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2017 Elections - 24 September

President Emmanuel Macron's La République en marche (LREM) party suffered a setback in Senate elections on 24 September 2017 as the conservative Les Républicains strengthened their hold on the upper house of parliament. Initial results from the vote to renew 171 of 348 Senate seats were expected to leave the French president's LREM party with only 20-30 senators, a severe blow to Macron's hopes to increase the party's seats in the upper house significantly from the 29 it currently controls. The LREM lawmakers currently serving switched over to the party when it was formed in April 2016.

French senators are elected by 76,000 local and national lawmakers, not the general public, which put LREM at a significant disadvantage because the party is not yet present nationwide. Moreover, many of the local officials voting on Sunday are unhappy with Macron's plans to cut subsidies to regional governments – the new president has proposed some €300 million in funding cuts for local and regional authorities.

2017 Elections - "Third Round" 11 June / 18 June

Emmanuel Macron continued bulldozing France’s political establishment as his upstart La République en Marche! (RM) party topped the first-round legislative vote 11 June 2017 and appeared poised to claim a historic majority in parliament. Based on the first-round results, candidates from Macron’s LREM, a political party that scarcely existed one year earlier, was projected to gain between 415 and 445 seats in the 577-seat National Assembly in the second round of voting 18 June. It would represent the largest parliamentary majority for a single party in France since the end of World War II. The second and final round is next Sunday, June 18. The Elysée Palace had announced from the start that any minister who loses a legislative race must step down from the cabinet.

The election was also marked by a record-high abstention of 51.29 percent. Participation in French parliamentary elections has been in free fall over the past three decades. The year 1978 saw the highest participation in a first-round legislative vote, with 83.3 percent of voters casting a ballot. The lowest turnout – until now – was in 2012, when only 57.2 percent of voters participated.

The stakes were high for all political forces involved in these legislative elections as Macron and his La République en Marche look to assemble the majority the president needs to push through his agenda, while others, like the Socialist Party, were fighting for their political survival. President Emmanuel Macron’s party topped the first round of France's legislative polls with 32% of the vote, ahead of the conservatives (22%) and the far right (14%). The mainstream conservative Les Républicains party was projected to win between 70 and 110 seats in the next Assembly.

Support for the FN dropped from around 21 percent nationwide during the presidential race, to just 13.2 percent in the legislative contest. Ipsos predicted the far-right camp would send between one and five lawmakers to the National Assembly, where it currently counts two members, far from the 15 minimum seats it needs to form its own parliamentary group, which meant less funds and speaking time.

Socialist Party (PS) leader Jean-Christophe Cambadélis, who was running for a seat himself in Paris, called the national results "an unprecedented step back for the left" and the Socialists. He said the massive majority Macron was projected to win in the National Assembly was "neither healthy nor desirable" and warned against "unanimity" in parliament. The ruling Socialist Party , red-faced after finishing a distant fifth in the presidential contest in April, appeared to lose its fight to stay relevant. The party of former president François Hollande and its allies managed to take just 9.51 percent of 11 June first round votes and saw several former ministers ejected from constituencies they once considered airtight. The Socialists occupied around 280 seats in the outgoing Assembly, and may save as few as 20 of them when the parliamentary battle was over.

Another stinging defeat was inflicted on Benoit Hamon, the Socialist Party’s unsuccessful candidate in the presidential race. Other prominent Socialists who were dumped out in the first round included former interior minister Matthias Fekl and former culture minister Aurélie Filipetti.

Macron’s movement, La République En Marche!, was so new that it had no parliamentary seats at all, and some predicted it probably lacked the political machinery needed to win many. An OpinionWay/ORPI poll released 18 May 2017 found Macron's Republic on the Move (REM) set to win 27 percent of votes in the first round of the National Assembly election on June 11, ahead of all other parties. It projected that, after the second round on June 18, Macron's party would have secured 280-300 of the 535 mainland seats in the lower house. When overseas territories are included, 289 seats are needed for an absolute majority.

Two other polls published on 18 May 2017 by Harris Interactive had Macron's party leading with 32 percent, up three points since May 11 and six points since May 7. But another survey sounded a cautionary note, finding that only 45 percent of voters had confidence in Macron and even fewer in Prime Minister Edouard Philippe - the lowest ratings for French leaders starting their terms in over 20 years.

The Socialists were certain to lose their substantial parliamentary majority — 280 of the National Assembly’s 577 seats — and the Republicans may well lose some of their 194 seats.

President - Round Two 07 May 2017

Independent centrist Emmanuel Macron became France’s youngest ever president after earning a decisive win the country’s run-off vote on Sunday 07 May 2017. The win marks a climax for Macron’s meteoric rise from relative obscurity, but the tough task of building a governing majority for his newcomer En Marche! movement was yet to come. The 39-year-old political neophyte, who had never been elected to any office before winning his country’s top job, beat anti-immigration Europhobe Marine Le Pen, with 65.8 percent of the vote to Le Pen’s 34.2 percent, according to estimates released after final polls closed at 8pm Paris time.

The wide margin of victory was not a record in French presidential politics – conservative President Jacques Chirac beat Le Pen’s father, National Front founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, 82.2 percent to 17.8 percent in 2002 – but it did top all recent polling in a twist-after-twist presidential campaign.

With double her father’s score 15 years ago, the populist Le Pen’s figure nevertheless marks a watershed moment in the history of the far-right National Front. It affirms her place as a force to be reckoned with in French politics just as the country’s political landscape was in unprecedented flux after first-round defeats of both of the political forces on the conservative right and socialist left that have governed France for decades. In remarks shortly after polls closed on Sunday, Le Pen said, “The National Front… must deeply renew itself in order to rise to the historic opportunity and meet the French people’s expectations.” She pledged during her brief address to supporters to “propose to start this deep transformation of our movement in order to make a new political force.”

Polls projected that pro-Europe centrist Emmanuel Macron gained 23.7 % of the vote, and far-right populist Marine Le Pen got 21.7% of the vote. The two thus advanced from the first round of voting in France's presidential election to the winner-takes-all runoff on May 7. Tied for third place, Fillon was at 19.5% and Mélenchon was at 19.5%, according to early results. Turnout in the French presidential election was 69.42 percent at 1500 GMT, one of its highest levels in 40 years, data from the interior ministry showed Sunday 23 April 2017. The figure was about one percentage point lower than the same stage at the last election in 2012, but polling booths would stay open an hour longer this time, closing at 1700 GMT or 1800 GMT in mainland France. Meanwhile, around 1.3 million French people abroad were registered to vote – representing around two percent of the total electorate.

President - Round One - 23 April

The two rounds of France's 2017 presidential elections would take place on April 23 and May 7, the government announced on 04 May 2016. Parliamentary elections would take place right after, on June 11 and June 18.

Former French prime ministers François Fillon and Alain Juppé vied for the conservative nomination in a primary run-off after handing former president Nicolas Sarkozy a shock defeat on Sunday 20 November 2016. Fillon stunned his opponents by taking more that 44% of the vote, well ahead of Juppé (28%) and Sarkozy (20%). The former president conceded defeat and endorsed Fillon for next week's second round. With the ruling Socialists all but written off, opinion polls suggested whoever wins the nomination would likely face – and defeat – far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the presidential run-off. Organisers reported strong turnout, topping 2.5 million at 5pm local time (GMT+1).

Many of same issues playing out in the US campaign also resonated in France. Voters were disenchanted with the status quo, worried about jobs, and fearful of the downsides of immigration, globalization and militant Islam. These concerns were powering a hunger for new faces and new solutions. All of this has sent former prime minister and current mayor of Bordeaux Alain Juppe and many other mainstream candidates scrambling to rebrand, eager to ditch their insider image. The National Front consistently ranked as France’s most popular party, suggesting major mainstream parties may have a tough battle ahead of the 2017 presidential vote. Far-right party leader Marine Le Pen was seen making it to the run-off between the top two candidates after the first round, but then losing.

Aside from Le Pen, the two most popular figures on the right and the left are, respectively, the oldest and youngest potential candidates: Alain Juppé, who served as Prime Minister under Chirac, and Emmanuel Macron, Hollande’s Minister of Economy, Industry, and Digital Affairs. Opinion polls showed former prime minister Alain Juppe from the center-right Les Republicains party as the front-runner. Juppé’s ratings in opinion polls have been remarkably steady, and Macron’s have been surprisingly high.

Regional elections were regarded as a launch pad for the presidential elections in 2017, and a win could significantly boost a candidate’s chances.

Former French interior minister Claude Gueant was on 06 March 2015 charged with tax evasion and forgery in connection with a probe into allegations that former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi helped finance Nicolas Sarkozy's 2007 presidential election campaign. Investigators discovered a 500,000-euro transfer in Gueant's bank account during a raid in February 2013. Gueant, who was Sarkozy's right-hand man for a decade, claimed the money was the proceeds of the sale of two 17th-century Flemish paintings to a Malaysian lawyer.

Accusations that Sarkozy's successful 2007 campaign was financed by Gaddafi’s Libya emerged after the first round of voting in the 2012 election, when the Mediapart website published a document dating from 2006 and setting out an arrangement for 50 million euros to be paid, illegally, to the campaign. Sarkozy said the document was a forgery, and was backed by the former Libyan intelligence chief Moussa Koussa whose signature was on it.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls warned 08 March 2015 that the far-right Front National (FN) party could win the next presidential election in 2017, saying their policies were a "disaster" for the country. "Do you not think that a FN which wins 25 percent in European elections and maybe 30 percent in local elections... cannot win the presidential election?" Valls said on French television channel iTele. "Not in 2022, not in 2029, but in 2017," he added. According to an OpinionWay survey for Metronews and LCI published on 06 March 2015, the opposition right-wing UMP party would win 29 percent in the first round of the local elections, just ahead of the FN which was credited with 28 percent of the vote.

French President François Hollande’s approval ratings jumped in the wake of the 13 November 2015 attacks in Paris. Since his election in 2012, Hollande’s approval ratings had been consistently low, making him one of the most unpopular presidents in recent French history. But according to two new polls, Hollande’s ratings surged over his handling of the November 13 attacks in Paris, which claimed the lives of 130 people.

One survey by market and opinion researcher BVA published on 21 November 2015 found that 33 percent of French people had a “good opinion” of Hollande – up from 25 percent in October – while his disapproval rating fell 10 points to 65 percent.

Another poll by Ifop for the weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche also marked a significant jump in Hollande’s popularity, with 27 percent “very or somewhat satisfied” with his performance, up from 20 percent the month before.

It was unclear, however, whether Hollande’s improved ratings would have an impact on his Socialist Party’s chances in the country’s upcoming regional elections on December 6 and December 13. The president saw a similar spike in popularity after January’s deadly attacks on French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery store in Paris. But his polling slipped in the months that followed as the public’s attention shifted to other issues, reaching a 2015-low in October.

The National Front had led in at least six of the country’s 13 regions in the first part of elections 06 December 2015. But early results of the second round of elections 13 December 2015 showed the Republican party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy and his center-right allies leading in seven regions. The governing Socialist and other leftist parties won in at least five. But theNational Front ’s strong showing - earning one-third or more of the vote in some regions - underscored its steady gains in recent years, including in March local elections and last year’s European Union ones.

As incumbent, Hollande by French tradition has a right of first refusal on whether he would take his party's ticket into the May 2017 election. He was still not officially candidate and has said he would decide by the end of 2016.

The conservative opposition Les Républicains (LR) party was due to hold its primaries in November 2016 to choose its candidate for the 2017 vote.

Hollande, one of the least popular presidents of modern times, would fail to make it past the first round in 2017’s presidential election in most realistic scenarios, according to an opinion poll published 18 April 2016. The opinion poll was conducted on April 15 and 16, questioning 1011 registered voters across France. Against all the leading mainstream right-wing contenders, Hollande would fail to take second place, with Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front coming first in all but one case, the TNS Sofres-OnePoint survey found.

Alain Juppé, who was Prime Minister from 1995 to 1997 under Jacques Chirac, had a strong political pedigree that was respected by voters. Under Nicolas Sarkozy, he went on to become environment minister (2007) then defence minister from 2010 to 2011 and finally foreign minister between 2011 and 2012. According to the survey, he was the only candidate who would beat Marine Le Pen in the first round.

Juppé, who was currently mayor of Bordeaux, was the bookies’ favorite to win overall in 2017. According to the poll, he would take 35 percent in the first round, with Marine Le Pen coming second with 26 percent, and Hollande trailing third with just 13 percent support.

Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, embroiled in a seemingly endless series of scandals relating to his time in office (2007-2012), would come second in the first round with 24 percent, according to the poll, behind Marine Le Pen on 29 percent. Hollande would languish in third place with 16 percent.

The poll predicted François Fillon, who was prime minister under Sarkozy from 2007 to 2012, would also take second place with 23 percent, behind Marine Le Pen on 32 percent. Hollande would once again be at the bottom of the pile, with just 14 percent.

Bruno Le Maire, who served as agriculture minister under Nicolas Sarkozy from 2009 to 2012, follows the pattern by also coming second to Le Pen, with 21 percent to her 30 percent. In this scenario, Hollande would come fourth, on 11 percent, behind far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon who would take 16 percent.

Many French voters – 28 percent – think former banker and Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron should represent the Socialist Party, even though he was not a party member and recently launched his own political movement “En Marche !” (which roughly translates as “Forward!"). This put Macron well ahead of other Socialist hopefuls, including Prime Minister Manuel Valls, with just 14 percent approval, and Martine Aubry, with 12 percent.

Only 11 percent of voters wanted Hollande to present himself as a candidate at all, according to the survey. Even among confirmed Socialist supporters, only 39 percent feel he should stand.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets across France for nationwide strikes protesting a government labor reform proposal that would make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers and weaken the power of unions. Protesters clashed with police as several thousand people shouting anti-government slogans marched through Paris, demanding the government reverse its labor bill. Protesters met with waves of tear gas as police fought bands of masked marchers.

As union activists disrupted fuel supplies, trains and nuclear plants around the country, French Transport Minister Alain Vidalies played down concerns that strikes would lead to blackouts, saying France could import electricity if needed. Prime Minister Manuel Valls, fighting for his political survival, insisted the legislation would not be withdrawn, but said it might still be possible to make “changes” or “improvements”, though he insisted the government would not abandon it. There were signs of cracks within the government, with Finance Minister Michel Sapin suggesting the most contested part of the law should be rewritten

President Francois Hollande vowed 27 May 2016 to “stand firm” over a controversial labor law as unions called on workers to step up a wave of industrial action gripping the country. France was battling fuel shortages, transport disruption and violent demonstrations, just as it gears up to host the Euro 2016 football championships in two weeks’ time. The social unrest showed little sign of easing as unions urged workers to pile the pressure on Hollande’s deeply unpopular Socialist government by continuing to strike. Union leaders also said the government’s response to the strikes and its “stubbornness” in refusing to withdraw the controversial bill was only “boosting the determination” of opponents to the reforms.

In Nice, the public reaction to the Bastille Day rampage was very different from the Paris attack in 2015. Instead of solidarity, accusations were flying over the leftist government’s failure to prevent a third terrorist strike in just 18 months. The mood on the streets was sullen and fearful. And less than a year before French elections, security — along with jobs and growth — emerged as a top campaign theme. France’s premier Manuel Valls was booed by crowds that had gathered for a minute of silence in the city of Nice to honor the memory of the 84 killed in the deadly attack on Bastille Day. “Murderers!” hecklers shouted to Prime Minister Manuel Valls as he joined the gathering in Nice. “Resign!” An IFOP poll taken a day after the attack found 67 percent of those surveyed had no confidence in the government’s ability to fight terrorism.

The Nice region on the Mediterranean, an hour's flight from Tunis, was home to a large number of Tunisian and Algerian Muslims. Nice was a hotbead of support for the National Front, with the issue of French identity hostage of the French right. The National Front (FN) party wants to slash immigration from North Africa. The Mediterranean coast was particularly fertile ground for the National Front, with many descendants of the Pieds-Noirs [literally Black-Foot, a term with unclear and debated origen], French-Algerian colonists expelled to France after Algeria’s bloody war of independence ended in 1962. Upon their arrival in France, many of the Pied-Noirs felt ostracized because many French believed the Pied-Noirs were the cause of the conflict and political humiliation in Algeria.

Hollande’s political opponents did not wait for the fallout. “I know that we should not fight and tear each other apart when the victims aren’t yet buried,” former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who was competing in a November primary for the ticket to run as presidential candidate for France’s mainstream center-right parties, told French TV. “But everything that should have been done over the past 18 months was not done.” Another presidential hopeful, former Prime Minister Alain Juppe, offered similar words. “If everything had been done, this attack would not have happened,” he concluded. For her part, far right, anti-immigration leader Marine Le Pen has called on French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to resign. “In any other country, a minister with a record as disgraceful as Bernard Cazeneuve’s — 250 dead in 18 months — would have stepped down a long time ago,” she said.

Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker who was Hollande’s economy minister until August 2016, also announced his candidacy on 16 November 2016. Although Macron was among France's most popular politicians, the 38-year-old, who would stand as an independent, ddid not hold elected office and had no party apparatus behind him. And while he had yet to set out his policies in any detail, he was widely seen as the candidate most likely to take votes from conservative Juppé in the first round of the presidential election.

Seven candidates, including former French President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Alain Juppé, sought Les Républicains party nomination to run for the 2017 presidential election. Under the rules, the primary heads for a second round on November 27 if no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote on 20 November 2016. Sarkozy campaigned on a hardline law-and-order platform, while Juppé, an experienced politician and mayor of Bordeaux, had been consistently leading in the polls. The race for the was widely viewed as a two-man race between Sarkozy and Juppé. However, by mid-November 2016, another former French prime minister, François Fillon, enjoyed a sudden spike in the poll ratings.

Juppé was among the country’s most loathed politicians in the 1990s, when he served as prime minister. Among the seven contenders in the Republican primary, two were former prime ministers, one was ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, while the other four were veteran politicians. When candidate Jean-Francois Coppe vastly underestimated the cost of a croissant recently, his rivals and the media pounced, suggesting he was disconnected with the concerns of ordinary voters.

An OpinionWay survey published 15 November 2016 showed Fillon, who had been languishing in a distant third place, taking 25 percent of likely voters, putting him neck and neck with his former boss Sarkozy. Similarly, an Ifop-Fiducial poll for Sud Radio released 17 November 2016 saw Fillon getting 27 percent of votes in Sunday’s first round, versus 31 percent for Juppé and 30 percent for Sarkozy. However a poll by Cevipof and Ipsos-Sopra Steria published 17 November 2016 showed Juppé scoring 36 percent of votes in the opening round of the Les Republicains party primary, with Sarkozy, at 29 percent, qualifying for a runoff against Juppé a week later.

Juppé was also favored to win the presidential election in May 2017, in a likely second-round runoff against far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen. The Cevipof poll confirmed the widely held expectation that the left would be eliminated as a real force in the 2017 poll with Le Pen making it to the second round against a centre-right opponent. The winner of the 20 November 2016 primaries would therefore be the favorite to become French president, given the weakness of the ruling Socialists and the record unpopularity of current President François Hollande, who had yet to declare whether he would run for a second term in office.

During the campaign, commentators and experts suggested that a high turnout would not play in the hands of Sarkozy who mostly relied on support from party activists. Turnout was unexpectedly high. Nearly four million people cast their ballots. Some 30 percent of the voters were the electorate of the left and the National Front far-right movement as well as politically neutral voters.

President Francois Hollande's decision 01 December 2016 not to run for a second term may not change the outcome of French elections, analysts say, but it reflected a broader populist backlash that was upending politics in Europe and the United States. Hollande became the first president in modern French history not to run for re-election, but he also faced record unpopularity, with approval ratings recently dipping to 4 percent. "In the months to come, my only duty will be to continue to lead my country," Hollande said in a hastily scheduled televised address, in which he did not endorse a leftist successor.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls, was saddled with the same political legacy as Hollande, making his own presidential prospects uncertain. BFM TV, a 24-hour rolling news and weather channel based in France, described Hollande as handing his prime minister a "poisoned present." The January 2017 Socialist primaries could pit centrist-minded Valls against much more leftist ex-economy minister Arnaud Montebourg.

A POP 2017 poll released on 12 January 2017 put Le Pen in first place for the first round of the election on 25 percent, just ahead of Fillon on 24 percent, although if Fillon were to face her in a second round, the same poll predicts he would beat her comfortably. The same poll shows Macron steadily gaining ground on Fillon and Le Pen, on 20 percent. He would also, according to the surveys, comfortably beat Le Pen in a second round, in which he was a whisker ahead of Fillon.

An Elabre poll published on 12 January 2017 showed that Macron was France’s most popular politician, with 41 percent saying they had a positive image of him, ahead of Fillon (35 percent) and Le Pen (29 percent). Betting markets also show a swing behind a candidate who was seen as a rank outsider at the end of 2016. The bookmakers’ odds of him winning have jumped from 7/1 to 4/1 in as little as a week, although Fillon remains firm favorite, in front of Le Pen at 3/1.

Surveys carried out during the primary in November 2016 showed that “integrity” was Fillon’s main vote-winner. It was the contrast between his austere, un-divorced, father-of-five persona and the scandal-plagued Nicolas Sarkozy that swayed so many social conservatives. “His candidacy rests on three pillars: probity, a strong work ethic and an aversion to state handouts,” Thomas Guénolé, a writer and political analyst, said 01 February 2017. “All three [pillars] are blown away by PenelopeGate,” he added.

Sixty-eight percent of respondents want French presidential hopeful François Fillon to withdraw from the election, a 04 February 2017 poll showed. Fillon’s popularity plunged following allegations that his wife was paid hundreds of thousands of euros for a "fake" job. The blow to Fillon’s reputation was measured by an Ifop poll conducted for Le Journal du Dimanche. Only 23 percent of those who took part in the poll consider the conservative candidate, who was until recently poised to become France's next president, “honest,” compared with 77 percent who think he was not.

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Page last modified: 26-09-2017 18:50:58 ZULU