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.

Dreading that electors will vote to sanction the government, the French Socialist Party (PS) called upon the French “not to be mistaken on their anger”; the right and ”legitimate” anger being “the anger against the European conservatives who ruined Europe”, according to Jean-Christophe Cambadelis, First Secretary of the PS. His party hopes that voters will choose a tactical voting (called the “useful vote” in French), in order to enable a left-wing majority in Strasbourg and Brussels. That would be the condition if the next President of the European Commission were to be a socialist.

Meanwhile, the conservative party UMP is preoccupied with its own affairs. Alain Juppé, Ex-Prime Minister and long-standing- Mayor of Bordeaux (since 1995), called upon Henri Guaino, the eminent former counsellor of Nicholas Sarkozy, to leave the Party. Previously, Guaino had declared that he would not vote for the UMP at the European elections claiming that the head of the UMP list “incarnates the Europe which nobody wants any more”. The UMP’s deep divide between declared eurosceptics and europhiles might well be the major issue hindering the conservatives from taking advantage of the PS’ weakness.

Among all the squabbles and media attention given to the election, smaller parties find it very hard to make their stand. While the green party EELV and Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Left Front (“Finance is the enemy”) still gain some attention, the challenge is even tougher for the very small parties. Indeed, 193 lists are competing for the 74 French seats in the European Parliament.

Participating in these elections is tempting for them because of the proportional representation, whereas the traditional majority vote system leads to polarisation. Among the participants many single-issue parties can be found. Depending on their constituency, French voters will for example have a choice between the party for the legalisation of cannabis, the feminists’ party, the Basques party, the Esperanto party and the “Blank Vote Citizens”-party.

Manuel Valls’ government programme takes form

Manuel Valls, new Prime Minister, dashes ahead with the political programme which is to reconcile both the European Commission and disgruntled voters with the French government within the next three years.

Following the announcement of a 50 billion austerity plan, which was heavily criticised, Valls set off a charm offensive by promising that 1.8 million low wage earners would be released from the income tax soon. The missed out government revenues would be offset by fighting tax fraud. Valls’ new policy was welcomed by left-wing parliamentarians but less so by the Unions. “Sometimes, this government’s policies could be easily mistaken for the policies of Sarkozy”, complained a Unionist, who dreads the forthcoming austerity cuts. Unionists and employees also point at Pierre Gattaz, leader of the French Union of Employers (MEDEF) and CEO in the electronic components industry, who recently enjoyed a 30% rise, while the rest of the country is considering wage moderation.

Furthermore, Valls will promote the reform of French local authorities. The reform is to make regional governance more efficient and increase transparency. In order to do so, French President Francois Hollande suggested to reduce the number of regions from 22 to 12 and possibly to modify the organisation of the départements, which dates back to the French Revolution.

Cannes: Disappointed love and cheap porn

The 67th edition of the Cannes International Film Festival was launched in mid-May. The festival is to last for ten days and opened with the long awaited “Grace of Monaco”, a biopic on the famous actress who became a princess. Coincidently, Grace Kelly met and seduced her future husband Rainier III at the Cannes Festival in 1955. However, with regard to the current movie, neither the royal family of Monaco nor the public seem to be particularly love-stricken.

Another movie that was met with high expectations, although it is not part of the official selection – and certainly not about pure love – is “Welcome to New York”. The movie recounts the fateful days of May 2011, when Dominique Strauss-Kahn, then Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund and promising claimant to the French Presidency, was arrested for allegedly raping a cleaning lady. It’s a delicate topic, but the picture turned out to be rather coarse. Critiques mocked the “cheap soft porn”; Anne Sinclair, Strauss-Kahn’s wife, called it “disgusting”.

* first published on *

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