Report October 2015 (La banlieu)

Depraved Suburbs & Dashed Politics in the Regions: tensions Everywhere

France, 06 Oct – 02 Nov 2015

Riots in suburbia: ten years on ++ Another shift to the right ++ Regional elections lie ahead
by Matthieu Choblet

Riots in suburbia: ten years on

This year, France commemorates the violent events of autumn 2005 in the so called banlieue. These suburbs are the lost neighborhoods of French metropolitan regions, particularly around Paris, in which most people live in typical large housing blocks called HLM (rent-controlled-housing). Jobs are scarce and public transport connection to the city center reduced to a minimum.
„Report October 2015 (La banlieu)“ weiterlesen

Report July 2015 (Les Guignols, Cattles breeders‘ protest)

Popular Satire Show Banned from Free-to-Air TV

France, 14 Jul – 10 Aug 2015

TV show ‘Les Guignols’: Are the buffoons being muzzled? ++ Hollande’s ideas for France and Europe flouted by opposition ++ Cattle breeders protest against low meat prices
by Matthieu Choblet

TV show Les Guignols: Are the buffoons being muzzled?

 The French TV sector is in turmoil: Tycoon Vincent Bolloré has announced that he will reshape the broadcaster Canal+, a part of his corporate empire. At the heart of the discussion stands the satirical TV show Les Guignols, meaning ‘the buffoons’. The spoof news bulletin features latex puppets with the faces and imitated voices of France’s elite. Every weekday night, for five minutes, the show slates and scores off French politicians and celebrities – much to the delight of a wide audience and to the anger of many a prominent figure. Some critics have even claimed that the show was responsible for an anti-establishment mood among young French.

„Report July 2015 (Les Guignols, Cattles breeders‘ protest)“ weiterlesen

Report May 2015 (FN, suffrage, Cuba)

National Front Patriarch Loses Grip

France, 20 Apr – 18 May 2015

Jean-Marie Le Pen loses power struggle against his daughter ++ A history of female suffrage ++ François Hollande visits Cuba.
by Matthieu Choblet

Jean-Marie Le Pen loses power struggle against his daughter

The executive bureau of the far-right party National Front (FN) suspended its honorary member Jean-Marie Le Pen. The decision was initiated by Marine Le Pen, daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen and current president of the FN, following a provocative interview given by her father. Le Pen, co-founder of the FN in 1972 and its uncontested leader until 2011 has repeatedly caught attention for the belittlement of the Holocaust. So far Marine Le Pen had narrowed her father’s racist and anti-Semitic remarks as mere “political errors”. However, the renewed claim that Holocaust was “a detail of history” was the last straw.

„Report May 2015 (FN, suffrage, Cuba)“ weiterlesen

Report March 2015 (Départementales, European budget rule)

Local Elections – Will the Far-Right Gain More Influence?

France, 23 Feb – 22 Mar 2015

Departmental elections put political system under stress ++ France granted two more years to comply with European budget rule ++ Tragic helicopter crash leaves ten dead ++ Alleged death of Bouygues’ CEO Martin Bouygues.
by Matthieu Choblet

Departmental elections put political system under stress

Time for elections again in France: The first round of the French departmental elections took place on Sunday 22nd March. Not for the first time in this legislative period, elections, usually considered second-rank, put France’s political system under stress and make the governmental majority shiver.
The reason for this isn’t new either. In the run-up to the elections, the far-right party National Front (FN) was set to win more votes than any other party in the first round of the elections according to polls.

So is FN-leader Marine Le Pen right to claim that her party is “more than ever, the balance point of political life in France”? At least, she has every reason to believe that many voters will choose to penalise the governing Socialist party (PS). Sure enough, the general councils governing the 101 French departments are not the place to decide on popular FN-issues such as leaving the euro zone or the Schengen agreement. The council’s main responsibility lays in the management of welfare allowances and basic education. Anyway, the elections offered the opportunity to grouch on the reform of the departments (see French Report November 2014/2), to make welfare promises and … to reject “Islamic proselytism” in kindergarten.

„Report March 2015 (Départementales, European budget rule)“ weiterlesen

Report December 2014 (Sarkozy, Shop openings and industry shut-downs, Anti-Semitism)

Restless Sarkozy: Re-elected Party Head Promises to Unwind the Socialist Presidency

France, 20 Nov – 19 Dec 2014

Sarkozy head of party again, Socialists and National Front on the defensive ++ Shop openings and industry shut-downs ++ Violence and anti-Semitism.
by Matthieu Choblet

Sarkozy head of party again, Socialists and National Front on the defensive

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was (re-)elected head of the opposition party UMP (Union for a Popular Movement) with 64.5 percent of the votes, besting two rival candidates. Over 50 percent of the 268,000 party members participated via Internet. “64 percent is not the triumphal return Sarkozy was hoping for”, grumbled a spokesperson of the governing Socialist Party (PS). And yet, one of the most notorious politicians of the last decade is back on top at France’s major right-wing party.

The UMP was founded in 2002 by Jacques Chirac, former nominee for the Presidential election, with the aim to create a single right-wing party uniting pro-Europeanists and conservative sovereignists. Thereafter, the UMP was the ruling party for ten years until it collapsed in 2012: after Sarkozy’s defeat at the Presidential elections and the loss of the parliamentary majority, the party faced severe financial problems and its leadership was divided by a row over Sarkozy’s succession.

„Report December 2014 (Sarkozy, Shop openings and industry shut-downs, Anti-Semitism)“ weiterlesen

Report October 2014 (Nobel Prizes and Decline)

France a Nobel Laureate and yet in Decline?

France, 09 Oct – 22 Oct 2014

Government: „reforms are no courtesy, but simply the right thing“ ++ Nobel Prize surprise for Frenchmen ++ Right-wing intellectual in doubt about French virility.
by Matthieu Choblet

Government: „reforms are no courtesy, but simply the right thing“

The French government is pursuing its intention to implement decisive changes in the French economic and social framework. Its latest concerns: the unemployment insurance fund is in deficit of 3.8 bn. Euros in 2014 and the national budget is deep in the red as well, despite of renewed budget cuts. As a consequence, the European Commission is pressuring France to reduce its unemployment benefits. New Minister of the Economy Emmanuel Macron took this opportunity to announce a new reform, notwithstanding that the unemployment benefits were already overhauled in July this year. “No taboos!”, insisted Macron, who joined the government in August and plans to minimise the length and scope of the benefits.

„Report October 2014 (Nobel Prizes and Decline)“ weiterlesen

Report September 2014 (Government Reshuffle)

Ministers’ Rebellion leads to Government Reshuffle

France, 14 Aug – 10 Sep 2014

Government reshuffle in midst of ongoing political trouble ++ President’s ex publishes nasty accusations ++ Freed hostages identify their tormentor.
by Matthieu Choblet

Government reshuffle in midst of ongoing political trouble

French President François Hollande asked Prime Minister Manuel Valls to assemble a new government following the departure of three ministers, including the eloquent if somewhat insolent Arnaud Montebourg. Opinions defer on whether it was more of a resignation – as the official line goes – or if the ministers were actually forced to leave. In either way, the divide between the head of the executive and the three rebels or frondeurs as they are called in France had been obvious for a while and became even clearer in the last weeks.

“It is not possible to have a proper discussion with François Hollande anymore. Discussion with him are friendly, but useless” claims Montebourg in an interview recorded in June 2014 but only published now. The final brake up occured after Montebourg’s renewed criticism of the prevailing economic policies in the Eurozone. Indeed, Montebourg, who had swapped the sober title of Minister of the Economy for a shiny ‘Minister of Industrial Renewal’ is known for his decided leftist and interventionist stance.

„Report September 2014 (Government Reshuffle)“ weiterlesen

Report July 2014 (Strike at Avignon Arts Festival)

Workers on Strike at Avignon Arts Festival

France, 03 Jul – 16 Jul 2014

Start of Avignon arts festival delayed as arts workers dread benefit cut ++ Sarkozy against the red judge: Is France being “berlusconised”? ++ French football team returns home after quarterfinals.
by Matthieu Choblet

Start of Avignon arts festival delayed as arts workers dread benefit cuts

The famous Avignon arts festival, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors every year started one day late on Saturday 5th July in the court of the city’s medieval Palais des Papes. The delay was caused by a strike of the arts workers due to government plans to cut back their unemployment benefits. Since many of the arts workers struggle to find a regular occupation in between major festivals, they have little chance to make significant contributions to unemployment insurance. Therefore, they benefit from a particular government scheme for arts workers involving temporary occupation (called intermittent in French) – at least up to now.

„Report July 2014 (Strike at Avignon Arts Festival)“ weiterlesen

Report May 2014 (European Parliament Elections)

European Elections: Chilly prospects, anger and division

France, 08 May – 21 May 2014

Little enthusiasm before European Parliament Elections ++ Manuel Valls’ government programme takes form ++ Cannes: disappointed love and cheap soft porn.
by Matthieu Choblet

Little enthusiasm before European Parliament Elections

France is warming up for the European Parliamentary Elections, but some may end up being chilled to the bone if polls should translate into real votes on Sunday 25th. Indeed, the major French parties fear to be beaten by either the far-right party Front National (FN) or abstention or both.

„Report May 2014 (European Parliament Elections)“ weiterlesen

Report April 2014 (Manuel Valls, Jacques Le Goff, Rwanda)

Manuel Valls emerges victorious from Municipal Elections

France, 27 Mar – 09 Apr 2014

Election results mark a turn to the right ++ Death of an ogre: Jacques Le Goff passed away ++ Rwandan genocide: France not prepared to ‘face the truth’?
by Matthieu Choblet

Election results mark a turn to the right

President François Hollande proceeded to reshuffle his Cabinet following the debacle of the French Socialist Party (PS) at the municipal elections. An alteration of the Cabinet`s structure had been awaited for a couple of months, but Hollande finally waited till after the second ballot of the elections to apply the symbolic measure. Indeed, the second round largely confirmed the results of the first (see French Report March 2013/2). While the municipalities have no direct influence on government politics, the elections still mean a severe loss for the PS, which heavily relies on a network of regional safe-havens in times when its politics prove to be unsuccessful on a national level.

Former Interior Minister Manuel Valls, a man well known to Cosmopublic readers, will replace Jean-Marc Ayrault as Prime Minister. Valls is popular among voters, but not necessarily among voters of his own party. A right-wing man within the PS, he makes no secret about his penchant for economic liberalism and social democracy. In a survey among conservative voters last year, Valls proved to be more popular than the leading figures of the conservative party UMP.

The main task of the new government will be to apply the so-called pact of responsibility. The pact offers 20 billion euros in tax subsidies to the industry plus an additional 10 billion euros tax cut on other employment related expenses in exchange for a vague promise by entrepreneurs to create new jobs. Also, the new Prime Minister is expected to lead the cabinet with more authority than his unlucky predecessor, making an end to inter-ministerial squabbling. Profiting from the Green Party’s withdrawal from the government, Valls’ first act was to downsize the number of ministers from 20 to 16.

„Report April 2014 (Manuel Valls, Jacques Le Goff, Rwanda)“ weiterlesen