-and-file. He was edged out in the first round by Benoit Hamon, a leftist insurgent not widely known nationally but plainly well enough known to his socialist peers. Hamon went on to a decisive second-round victory on January 29, taking 58+% of the vote to Valls’ 41+%.
If innovation has left slain political lions everywhere, indignation should not be underestimated this year as a French political force. French polls show strong support for a candidate of the extreme right, the Front National (FN) headed by Marine Le Pen, and the extreme left, France Insoumise (FI–roughly, France Unbowed or, less passively, France Defiant), headed by Jean-Luc Mélenchon Indignation may indeed have more adherents than innovation. Of the three parties which had innovative primaries, one, EE-LV, no longer is in the presidential race, its candidate, Yannick Yadot, having withdrawn in late February to endorse the socialist standard-bearer Benoit Hamon. The other two innovation parties, the socialists and the Républicains, in polls for March, 2017, can claim at best about 35% of those expressing a preference among the range of candidates. Marine Le Pen has been steadily polling about 25% of those polled; at the start of March, Mélenchon’s was polling 10-11%, but has jumped to 14-16% since the March 20 debate among the five currently leading candidates in the first round. This means the indignation bloc represents somewhere around 40% of the voters, though divided unevenly between extreme right and extreme left.
So where is the rest of the electorate?
Less than 10% of voters support various third parties, of either the extreme left or, mainly, of the extreme right.
The remainder, around 25%, are supporting a virtually new face in French politics, Emmanuel Macron, creator of En Marche! (Forward!), one of the fig-leaf parties mentioned above. At least starting out, many saw Macron as a highly improbable candidate, since he lacked either an institutional base, long connection to French high politics, or poll support. Macron says he wants to transcend the customary left-right divide of French politics, and it is indeed a divide of historic proportions. His own career might be seen as an example of this transcendence. He has a quite traditional education for a French aspirant to high office, including training at France’s elite Ecole Nationale d’Administration and a position in France’s Inspectorat des Finances.. He then became an investment banker, in an entity belonging to the Rothschild Group, no less. He served two years, 2012-2014, as a junior economy minister in Hollande’s government. (Macron’s Wikipedia profile suggests he was not then a socialist but already an independent while he served.) But today, as much as transcendence, Macron is targeting the center of French politics—voters not interested in the extreme left represented by either Hamon or Mélenchon, or the extreme right as represented by Le Pen.
In this targeting Macron has benefitted from collapses both institutional and individual.
The institutional collapse, of course, is of the socialist party. The rank-and-file cling to their elected standard-bearer though recent polls suggest Hamon’s candidacy is of late in serious trouble with voters. Party members in the government, though, are seriously tilting towards Macron. Hollande’s own prime minister is the latest to endorse, just a few days ago. It is widely reported, though hotly disputed, that Hollande himself favors Macron, though Hollande has made most of the appropriate noises about sticking with his party’s elected candidate Hamon.
The individual collapse is of the Républicain candidate François Fillon. Fillon, from the start, presented himself as a conservative Catholic and the French Mr. Clean, a substantial claim in any case in a political system many regard as simply corrupt when not just hopelessly self-absorbed. In late January, shortly before the second round of the socialist primary, Le Canard enchaîné, a French satirical weekly with a deadly aim, began a series of exposés which began with revealing several no-show jobs for Fillon’s wife Penelope—hence the name of the affaire ever since in the French newspapers, Penelopegate. Further scandals have been regularly reported and widely discussed. Most voters want Fillon to withdraw from the race. He promised to do so if he were subjected to a step in a criminal investigation the French call a mise en examen, but the mise came and Fillon has not gone. (Now Madame Fillon is in the dock too.) Fillon slipped a bit in the polls after the first revelations but holds onto somewhere between 17 and 19% support.
For months, there has been very little movement in the polls. One blip, advantaging Macron, was the withdrawal from the race of the perennial candidate François Bayrou on February 22. Bayrou, too, had dreamed of capturing the French center but after three tries for the presidency his poll support was thinning out, particularly when, around January, Macron began to gain traction in the polls. Another recent change has seen Jean-Luc Mélenchon beginning to outpace the socialist candidate Benoit Hamon. There had been much speculation, when Hamon first became the socialist party candidate in late January, whether he and Mélenchon could form some kind of alliance-of-the-left, whose numbers, including all the fringe parties and perhaps new voters attracted by such an alliance, might well exceed Le Pen’s solid bloc and, possibly, win one of the two places in the second-round presidential election. (In some schemes, Macron could possibly win the second place!) But squabbling has been incessant, and now that Mélenchon is leading Hamon in the polls, there is (understandable) dispute over who the alliance’s unity candidate should be. So the left is unlikely to be a institutional factor in the coming elections: the socialists are in disarray if not terminal decline, and to their left there’s plenty of energy but it is expended in fighting.
And so, three weeks before the first round of its 2017 presidential elections, France is a deeply divided country—or at least so it seems on the surface. The extreme right (Le Pen) holds about 25% of the vote, and the hard right (Fillon) almost 20%. The extreme left (Mélanchon) holds about 15%, the hard left (Hamon) another 8-10%. All the remainder of the spectrum holds 25-27% of voters (Macron?). Or at least voters in the first round.
What remains for the first round but to wait it out? Some debates remain, but the only obvious candidate initiative right now to pull a first-round upset seems to be something from Fillon. There are only two possible Fillon targets, Le Pen and Macron. Virtually all polling data show Le Pen has her vote locked up. So Fillon’s only real choice for getting additional votes is Macron. And sure enough, the sniping has started, according to several articles in the French press this weekend. There are two themes from Fillon and Fillonistes. They are criticizing what must be candidly admitted is the vagueness of much of what Macron has to say. And on top of this is Macron’s inexperience. It remains to be seen what this will get Fillon. Macron has been criticized on both counts before, so far without obvious effect. He has remained solid in the polls, sometimes just ahead of Le Pen, sometimes just behind. Fillon is damaged goods. He has held on, remarkably, to his core, but most other voters have, for some time, felt he should bow out of the race.
The only other possible initiatives are “from below,” i.e. from the voters. The obvious initiative here is on the left, with ordinary voters deciding to take matters into their own hands and settling on one candidate of the left. But which side budges? And perhaps we will see other tactical voting in this first round, though the French seem quite content to vote their hearts in the first round. The obvious specter, for most voters, is Le Pen becoming president. But since virtually all polls show Le Pen losing against any opponent in the second round, what’s the motive for tactical voting? And what’s the assurance it will work?
It is unimaginable, with the divisions the polls reveal among voters, that any candidate can win a majority in the first round. Unless Fillon’s move against Macron succeeds, it appears today, three weeks from the first round voting, that Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron will make it to the second round.
In current polls, Le Pen and Macron together represent just a bare majority at most of French voters willing to identify a candidate to pollsters. Since only two candidates make it to the second round, where do all the other candidates’ voters go? These voters are of two kinds—those that voted in the first round (again, potentially a majority of those who voted in the first round) and those who were eligible to vote but did not.
If Fillon does not make the second round, the quick assumption of many has been Le Pen inherits his voters. This is too quick, I would say: older conservative Catholics, a Fillon mainstay, do not necessarily like Le Pen; small-government types may find her social welfare views too expansive; economic “liberals” will not like her dirigisme. This does not mean some Fillon voters won’t go for Le Pen, but many might stay home. A few might even go for Macron. Even with all Fillon’s votes, and assuming for the moment no new voters, Le Pen’s maximum take on the right, assuming she holds all her first-round voters, will be about 45%. It could well be less.
It’s assumed that Macron will get virtually all the voters to his left, on the argument they will be fleeing Le Pen at all costs. I think this argument is also too quick, especially as one goes farther left. If Macron is the “other” candidate, farther-left voters will have a very difficult cognitive conflict to manage. After all, Macron was a banker, and made a pile of money. He is pro-trade and pro-EU. He has made no secret he thinks the French economy needs an overhaul. Where does this leave farther left voters, many of whom despise rich people and wealth in general, and who are increasingly protectionist/nationalist? In many ways, Le Pen’s message reverberates for them—particularly her social welfare views. (Not a few commentators have said Le Pen, shrewdly, is culturally to the right, distributionally to the left.) Leftists may not like Le Pen’s anti-immigrant stance, but they are probably receptive to preserving auto jobs, to fostering family farms over agribusinesses, etc. Macron, for many leftists, may be too anglo-saxon. How do people manage cognitive conflicts? Generally, they try to avoid them. What’s the political equivalent of avoidance? Abstention. So it will be interesting to watch polling data in the last three weeks that discusses possible abstention, particularly such data focused on specific candidates or various clusters of voters. That data may be an early warning signal about who might abstain in the first round.
And what of eligible voters who chose not to vote in the first round? In the 2002 presidential election, Marine Le Pen’s father Jean Le Pen ran against Jacques Chirac. Each, in the first round, had limped over the finish line with under 20% of the vote. Votes tallied increased by 9% in the second round, and Le Pen increased his vote by 15% over his first round, but Chirac crushed Le Pen, 82+% to 17+%. Even though it was a race where many voters thought France’s destiny was in play, more than 28% of registered voters abstained in the first round, and more than 20% in the second round.
Recent polls for the 2017 contest suggest many more voters are planning to abstain. What will be the voters’ reaction to this Le Pen? Her father was irascible, venomous and, even then—many argued—blatantly anti-Semitic. Since then, Marine Le Pen has spent a lot of time burnishing the Front National—including kicking her father out. It’s a measure of how far she has come that, in the March 20 television debate among the five leading candidates, many, sometimes reluctantly, conceded she performed well enough, that she did not have horns, that she could smile and laugh without the bitterness or scorn her father so often showed his opponents.
This is not a prediction that Le Pen will win the first round, much less the first. The polls, presently, do not show this. But we know from other races that polls do not tell all, because subjects do not tell pollsters all. Le Pen is far from politically correct. She thrives on this, of course, but her followers are not fools. They have likely mastered lying low around people they do not trust. And near the top of the Front National’s distrust list is the press.