2022 Presidential election

A few pistes de réflexion from me re the 2022 Presidentials…

In the coming weeks I’ll try to “passer en revue” (to examine, to review) the current state of the parties competing in next year’s elections (10 & 24 April 2022) as well as the already-declared candidates (Marine Le Pen, Xavier Bertrand etc.) + the putative, potential and fringe candidates.

As in 2017, all the main parties will be represented (with the notable addition of the Parti Communiste, absent from the last two presidentials, as well as EELV, the Greens, who last time pulled out two months before election day) and a dozen candidates should be on the starting line when the campaign starts proper circa September, but most parties will be active this summer (Universités d’été in August for most parties etc.).

To kick-start the topic: Macron & LREM.

It could be argued that Macron’s surprise election in 2017 happened on a “malentendu” and a good dollop of fluke. The planets aligned perfectly for Macron as he benefited from the centrist Bayrou’s pulling out (after striking a deal with Macron); benefited from the cataclysmic meltdown of the Parti Socialiste, with François Hollande ending his term on record impopularity ratings of 4% (Le Monde, Oct. 2016: Seuls 4 % des Français sont satisfaits de l’action de Hollande); from Fillon’s collapse in the voting intentions from the end of January 2017 (when the investigative weekly Le Canard Enchaîné serialised its damning revelations, which in passing are bound to have come from s.o who knew the Fillons extremely well and had a huge beef against F. Fillon; the names of Dati and Sarkozy were mentioned, both had solid reasons to torpedo Fillon’s political career and land him in bother with the law as a bonus).

This time round, no “malentendu”, no more hollow promises of a “nouveau monde”, the Macron novelty has worn off, people know what’s in the tin and that could be Macron’s undoing. In addition, poor results in recent local elections, the Municipals last year and the Regionals-Departmentals just gone, have hurt.
It is a new party and therefore is not well established locally but some particularly dire results worry the top LREM brass, which explains Macron’s total lack of comment post election, it clearly is an embarrassment for LREM.

On the other hand, local and national elections are very different beasts in France and Macron’s popularity ratings, bar one of two hiccups (particularly the Benalla Affair in summer 2018, in the aftermath of which Macron lost 15 % points, which he then very slowly regained, and the Gilets Jaunes jacquerie a few months later), have held well, eg this recent poll: Emmanuel Macron : sa cote de popularité grimpe à 48 %.

However, good popularity ratings taken in isolation don’t necessarily translate well in a Presidential with another 10 candidates on the starting line. But he knows that he can hit the mid-20s and therefore make it to the 2nd round.

One potential banana skin too would be to have Xavier Bertrand as the Les Républicains candidate opponent,

The campaign has already started for X. Bertrand (pic above, taken yesterday), he’s been driving a “presidential” 4L… (this electric 4L, made in a Renault factory in Douai near Lille. Macron is supposed to visit the factory soon and and the Renault boss has had a 4L marked “Présidence de la République” to welcome Macron to the plant. Bertrand saw a photo op and cheekily stole a march on Macron…).

(Bertrand being ahead in the polls vs both Valérie Pécresse and Laurent Wauquiez) as he’s basically a political clone of Macron (as is Pécresse) and that would eat into Macron’s votes. Whatever the pair might say, between Macron and Bertrand it’s “kif kif bourricot” as they say in France (six of one and half etc.) and after “trying out” Macron many moderate rightwing voters could be tempted to plump for Bertrand.

Another problem for Macron, should he be re-elected, will be LREM struggling to get anywhere near the same number of MPs as in 2017 (about 310, out of 577) in the following Législatives (June 2022) and therefore achieve a parliamentary majority at the National Assembly. Consequently, alliances, as ever, will be crucial to avoid a hung parliament.



The Parti Socialiste.

In disarray nationally since 2017 (faring better locally, Municipals/ Regionals/Departmentals) where the PS candidate, Benoît Hamon, hamstrung by Hollande’s rabid impopularity, recorded the worst score at a Presidential since 1969 (6.4%), many left-leaning voters plumping for either Macron or Mélenchon as a “vote utile” (strategic voting) was the only realistic option for many, in particular to avoid a Fillon-Le Pen run-off.

The Parti Socialiste ended up with 30 MPs in June 2017 vs about 300 five years before and a massive financial headache which forced them to sell their plush Parisian HQs, for a cool €46 million (since the massive corruption scandals of the 1970s-1990s and the subsequent transparency laws – from the Loi Rocard in 1988 – which I’ve written about on here before, political parties in France are partially funded by the state and the € they receive yearly is based on 2 metrics: the number of MPs they have, each député or senator is worth €38,000 per year for the party; the number of votes they get at the Législatives, each vote being worth €1.42 per year. Pre-2017 the PS received €25 m a year, post-2017: a paltry €7m.

This dire situation has forced the PS into a corner and they are rumoured to be contemplating a possible alliance with EELV (the Greens) and other leftwing parties (eg B.Hamon’s Génération.s party). The new PS leader since 2018, the uncharismatic Olivier Faure, is unlikely to be a candidate and has hinted that an alliance with EELV, the Greens, is on the cards but the road ahead is very rocky road (issues around the primaries, a few egos to tame both within the PS and EELV, 1 leader straddling the 2 parties to choose etc.) and we won’t known until at least October 2021 (PS will have their big party conference at the end of September, things will be decided then).

Anne Hidalgo, who has held the Paris mayorship since 2014 thanks to the Greens, is keen to be that candidate. Problem is, she is seen as “too Parisian” and after the Macron years (although not a Parisian Macron was educated in Paris from age 16, went to L’ÉNA etc. and is a product of the Parisian establishment), the Gilets Jaunes etc. it is thought that having someone labelled as Parisian could be a political mistake. The more provincial Yannick Jadot (EELV) could be that candidate of the PS-EELV alliance.

Neither Hidalgo nor Jadot has so far officially announced their candidacy and as of today the Greens are in total disagreement on how to nominate such a candidate (Open primaries? Closed primaries? etc.). More on the subject when I do the EELV vignette.

Anne Hidalgo would prefer not to go through a primary, where she would probably be defeated. A work in progress then and lots to finalise before October.


EELV (Europe Écologie Les Verts)/The Greens .

The Greens have “le vent en poupe” (they’re riding high), bigly. After recording good results in the Euro elections in 2019 (14%), they were the major surprise of the 2020 Municipals as they took a surprisingly high number of major cities, mainly via a coalition (The Guardian: France was swept by a green wave on Sunday as ecology candidates won a number of major victories in the country’s local elections.).

The Greens as a national political force are hardly new in France. The legendary René Dumont paved the way as the first Presidential candidate, in 1974 (he was no “bobo” environmentalist, he lived on a ramshackle barge and did part of his campaign on his bike, crisscrossing the country to spread the ecological message), and they have had a number of candidates at the Presidentials since 1974 as well as high-profile politicians: Brice Lalonde, Antoine Waechter, Dominique Voynet, Yves Cochet, the former TV journalist Noël Mamère, Cécile Duflot, Eva Joly, household name Nicolas Hulot - a sort of French David Attenborough - etc. - they’ve been MPs, MEPs, ministers etc.

However, they’ve tended to be politely listened to, and then be gobbled up by the system as Realpolitik set in (for instance, in the form of the powerful French nuclear lobby). The highest Greens’ score in a Presidential belongs to Noël Mamère in 2002, with 5.3%.

This time, the Greens harbour real hopes of blasting such scores and dining at the top table. After registering excellent scores in 2019 and 2020, they will be looking to cash in on their new fame, both in the Presidentials and the subsequent Législatives.

The three-mile long “Coulée Verte” in Paris, the world’s first elevated park walkway after which the New York High Line and others are modelled, is named after René Dumont.

However, as I wrote approx. 3 months ago, the French Greens are very divided, and this rise in popularity, and consequently media exposure, has exposed their faultlines. Roughly speaking they are split into two camps, the “radical” Greens and the “moderate” centre-Left Greens, the former being represented by Grenoble mayor Éric Piolle and the latter strand by the more charismatic media-friendly MEP Yannick Jadot who is widely touted to represent them next year. Or, what he would much prefer: be part of a coalition with the Socialists (developed along a “social-ecologist axis”) and be the leader of such a coalition that could potentially reach the 2nd round and then, anything’s possible…

However, there are serious leadership issues within the Greens (Jadot and the other big Green cheese Éric Piolle, the Grenoble mayor and big Anne Hidalgo buddy, have never seen eye to eye) as well as a fundamental disagreement over how to nominate the EELV candidate for the Presidentials. So, before talking about an alliance with the Socialist Party, the Greens need to solve their internal problems first. Piolle is determined to be that candidate (today: Eric Piolle candidat à la primaire écologiste), via a primary. Doing things by the book is more Piolle’s thing, vs the flashier Jadot.

After months of public disagreements and rows, they have agreed to hold a primary, at the end of September 2021… but Yannick Jadot, their main presidential hope, is dragging his feet and hasn’t yet officially entered the primary fray.

Jadot won the EELV primary for the 2017 Presidentials but pulled out of the race in February 2017 essentially because he was polling very low (around 2%). Times are very different but Jadot knows that only an alliance, preferably with the Socialists but also including Benoît Hamon if the latter runs, combined with a solid and professional campaign free of the well-publicised many “howlers” made by Greens officials in the last two years (Poitiers, Lyon, Bordeaux, Vincennes, Colombes…), could deliver a presence in the 2nd round.


It will be an interesting summer and autumn as the potential field becomes clear.
It will make a refreshing (?) change from the obsessing about how bad Johnson is.
Was impressed when I watched Valérie Pécresse win in Paris region, being just right of center she might draw the soft element of RN but also get some left of center.
Could Royale emerge as left of center candidate?
Could France really vote in an extreme right or left President,
seems that the center always carries the day, just a question which side of center.

John, you’ve asked me before about Ségolène Royal, on April 5th to be precise, here (I’m going to start thinking you fancy her!).

My reply.

I’ll spare you the bother of reading my spiel if you’ve forgotten what I wrote, the answer to your Q is: very unlikely. And even if she fancied it she’d never make the primaries (another pb is that she left the Socialist party a few years ago so she’d have a job being accepted in the primaries, although it’s technically possible), as I wrote then she could go it alone but as an independent candidate, forget it, she’d struggle to get even 2-3% and therefore could lose a lot of money, although I’m sure she’d be smart enough to get others to fork out for her campaign (below 5%, the state doesn’t reimburse the campaign expenses, which is nearly what happened to the Parti Socialiste last time in 2017 as they only recorded 6.4%! Phew…).

Royal has got other plans, she’s currently after what’s known as a “pantouflerie” – a well-paid sinecure – and as such has set her heart on being elected as a Sénatrice representing French citizens overseas, which as sinecures go that one probably tops the cushy league, along with MEP.

Sénat : Ségolène Royal candidate pour les Français de l’étranger

The approx. 3 million – registered – French citizens abroad are represented by 23 MPs, 12 sénateurs/trices and 11 député.e.s. This election (originally due in Sept. 2020 but postponed because of the pandemic) to elect 6 of them will be held in September 2021. As you may know, senators are indirectly elected, by what’s called “grands électeurs”, see this wiki.

Continuing our presidential round-up, today let’s have a look at the Parti Communiste.

No presidential candidate since 2007 (none in 2012 and 2017) so this will be their first big presidential test in 15 years, a party which in terms of platform and policies is yet an unknown quantity for these Presidentials.

Their boss since 2018, the former journalist Fabien Roussel and since 2014 an MP in a Hauts-de-France “circo” (short for circonscription, constituency), was comfortably elected as the presidential candidate two months ago in via an internal vote (82% in favour, out of the 30,000+ PC members who voted electronically).

In 2012, the Communists chose to endorse serial political party generator Jean-Luc Mélenchon and his then Parti de Gauche (Mélenchon came 4th in the first round in 2012, with 11%. He would come 4th too in 2017 but with nearly 20% and missing the crucial second round by only 600,000 ballot votes).

In 2017, rebelote , but with a twist: Mélenchon was again endorsed by the Parti Communiste grassroots members through an internal vote (53% for) but the party cadres didn’t support him.

Since then, there’s been a growing rift between the Parti Communiste and an increasingly radical, incoherent and conspiracy-obsessed Mélenchon, hence their decision this time to run their own candidate. I could have added about Mélenchon “and glottophobic”, in reference to his attack on southern accents in 2018 during an interview, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpoaodwmkJc

(not sure his pathetic reaction went down well in his Marseille constituency!). What happened in fact in the clip is that he’d been outsmarted like a kipper by that Toulouse journalist who calmly asked him probing questions about the murky financial affairs of La France Insoumise but instead of acting responsibly as the leader of a major party, he lost his rag and resorted to basically insulting her).

Since the early 2000s, the Communists have lost a lot of ground at all levels and have been almost invisible in Presidentials but they still enjoy local support (although not much left of the fabled “ceinture rouge” around Paris but they still run about 20 town halls there, including some sizeable towns/cities such as Montreuil, Bobigny and Ivry-sur-Seine, a historic Communist stronghold where a bankrupt Socialist party reluctantly had to move to circa 2018 after being forced to sell its HQ in a fire sale, so, well, they were shafted… – they got €46m for the building which doesn’t seem too bad but the same place has just resold for €125m… – housed in a large hôtel particulier (pic below) located in the upmarket 7th arrondissement of Paris.

The Parti Socialiste HQ before (below, surrounded by ministries, prestigious museums, embassies, Michelin-starred restaurants…):

And now the Parti Socialiste HQ, after (since 2018 that is, a small converted factory, squeezed between a massive scrap metal dealer company and a couple of takeaway joints, reputedly bought for €4 million):

How the Mighty have fallen… Anyway, this isn’t about the PS so let’s move on.

The Communists also punch way above their weight in parliament as their local ancrage is quite marked in a number of constituencies and consequently they regularly boast between 20 and 40 MPs (out of 935). They currently have 31 MPs (16 at the National Assembly and 15 at the Senate), which is twice as many as Mélenchon’s France Insoumise and 4 times as many as Le Pen’s Rassemblement National.

April 2021 at the national conference, gathered in their futuristic spaceship-type HQ lair on Place du Colonel Fabien in the 10th arrondissement of Paris (fabulous rooftop terrace! You can sometimes visit this amazing building on Heritage Days in September), an on-screen Fabien Roussel is rallying the leadership troops to define a strategy for 2022.

Not too shabby for a party who didn’t run a candidate in the last two Presidentials as opinion polls were very low, around 3% (their 2007 candidate, Marie-George Buffet, registered 2%), and therefore too risky financially as an under-5% score means a non reimbursement of campaign expenses by the state (however, for those sub-5 % scores, if the campaign expenses are approved by the CNCCFP, the independent body in charge inter alia of auditing campaign accounts, a maximum of €800,000 will be reimbursed but that would be way below the campaign budget for a party such as the PC, in the low millions).

There’s been talk of the Communists joining whatever leftwing coalition materialises and I suppose it’s a possibility but unlikely. (Those Communist-Leftwing list alliances of course frequently happens locally, in second rounds, but very rarely nationally in first rounds. It even happened in the 1st round of the Regionals in the Hauts-de-France, the MEP Karima Delli headed a Union of the Lefts list, inc. the Communists, unfortunately for them with disappointing results as they came 3rd with 22%, behind Xavier Bertrand at 52%, and the Rassemblement National candidate, 26%). The PC candidacy in the Presidentials will inevitably weaken Mélenchon, who certainly didn’t need that extra blow.

As usual, there will be a couple of Trotskist/anti-capitalist candidates. The pro-revolution postman Olivier Besancenot, and Arlette Laguiller, household names in France, used to fill that role and
as we speak 3 such Trotskyist candidates have announced they’ll run (the usual suspects, the duo Philippe Poutou and Nathalie Arthaud, and the new revolutionary kid on the block, the cheminot Anasse Kazib, who could however struggle to get the obligatory 500 signatures/endorsements, despite a fairly high media profile). They roughly hunt in the same electoral territory as the PC and therefore encroach on their patch but they only represent about 1% of the vote each (4-5% in good years, eg Besancenot in 2007, 1.5 million votes).

If Fabien Roussel runs a good inclusive campaign he could hope to reach 5% and thus hobble Mélenchon. And at 5% of course they’d have their campaign expenses fully or mostly reimbursed so not to be sniffed at as they’re not particularly flush.
Since the early 2000s, the Communists are having to whore themselves out by renting out their iconic brutalist Oscar Niemeyer-designed Parisian HQ (see photos) to all manners of hardened capitalists – the fashion industry, marketing moguls, the music & film industry etc. for parades, clips, business seminaries etc. But needs must…

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that was three months ago and I was as wondering if anything had changed but I have just re-read your reply and clearly from what you said it won’t, as you said a yesterday politician and toast,…don’t fancy her but think that Valérie Pécresse is smart and will appeal to voters who might be keen to have their first female President…France is behind the curve here.

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Les Républicains (and “affiliated”).

The post-Sarkozy era, a divisive but popular figure on the Right (for a good while anyhow) where the “cult of the leader” is strong, is proving difficult to manage for the mainstream rightwing party Les Républicains (LR), a succession of tepid interim leaders and leaders alike since 2015 demonstrating a state of flux and painful soul-searching.

Even the name has had to be changed (I explained why in the Macron vs Le Pen thread) from UMP to Les Républicains (the sixth time the centre-Right/mainstream Right is “rebranded” in France since 1947! I can detail the chronology and provide reasons if anyone is interested, I touched on it the other day in that M vs LP thread).

Leadership issues, a dire financial situation etc. but the Regionals-Departmentals just gone have undoubtedly been a success for LR and the mainstream Right in general (7 regions/12 in Mainland France - details here - in blue on the map below, all comfortable re-elections of outgoing presidents)

This good showing will have reboosted them after years in the wilderness: the big Fillon setback in the 2017 Presidentials, who went from overwhelming favourite for the 2nd round with 30% voting intentions in December 2016 to international disgrace barely a month later - beginning of the drip-drip-drip death by a thousand cuts Canard enchaîné revelations - with 12 percentage points lost in the process; the poor results in the June 2017 Législatives with only 100 MPs elected, about half their 2012 tally; a dreadful performance in the 2019 Euros with 8%, their worst score in decades etc.

As we speak, 3 candidates (2 of them not even LR members…) are in contention to represent LR and the Right next year:

Xavier Bertrand, Valérie Pécresse, and Laurent Wauquiez (in that order on the pic below). Only Bertrand has officially announced he’ll run for president.

As I wrote in a recent post, both Pécresse and Bertrand left LR a few years ago in the chaotic post-Sarkozy period and the difficult management of his toxic legacy still haunting the party (fraud, scandals, massive debts, huge chunks of the traditional rightwing electorate lost to other parties, nearly 200,000 fee-paying members gone etc.).
In theory, as non LR members Pécresse and Bertrand can do what they want, they don’t have to follow the party line, don’t have to go through a primary etc. However, for strategic and logistical reasons, they’ll very probably compete under the LR banner and go through whatever selective process LR adopts to whittle it down to one candidate.

Last time for the 2017, there was a two-round primary, and Fillon won (beat Juppé convincingly). This time round, as befits a party in disarray with no clear ligne directrice , a major problem has emerged over the selection process, it’s been a well-publicised headache for the LR top brass and Christian Jacob, the somewhat dull LR president since summer 2019, who’s the LR leader more by default than conviction. (Jacob took over the sinking ship after the Wauquiez debacle at the 2019 Euros when prominent rightwingers weren’t exactly falling over themselves to rescue the party, too busy as they were to go it alone or defect to LREM, or even to the Rassemblement National, such as Thierry Mariani in the PACA region who’s just been defeated by the outgoing R. Muselier (LR).
In the Macron vs Le Pen thread for instance, I wrote about the reactionary candidate they picked for the 2019 Euros, the young François-Xavier Bellamy, dreadfully unsuited to be LR leader material in a big election – anti-abortion etc. – hence their pitiful score of 8% at that election. Cue a massive crisis, which had been brewing since 2017, cue many stalwarts flouncing off from the party to be independent – Pécresse, Bertrand etc. – or to join Macron’s LREM as I wrote, cue the mass haemorrhaging of a staggering 180,000 LR members (i.e 3/4 of their grassroots troops: En quatre ans, Les Républicains ont perdu les trois quarts de leurs adhérents) and ultimately the forced resignation of Laurent Wauquiez hardly 18 months into the job, Wauquiez who retreated back to his Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regional council safe haven after a torrid time at the LR helm).

For the 2017 presidentials, Les Républicains organised an open primary in November 2016, open to all (anyone over 18 could vote, not just LR members). 10,000 polling stations were set up, and over 4 million people voted in each of the two rounds. You just had to pay €2 so it enabled LR to collect a cool €17 million in the process (LR got to keep about half as organising these primaries cost them approx. €8 million), they direly needed the moolah as they were bigly in the red.

Devout catholic and hardliner François Fillon (his manifesto included pledges such as slashing 500,000 fonctionnaires jobs, cutting public spending by £90 billion over 5 years, lifting the retirement age from 62 to 65 etc.), won the primary, thrashing the centrist Alain Juppé 67-33 in the run-off.

This time round, the LR leadership team are not keen on open primaries as they are deemed to be controversial within the party for two reasons. First, because in 2016 those primaries on the Right generated tensions between the two sides (the pro-Fillon and the pro-Juppé camps) and secondly because they’re considered unreliable, as precisely anyone could vote in 2016 and it was feared that lots of leftwingers or other “disrupters” would try to skew the results (little evidence of that happening in the end).

Instead this time round Jacob and his mates have concocted a weird system: they’ve decided to choose the LR candidate via two national polls commissioned from Cevipof (the joint Sciences Po-CNRS research unit known to conduct surveys using solid methodology), the weekly Marianne has the lowdown, here.

If the Cevipof polls turn out to be inconclusive, it is understood that in November a primary will be organised but perhaps not a fully open one, a new formula could be found (a lucrative one, Bruno Retailleau wants to ask €10 to non LR member voters! It was €2 in 2016).

Both Bertrand and Pécresse are against a primary but they’re no longer LR members, something that grates with some, such as with the very conservative Retailleau, the leader of the LR group at the Senate, who is said to be miffed to see those two defectors now keen to use the LR logistics and outreach. They have no shortage of enemies within the party, not least Retailleau, who organised the last one (his long-standing friend Fillon won it).

Last but not least, the main problem that Bertrand and Pécresse will face, as opposed to Wauquiez for instance, hinges around their political positioning. Those two are considered to be “centre-Right” (a vague label these days but that’s where they’re generally pigeonholed, at least for convenience’s sake), therefore in the same bracket as Macron and therefore will have to find real points of difference to substantially differentiate them from LREM’s policies as politically they are seen as being clones of Macron (and indeed, when Macron was elected and wooed many high profile rightwing politicians into joining his government, both Pécresse and Bertrand hesitated to cross that Rubicon and finally stayed put, before leaving LR two years later. They are very much considered to be fully “Macron compatible”).

A bit of a mess that’s been dragging for months now, which (according to the Canard enchaîné) prompted a bitter Sarkozy to observe last autumn that “aucun des candidats potentiels n’a la gueule d’un président.”

There are other possible candidates on the right (eg Barnier and the eccentric former Gilets Jaunes égérie Jacline Mouraud, incidentally a stonkingly talented accordion player, see clip below) and we will discuss some of them when things settle in the autumn, but so far only Xavier Bertrand has come forward. Le Monde has the lowdown on the possible rightwing candidates (and the others) in its excellent Les Décodeurs rubric.

Jacline Mouraud… et si c’était elle la solution à droite ? (only kidding…).

The “Baromètre Figaromag” for June came out last Friday (Kantar-OnePoint poll of 27-28 June): Macron up a bit and stable with a “cote de confiance” (confidence rating) at 39%, Marine Le Pen substantially down (-7 from before the Regional-Departmental elections), confirming her poor performance in the Regionals just gone compared to the 2015 Regionals where the then Front National registered nearly 28% (a disappointing 19% this time round, with nearly 4 million fewer ballot votes in the 2nd round – 2.9 m vs 6.8m in 2015 –, zero region taken despite high expectations backed by strong opinion polls, zero department taken too and 1/3 fewer regional councillors elected compared to 2015, and the RN is only now present in 8 departments out of 101). Mélenchon also further nose-diving (-6). The bulk of the analysis is behind their paywall or in last week’s Figaro magazine I believe.

(note the reference to the political series Baron Noir , in reference to Mélenchon, a good series, I recommend if you’ve never seen it).

(The Guardian, 2016: Baron Noir: it’s the French House of Cards – and it’s cracking fun).

A trailer (subbed in English): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ocFUNH0Sh0

MLP is still favourite to reach the 2nd round though, well, IMO.

Anyway, a rumour doing the rounds at the minute is that of a possible alliance between the Far Right polemicist Éric Zemmour and MLP’s niece Marion Maréchal (more on her later), the ex Front National MP (2012-2017) for the Carpentras constituency and s.o touted as a possible future Hard Right leader, not necessarily within the Rassemblement National party, which has more or less rejected her as the Marine Le Pen’s clan has muscled in over the years (it is a very lucrative business, as I explained a few weeks ago, MLP is on €20,000 a month as party leader & MP, ditto her entourage, they’d be on less but still an awful lot as mayors (of Perpignan, for Louis Aliot, her ex boyf’ for 10 years, a former MEP etc. and now Perpignan mayor, vice-president of the party etc. they’ve all been coining it in for a long time at the FN/RN living off the fat of the land).

This Zemmour-Maréchal ticket is a big outlier at the mo but who knows, in these crazy times the “Zemmour variant” could do some damage. It couldn’t win outright but could certainly kibosh Marine Le Pen’s chances of reaching the second round.

In the third and last Baron Noir season, WARNING ---- SPOILER ---- there’s an anti-system independent candidate (Christophe Mercier, a science teacher) who comes from nowhere and who through social media Gilet Jaunes type activism upsets the status quo cart and becomes a potential presidentiable

Both Zemmour and Maréchal hold a solid grudge against Marine Le Pen, for different reasons, so they could well throw their hats into the ring, at least have a go.

Zemmour himself is reportedly mulling a presidential bid (IMO: not a serious one, but more to raise his brand and pee off Marine Le Pen, whom he deems too soft) but up to now it was to be a solo bid, there was no question of Marion Maréchal joining him.

It would be a purely “disruptive” alliance as neither of them can win it but they’d certainly weaken MLP as that electorate segment would be split and would certainly thwart MLP.

Zemmour on his own is credited with about 5% voting intentions, but if he were to run that % would probably rise, esp. if paired with Marion Maréchal.

(above, the results of a poll conducted about 3 weeks ago, before the Regionals then)

IMO, it won’t happen or he won’t go the whole hog (getting the obligatory “parrainages” before the deadline could be a problem, those 500 signatures/endorsements each candidate has to get from about 47,000 elected officials (mayors, regional & departmental councillors, MPs & MPEs, etc.), it’s more a publicity stunt IMO and also as I wrote, a way to get back at MLP and make her sweat a bit (it’s working, they’re not best pleased about it but also, I suspect, know that it’s probably not genuine).

Zemmour and Maréchal at the Convention de la droite in September 2019

Éric Zemmour

In the late 2000s, the multimedia journalist Éric Zemmour, then a moderate Centre-right mainstream affable but ultimately fairly “boring” journo, understood that to kick ass (i.e to grow the business) he’d need to transmogrify into a high-profile ultra-populist polemicist, a Far Right one in his case, and to hell with nuance and analyses which are complicated, unprofitable, difficult to market so he reasoned that these things were best left to the Sensibles. Which that’s what he did, he taped ridiculously successfully into that growing neo-reactionary Alt-Right/Breitbartist disruptive market, thanks to the advent of social media and 24/7 “news” channels such as the controversial CNews (aka “the French Fox News”, owned by the non moins controversial billionaire tycoon Vincent Bolloré, are always happy to enable extremists and cranks of all stripe and naturally reap the €benefits through increased viewership figures.

Zemmour is particularly obsessed with a theme dear to (mostly) Far rightists: (French) Declinism, a deep-rooted fixation in some, bordering on neurosis. Declinism in France, as a theory, goes back to the French Revolution and the post-Napoleon era, with the first notable acceleration happening in the wake of the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71.

Its corollaries, immigration, “le grand remplacement” and Western decadence, are naturally also Zemmour’s bread and butter. He’s been successfully prosecuted three times for hate crimes.

Declinism is, of course, not just any controversial thématique . Just like outrage is a tried-and-tested business model, Declinism-catastrophism is for some professional controversialists a formidably lucrative money-spinner, an inextinguishable seam that many are happy to mine advitam aeternam. The major advantage of this Declinism seam is that the theory behind it is awfully vague so very adaptable, flexible and great for fakenewsry and general shithousery. It is a seam that a seasoned professional like Zemmour can mine it effortlessly in all directions and big up its offshoots hundredfold (eg by declaring “war” on wokeism, decolonialism, feminism, anti-racism and myriad other “isms”).

This surenchère means that Zemmour is constantly radicalising and “diversifying” his rhetoric in order to always have fresh material to rail against, allowing him to stay relevant, to last the distance and thrive in a competitive environment as media fall over themselves to air the views of any progressophobe, whether it is to give them a platform or inveigh against them.

Zemmour is therefore ubiquitous in the French media and his books on Declinism are bestsellers, such as Le suicide Français in 2014 (500,000 copies sold):

(to save you’re the bother if you were tempted, here’s its core message: since May 1968’s students & workers’ leftist revolt and De Gaulle’s death two years later, everything in France, this once great country infused by the hallowed Siècles des Lumières/Enlightenment principles bladibla, has gone to pot as Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard used to sing because of all these anti-patriotic progressives, because of these liberated wimmin, because of the immigrants, Islam, the elites, the luvvies etc. France is consequently now a giant pile of manure, befitting one of her emblems, the cockerel, and will any minute become so irrelevant that she’ll sink and disappear off the face of the earth into some giant putrid hole).

Counter-books anc countless articles and essays have been written in response, such as Contre Zemmour. Réponse au Suicide français, necessary writings no doubt but also feeding the obsession (also through debates, endless controversies etc.) and giving it a legitimacy it wouldn’t have attained otherwise and one that it probably doesn’t warrant. But hey, it’s a business so anything goes and a whole varied eco-system depends on it being kept alive and well.

Now, about a month ago publicity-hungry Zemmour let it be known that he could run for president next year, and has been spotted contacted mayors and various officials to test the waters.

Eric Zemmour, the French TV star who is stealing Marine Le Pen’s thunder

Basically, the subversive Zemmour, who up to recently supported Marine Le Pen, now finds MLP too cudly, too soft, too “plan-plan” as the French say (chilled out or staid/humdrum), nowhere near radical enough.

The list of her unforgivable shortcomings and tares (aberrations) in his mouth is as long as it’s damning: she’s not enough anti-EU, pro-Frexit etc.; she’s too wishy-washy on nationalism and identity; she’s too embourgeoisée, too centrist/leftwing or meek in her policies (retirement at 60, reimbursement of the national debt etc. what fresh nonsense is that), she’s too vague on immigration, insufficiently pro “traditional family” along standard Christian values. And something that Jean-Marie Le Pen reiterated only a few days ago (yes, even at 93 the old fascist fecker is still giving ITWs, he has a YT channel etc.): his daughter lacks “virility”.

She’s way too modern, too societally liberal, too LGBT-friendly (as I’ve written before, a number of RN politicians and advisers are openly gay and some – https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B5Dc0rsCEAAUfCv?format=jpg&name=large. He ran the RN list in the Regionals, in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté but came a cropper, finishing a disappointing 3rd behind the LR list and the outgoing region’s president, the Socialist Marie-Guite Dufay who registered 42% in the 2nd round). This doesn’t sit very well with the neocon Zemmour.

And last but not least, her cardinal sin: to Zemmour, MLP is way too soft on Islam. MLP’s official views on Islam, that it’s “compatible with the Republic”, particularly grate with him.

To Zemmour, the FN > RN “detoxification” process has gone too far and there is little now that really differentiates her from many mainstream parties, the RN to him is just “un parti comme les autres”, it no longer has the distinct USP it had under the father and it explains why the party is in electoral decline.

Thanks as ever for your continuing commentary, learning fast…only ten more months!
You say that MLP as newly reconfirmed leader is on €20,000 a month…where does the funding of the parties come from… for. the left from mainly unions, and the right business and wealthy individuals as in the UK? Is there state funding?

Re Marine Le Pen’s earnings, I recently explained about her remuneration in a post, must be in the Macron vs Le Pen thread. I’ll try to dig it out but yeah she’s on about €200-250K a year, as an MP (here’s their detailed remuneration in France, the breakdown is a little complex to interpret as some of it is usable freely with much check, but I can explain, later; she was previously an MEP so it was even higher than that what with their generous allowances) and as the Rassemblement National party leader (salaries within the Rassemblement National staff are kept secret but mainly thanks to insiders’ sources – former disgruntled employees or suchlike – we know that the RN party leader, MLP then, is on at least €120,000 a year, despite the party going through serious financial hardships).

As an intro, as a brief direct answer to your questions: no, no unions or wealthy individuals involved in the funding of political parties in France, as for most things it’s a very different system to the UK’s. And yes, state/public funding is significant today, wasn’t the case at all pre-1990s, when there were no rules nor pertaining to and no public funding back.

Needless to say, the situation was pretty murky back then, and that illegality triggered major changes once it was uncovered by a mixture of investigative journalists, whistleblowers, financial police CID officers and juges d’instruction (examining/investigating judges, who in France are more like detectives with a lot of power, they work in tandem with the PJ, the Police Judiciaire, CID in the UK) who were instrumental in bringing about radical changes. These brave people found against a system involving both the Left and the Right, so it goes without saying that the transition from wide-scale corruption to transparency, accountability, relative integrity etc. was a rocky one.
A series of politico-financial scandals in the 1980s, but in particular L’Affaire Urba in 1989 and the mammoth Affaire Elf a few years later would precipitate real profound change, a gradual and still on-going process but the legwork was done in the 1990s. I’ve written here before (April I think) on these corruption scandal, esp. the Elf one, considered to be by The Guardian for instance “probably the biggest political and corporate sleaze scandal to hit a western democracy since the second world war”.

I’ve also written other posts on here on the funding of political parties in France (most of them I think are in the Macron vs Le Pen thread), so I’ll use them to concoct what will follow and which will probably contain hyperlinked references to them.

There will probably be several posts in succession so please feel free to make a comment between them (anything!) as after 3 posts in a row I’ll be barred from posting further until s.o unblocks me!

A week ago on this very thread, I wrote something on that topic in this very thread, part of the second para in my post #2 on June 29th touches on this, in the broad strokes.

In my 29th June post, I also posted this infographic:

It shows how parties will be funded in the 2017-2022 period (so from the Législatives election of June 2017 to the 2022 Législative election), as least for the “public funding” part of it (parties obviously rely on other sources – private funding – I’ll develop that in another thread if necessary, but the public funding part for most is their main source of income.

There are specific and historic reasons for this public funding, largely to do with the big corruption scandals in the 1980s and 1990s as I’ve just mentioned, which forced the powers-that-be to change the rules drastically from the early 1990s onwards. I’ve written on this about before in the Macron Vs Le Pen thread so I’ll put the links when I find them. Again, I’ll develop on these reasons as it’s interesting.

For the main parties, this public funding part fluctuates as it depends on the results obtained at the Législatives, (which quinquennially elects the National Assembly MPs, ~6 weeks after the Presidentials), but it generally accounts for between 40% to 70% of their income.

Last year, the French state spent €66 million to finance 17 political parties (in Mainland France, these ones; Overseas France not included in that table as different parties etc. details here for instance), those 17 parties which took part in the 2017 Législatives and recorded a minimum of 1% in at least 50 constituencies (out of 577).

The amount each political party receives per year for 5 years is based on these 2 metrics:

a) the number of MPs elected. Each député.e or sénateur/trice is worth €38,000 per year for the party.

b) the number of votes recorded in the 1st round of the Législatives. Each vote is worth €1.64 per year.

As you can see in the infographic for instance, as Macron’s party LREM did well in these 2017 Législatives (7.3 million votes in the 1st round and eventually 300-odd MPs elected) it went from receiving zero € a year (makes sense as it was a brand new party) to nearly €21 million/a year for the 2017-2022 period.

Conversely, the Parti Socialiste tanked in those Législatives with only 2 million 1st round votes and about 40 MPs elected, including the affiliated ones (2012: over 10m votes and 330 MPs elected), so its annual funding went from €25m/a year in 2012-2017 to €7m/yr in 2017-2022 (that’s why as I explained in another thread, the PS suddenly had to lay off 60 permanent employees so most of its workforce, they had to sell their its plush Parisian HQs in 2018 – for €46m –, etc.).

Likewise, Les Républicains did badly as they lost 4 million votes and only had ~100 national assembly MPs elected (vs 200+ in 2012) so they’ve lost nearly €6 million a year in funding, although their loss was mitigated by the fact that they’re well represented at the Senate (a third of the Senate is LR) so they can still rely financially on their 100+ senators (out of 348, it’s a much smaller House than the National Assembly, smaller and decisionally less important, it’s technically more geared towards representing the “collectivités territoriales”, i.e the regions, departments & communes , as befits its remit which is enshrined in the Constitution, eg this on the Sénat site: Le Sénat assure la représentation des collectivités territoriales de la République (Article 24 de la Constitution).

Macron’s LREM party is new so it has a weak local ancrage and therefore its Senate group is small, only 23 senators, so unlike the more traditional political parties (even the beleaguered Socialists have 65 senators, which is twice as many as their député.es ) LREM can’t cash in on those.

As for the “private funding” part of political parties, it accounted for €100 million in 2019, see pic below.

I’ll develop but this private funding has 3 distinct components:

  • donations, very strictly regulated in France since the early 1990s and capped at €7,500 per year per private person. Only a private person can donate to a political party, as since 1995 companies/lobbies/associations etc. are not allowed to donate at all. Capped at €15,000 per fiscal household. In Présidentielles-Législatives election year, it’s possible for a private person to donate a max. additional €4,600 to finance the electoral campaign of one or more candidates (it’s €4,600 regardless of the number of candidates).

  • the party membership yearly fee for ordinary members (cotisation annuelle d’adhérent.e), they vary greatly, some are free, eg Macron’s LREM party and about €30/yr at Les Républicains for the over-35.

  • the cotisation de parti d’élu.e (party fee paid by an elected official). In most parties, elected officials have to give back to their party a small % of their wage (or a small fixed sum). It varies greatly, from about €300 a month for a Les Républicains MP (also mayors etc. LR collects over €3m a year from their elected officials that way), to much more for Parti Communiste MPs (there are 31 in the current législature), who contractually have to give back to the PC the difference between their former wage (before their election) and their current MPs’ one, so it could be in the € thousands a month. There are exception etc. but that’s roughly it, the rationale behind it being that MPs for the Parti Communiste should not gain any personal financial benefits from it. In 2016, these payments from their MPs amounted to €7m a year, nearly a third of the party’s total income. Libération has the lowdown.

Donations and fees are partly tax-deductible.

Besides, as I’ve written before on here, presidential campaign expenses are reimbursed up to 100% (but it rarely gets to 100%), roughly speaking to parties registering at least 5% in the first round, but the sub-5% parties can also apply for a partial reimbursement, capped at €800,000.

There is a ceiling of course, it was €17 million for those competing in the 1st round, and €22.5m for the two second-round candidates, so Le Pen and Macron last time.

The CNCCFP deals with all that (it’s the independent body in charge inter alia of auditing campaign accounts).

For instance in the 2017 Presidentials, Macron’s campaign was the highest in terms of expenses at nearly €17m, but well within the €22.5m ceiling for 2nd round candidates. He was reimbursed €10.6 million (see this table).

Second was Marine Le Pen at €11.5m, she was reimbursed €10.7m.

By contrast, Jacques Cheminade, the crackpot LaRouchian libertarian whose platform included colonising the moon (he recorded 0,18%), spent only €406,000 and was reimbursed €337,000. Such “original” candidates usually manage to get the obligatory 500 endorsements from officials (not easily but they do!), as many there are plenty of mayors of tiny places (usually “SE” ones, sans étiquette, no party affiliation) who take the view that anyone in a democracy should be able to run for president, regardless of their views. Oh well, fair enough, it’s entertaining to have these people.

Ditto Jean Lassalle, pic below (who recorded 1.2%), he spent €241,000 and was reimbursed €228,000.

Lassalle is the the eccentric Pyrénées shepherd-rugby player turned MP who likes to sing the Occitan anthem Se Canto, Aqueras Montanhas in Béarnais patois during National Assembly sessions either to protest against the French state abandoning rural areas or to defend the Gilets Jaunes, who in 2006 went on a 40-day hunger strike over a threatened Japonese factory closure in his Vallée d’Aspe constituency (he lost 17 kilos and had to be hospitalised but won that battle) and who as an MP spent the best part of 2013 walking around France (a 6,000 kms little flânerie) to meet “ordinary rural people”/ In terms of commitment, Lassalle takes some beating! He’ll be running again in 2022.

(See this table for the other candidates in 2017 re campaign expenses and reimbursements).


Thanks for the continuing flow of information…lots of reading
Will be an enormous thread by next April !

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Thanks John.

Following on from my two posts on July 6th on how political parties are funded in France, let’s move on to the key back story behind the reasons for this public funding of political parties in France, the first legal step being taken in 1988 and then by the beefier Loi Rocard in 1990, named after the then prime minister and prominent Socialist Michel Rocard, who was a cut above the rest in terms of probity (that said, the bar was low as there was no specific legislation governing the funding of parties and the system effectively turned a blind eye to skulduggery and corruption):

Encadrement du financement des partis : Rocard, ce pionnier

Before that, parties were only funded by membership fees and donations, with no specific encadrement (regulation, legal framework) whatsoever on those. It doesn’t take a genius to see how some companies, lobbies, groups of people, rich individuals etc. could influence governmental policies in all sorts of ways. In fact, it went further than that: political parties themselves were actively involved in corruption, not least the Parti Socialiste, even taking the lead in a venal headlong rush to accumulate and dominate.

The background is particularly interesting as it explains why suddenly, in the late 1980s, that revolution occurred in France and overnight strict laws governing public funding of parties & electoral campaigns, and more generally laws on transparency in politics, were adopted.

To succinctly grasp the enormous magnitude of the changes between the “before” and “after” in the French political landscape, the drastic transformation could be likened to what happened in British football with stadiums. It took a major tragedy, Hillsborough, the umpteenth one (Bradford’s Valley Parade had only happened 4 yrs before), for the authorities to set in motion the wheels of radical change. It took Hillsborough, the Taylor report – the 9th such report since the Ibrox tragedy in 1902 to tackle safety in British stadiums as little had been done, chairmen blissfully ignoring the weak legislation and recommendations in total impunity – and the attendant strict legislation around safety standards + of course the creation of the Premier League in that wake to force clubs to sort out their shit stadium-wise.

Well, what happened in France re political parties and their illegal funding is similar: it took massive politico-financial scandals in the 1980s and 1990s to spark major legislative and structural reforms as well as the adequate powers and bodies to deal with the issue.

1986-1990 is the pivotal period here, as two major scandals in quick succession (and then the Elf scandal from 1994) had immediate repercussions.

First the Affaire Luchaire, uncovered in 1986 by the Presse de la Manche regional daily (big cargos from the Luchaire armament group often left France from the Cherbourg port). A first law on transparency to give a legal framework to funding parties and electoral campaigns would be voted in March 1988.

28 Feb. 1986: the Presse de la Manche drops a bombshell, which will reveal that the Parti Socialiste is strongly suspected of having benefited from illegal arms sales to Iran leaving from Cherbourg. The investigations from national newspapers and official investigators will also quickly reveal the existence of slush funds linked to the Parti Socialiste. The story, as told by Presse de la Manche journalists.

Then, within a few years, two bigger scandals broke out, and would further precipitate drastic changes.

The Affaire Urba first, aka “le financement occulte du Parti Socialiste” (the illegal funding of the Parti Socialiste between 1973 and 1989), which broke out in April 1989 and lasted throughout the 1990s.

The Urba scandal was followed by the mammoth protracted Affaire Elf (1994-2000s), deemed by the media and wiki “probably the biggest political and corporate sleaze scandal to hit a western democracy since the second world war”.

Officially, the Elf shenanigans generated illegal payments, bribes, gifts etc. of about €300 million (that’s what the investigators could ascertain) but the figure is reckoned to top the €1 billion mark.

These two scandals were the trigger for seismic changes, even if lampistes (fall guys, minions) largely copped the flak instead of the real culprits higher up. The 1990 Rocard Law was very welcome but unfortunately the Socialists, then in charge, made damn sure that it also contained an amnesty clause

The first piece of legislation towards setting out rules governing the funding of parties or/and of electoral campaigns was adopted in 1988 but the first real significant law to that effect was the so-called Loi Rocard adopted in 1990, nine months after the Urba scandal broke out:

15 janvier 1990, une loi pour assainir le financement des partis

It would be the first one of many laws and measures to that effect. It is an ongoing process of course, regularly new laws are adopted to improve things, such as in 2017 with a series of tougher laws on “moralisation and transparency in public life”, with in particular a tougher stance taken on conflicts of interest.

As we speak for instance, the Justice Minister and hitherto star lawyer Éric Dupont-Moretti, nicknamed “Acquittator” (he’s notched up 150 acquittals) is currently in serious bother for that. Last week the financial police searched the Justice ministry and Dupont-Moretti’s office for 15 hours (from 9am to midnight) as they suspect him of conflict of interest.

The outspoken leftwing “star du barreau”, who entered politics last summer via the cabinet reshuffle (the popular Édouard Philippe was replaced by Jean Castex) as Macron likes to pepper his cabinets with household names whatever their political persuasion, has been summoned to appear before the relevant jurisdiction on July 16th.

And according to Mediapart, following an investigation by the Haute Autorité pour la Transparence de la Vie Publique (HATVP), an organisation created in 2013 in the wake of the big Cahuzac scandal, to further inject transparency and honesty into French politics (they take a particularly tough approach in the vetting of cabinet members, MPs etc.), Dupond-Moretti has “forgotten” to declare €300,000 to the French Inland Revenue in 2019 when he was a criminal lawyer at the top of his game but also a successful one-man-show performer (these 300K are droits d’auteur, copyright royalties for a show he created). He’s blaming his accountant…

Éric Dupond-Moretti, dans la tourmente…

Whatever happened, for s.o like Justice minister Dupond-Moretti banging on about honesty it’s piss poor and if indeed he is found guilty of conflict of interest, surely Macron will have no other choice but to sack him.

This could reflect badly on Macron and his fixette for PR stunts in appointing celebrities in the cabinet, eg Nicolas Hulot in 2017 – “One of Macron’s biggest coups was the appointment of the environmentalist and former TV personality Nicolas Hulot” – although it probably won’t as it could also be interpreted as evidence of the president/gvt not interfering with the judiciary and it demonstrates the effectiveness of, inter alia, the pro-transparency HATVP organisation, the Haute Autorité pour la Transparence de la Vie Publique.

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I’ve actually written on here, in this April post in particular, about the Elf scandal and also, to a lesser extent, about the Urba scandal. Elf was much bigger but it was Urba that triggered it all, as it happened about 5 years before.

The nuts and bolts of the Urba scandal, in a nutshell…

in 1971 the nascent Parti Socialiste, created on the ashes of Jean Jaurès’s SFIO and recently taken over by François Mitterrand who set about resurrecting it through uniting all the leftwing parties (the so-called “Programme Commun”), set up a company called Urba, whose initial job was to collect funds to finance this fledgling Parti Socialiste.

However, Urba soon decided to go beyond just collecting and managing money. It needed serious dosh to create a war machine to oppose the Right so it “branched out” to do “consultancy” work, vetting tenders, choosing architects & project managers etc. This was perfectly legal as there was no laws then pertaining to financing political parties (leaving the latter to find “imaginative” way to raise funds, seeing that membership fees were never be enough to finance the PS). But while the premise was above board, the Urba methods soon become seriously illegal.

Before long, Urba was mimicking the mafia: they racketeered companies in exchange for public contracts in local authorities & communes controlled by the Parti Socialiste and/or affiliated.

Urba would take about about 5% of the total cost and the money was shared out roughly equally between Urba (mainly to cover the running costs), the Parti Socialiste and the bent local politicians of all stripes – mayors, councillors etc. – who’d procured the contracts (so, certainly not necessarily all Socialists), with company directors being occasionally arrosés too (slang for greasing s.o’s palm).

In order to appear legit and complexify things should investigators or the taxman poke their noses, those companies sent real invoices for bogus work to third-party companies or subcontractors, in other words they’d created a classic double or treble accountancy system. Local Urba offices were also set up feeding a host of sociétés bidons (bogus companies) to funnel that money to the Parti Socialiste via circuitous ways.

It was a well-oiled system which thrived for 17 years, until the Marseille financial police (see this potted history of the saga) discovered paperwork at the local Urba offices establishing illegal funding of the Parti Socialiste. Then little by little, insiders started to talk and explain how the fraudulent operation worked.

That money financed the Parti Socialiste and its electoral campaigns up to 1989 but a number of the politicians involved in the scam were rightwing local officials too. Anyone who fancied being on the take could be involved, regardless of their political persuasion. Involving politicians and elected officials of all hues also ensured a sort of omertà across the board. This particular involvement of rightwing politicians and other local ramifications, when initially it was thought that only the PS benefited from that system, were uncovered in particular by the financial police officer & lawyer and general whistleblower Antoine Gaudino who has written extensively on this case, books and so on.

As Gaudino wrote (see this), there was a “consensus total entre la droite et la gauche pour que la corruption s’organise selon les vœux de chacun avec la méthode qui était​ déjà établie. La Droite savait quelle était la méthode de la Gauche et vice-versa”.

There were also lesser scandals in the 2000s and even recently, it’s an on-going process, eg under Sarkozy of course – I mean, where to start with him… But the Teflonic bastard is an expert in covering his tracks and/or making sure minions take the rap (Le Monde 4 months ago published a welcome recap on his on-going legal marathon and the 12 prosecutions agst him: Le point sur les douze affaires affaires de N. Sarkozy). Well, except for the “Sarkozy aka Paul Bismuth” case that is, recently brought before the courts (BBC article), it’s gone to the Appeal Court on Sarko’s lawyers’ request.

And more recently under Hollande, the Affaire Cahuzac under François Hollande (first uncovered by Mediapart) springs to mind as it marked a turning point too.

Thanks to the bent Jérôme Cahuzac, the Hollande gvt set up an anti-corruption agency (the HATVP I wrote about in my previous post) and a national office to prosecute financial crimes, the Parquet national financier. Cahuzac, who before entering the first (Ayrault) government under François Hollande, was député-maire of Villeneuve-sur-Lot in Dpt 47 where he’s from (regionally speaking) and where he made his political name (a pariah since the scandal, he now lives as a relative recluse in Corsica. Aged 69 today, he recently managed to get some part-time work as a doctor at the Bonifacio hospital while wearing an electronic tag, the Ordre des Médecins having eventually reinstalled him).

The wealthy cosmetic & hair transplant surgeon-turned-politician Jérôme Cahuzac is one of the biggest barefaced liars in recent French politics and has become a byword for egregious political “do as I say but not as I do” cynical hypocrisy.
Appointed by François Hollande as Budget minister in 2012 with a strong brief to tackle tax evasion via “redressement fiscal” so much so that prior to his downfall he was nicknamed “the Fiscal Tsar” or similar, Cahuzac repeatedly (for 4 months) lied in front of parliament, the media, various commissions etc., about undeclared bank accounts he’d had for 20 yrs in Switzerland and Singapore containing millions of €. His infamous cynical riposte (« C’est moi qui dis la vérité. Les yeux dans les yeux, je vous le dis : je n’ai pas, je n’ai jamais eu de compte en Suisse, à aucun moment. ») to the RMC pitbull-type interviewer Jean-Jacques Bourdin on BFMTV is held as the gold standard in hypocrisy:

Although you could argue that Cahuzac was more about transparency and one rotten apple as it were than systemic corruption linked to political party funding like we saw in the late 1980s and 1990s, but in the general public’s “tous pourris” mind these things are generally conflated).

The Urba and Elf scandals revealed and/or dealt with by investigative media, courageous whistleblowers, pugnacious financial police CID investigators and no-nonsense “juges d’instruction” (investigating/examining judges) who, in France, are more like detectives with a lot of power (some of these CID people and judges, who as you can imagine had to fight against a cloak of secrecy and in general agst a whole corrupt system who accused them of being part of anti-governmental conspiracy so it was tough for them, especially as the first big scandal, Urba, was directed against the Socialists who were in charge then – I can still visualise François Mitterrand’s faux outrage on TV when the HQs of the Socialist Party were searched in January 1992, see this Le Monde archives article – some of them became famous and bywords for anti-corruption and incorruptibility, such as Renaud Van Ruymbecke and Eva Joly who are household names in France after lengthy and difficult investigations on the main “affaires”, i.e the Affaire Urba and the Affaire Elf.).

The problem before these laws & measures were implemented is that there was no legislation whatsoever so it was a free-for-all, for all parties, they were all at it as there were no rules. Compliance of the judiciary authorities (“le Législatif”) towards the “Exécutif” (the politicians in charge) was a real problem too, so even when a scandal was revealed and successfully investigated not much happened. This combo of an absence of clear specific rules and the of influential politicians on justice ensured that bent politicians got off scot-free.

The protracted Elf scandal was the more spectacular and high-profile as it had it all (wide-ranging corruption, famous politicians & companies involved, improbable characters, sex, juicy details, ridiculously lavish lifestyles, staggering sums involved, international ramifications in Asia, Germany etc. – the CDU of Helmut Kohl may have been on the take, see this – , trials a-plenty, counter trials etc.) but the Urba scandal is the seminal and pivotal one really, the one that set root-and-branch changes in motion, changes at all levels, which gradually spawned the following – non exhaustive list –: creation of a specific legislation, real powers given to the judiciary, setting up of organisations to audit and check transparency in politics & parties’ accounts, strict regulation around the financing of political parties & electoral campaigns etc. as summarised here in this France Inter summary of a radio programme on the Urba saga:

[Urba et orbi : Le financement occulte du Parti Socialiste


Oui, il y a bien financement occulte du parti socialiste, mais voilà, tous les autres partis font la même chose, parce qu’ils n’ont pas le choix. […] Il faudra l’abnégation de la presse, de certains enquêteurs et de plusieurs juges d’instructions pour qu’éclate le scandale Urba et que soit mise en lumière le système trouble du financement des partis politiques. Une affaire Urba qui est aussi celle des grandes premières : elle provoque le vote de deux lois, une d’amnistie et une autre sur le financement des partis politiques. Et pour la première fois, un parti politique est condamné pour financement occulte, et un Président de l’Assemblée Nationale jugé pour ces faits](Urba et orbi Le financement occulte du Parti Socialiste).

For further reading on the funding of political parties in France, see this informative article from the vie-publique.fr site: Comment les partis politiques sont-ils financés ?| Vie publique.fr

Xavier Bertrand is digging his heels to eschew the “Primaire de la droite et du centre” but all other rightwing/Les Républicains candidates are now in favour of a primary after, only a few weeks ago, the LR boss C. Jacob explaining that they’d choose their candidate through two national polls in the autumn (see my post on that upthread).

Looks like they’ve changed their minds and will organise a primary sometime in October-November (last time was end of November). Bertrand could have won that one (being picked through polls) but winning a two-round primary is trickier.

As I’ve written before, Bertrand left Les Républicains a few years ago so he can in theory do what he jolly wants but he still intends to use LR for his campaign (logistics, contacts, financial support etc.) so he is in a tight spot here.

He could of course do “a Macron”, i.e create a new party, recruit thousands of volunteers, rent HQ premises, rally round the centrist ground (by nicking helpers and supporters from the Left and the Right, as Macron did, before progressively leaning to the Right once elected) and raise €10-15m via small donators, as Macron did in 2016-17 (99,361 of them to be precise, 1,004 of them being UK-based, the average amount of UK donations was just over €1,000, the donation ceiling for one private person as I wrote a few days ago in this thread being, in electoral years, just over €11,000. The expense ceiling for a presidential campaign is about €23 million, what any candidate is allowed to spend. Most of it is reimbursed by the State if they record > 5 %), or borrow the money or a combo of the two.

But then he would certainly not make it to the 2nd round as you’d have 3 major centre-left or mainstream candidates competing (Macron, Bertrand and the LR candidate) thus cancelling each other as it’s doubtful any of them would reach the necessary % to reach the 2nd round. It worked for Macron last time as there was only him and Fillon in that electoral bracket, enabling Macron to register 24% and make it to the 2nd round run-off vs Le Pen.

A few LR heavyweights can smell blood and are sharpening their knives, they’ll do their damnedest to thwart Bertrand, such as the hardliner Nadine Morano (below left).

They don’t like him (too centrist, not hostile towards the Rassemblement National and their electorate, they don’t like the fact he left the LR party two years ago etc.) and they’ll be gagging to settle scores. You know what they say about enemies in politics: more often that not they’re in your own camp.

Bertrand is out on a limb and up against it… Something will have to give though if the Right want to dégager Macron and make space on the right (it’s crowded in that segment!), so it’s also possible that they [LR] come to an agreement with Bertrand, if the latter persists in going it alone.

“La droite à couteaux tirés” (at loggerheads, at daggers drawn) headlined Le Parisien a couple of days ago. Just like the Left then…


Wow…a lot to digest and many links to publications.
You sometimes have to say as I’ve also written other posts on here in reply to a comment…its because your posts are so detailed it’s easy to overlook a previous one!

It would be interesting to have a short/brief run down of the political publications in France and their political slant of their articles…ie radical left, left of C, right wing etc.
Am I correct in thinking for example that Le Figaro is right of center as is Le Point, le Monde center (aka@The Times) and Liberarion is left like Marianne and le Canard bit like Private Eye?

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The political alignment is roughly what it says in the respective Wiki pages, give or take a few tweakings.

Some of the descriptions need updating though, owners change, as do editors-in-chief and therefore so does the ligne éditoriale.

This poster infography from the excellent Monde Diplo (which sometimes publishes in English) tells you who owns/controls what (media-wise) in France as of Dec. 2020, so it roughly indicates the ligne éditoriale. Quite handy really, you can zoom in on the inserted infography:

A non-exhaustive panorama of French dailies and mags:

Canard enchaîné: Le Canard enchaîné - Wikipedia

Yes, I suppose it’s similar in to Private Eye in its history and general outlook.

Not sure the Canard can be pigeonholed that easily though, I don’t know if the Canard really is unique in the Western world but there can’t be many like it. Traditionally leftwing but they certainly don’t discriminate.

Some rightwing people say that the Canard has it in for rightwing politicians but it’s a procès d’intention. They expose financial scandals across the board and lay into all parties, whether in office or not. It just so happens that the Right or Centre-Right have been in power much more than the Left since the beginning of the Fifth Republic, so the Canard, in volume, are more critical of the Right, makes sense as more often than not they are at the helm.

The French satirical weekly with no ads and no online articles

Advertising-free ‘Canard enchaîné’ sells 400,000 copies and has €100 million banked
The scourge of vain, hypocritical and corrupt politicians, the Canard celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2016. It sells 400,000 copies, including 70,000 to subscription readers. At a time of crisis in print media, it had a profit of €2.4 million in 2015, on a turnover of €24 million. Reserves totalling €100 million ensure it could weather virtually any crisis.

The Canard does all this without advertising or shareholders. Its only internet presence is an image of its front page.

(another source):

When a political scandal explodes in France, there’s a good chance it’s Wednesday. That’s the day satirical newspaper Le Canard Enchainé hits newsstands.

The fiercely independent weekly, known for its incisive and derisive reporting and more than its share of scoops and bombshells, turns 100 this year.

Despite the economic downturn, changing media landscape and a print press crisis, Le Canard Enchainé continues to do well. Remarkably, it takes no advertising and has only a bare-bones webpage that often just summarizes what’s on the print front page. Yet it turns a profit on the 400,000 copies it sells each week.

La Croix : La Croix - Wikipedia

Les Échos: Les Echos (France) - Wikipedia

L’Express: L'Express - Wikipedia

Le Figaro (little wiki tweaking needed, it’s solidly mainstream Right): Le Figaro - Wikipedia

L’Humanité: L'Humanité - Wikipedia

Libération: Libération - Wikipedia
(more solidly Left that the Wiki “centre Left” description. Went through torrid times about 8-12 yrs ago, hugely in the red, laid off a lot of personnel, not sure how it’s doing now. Its old HQs in “NoMa” as Americans say, the North Marais (or, in French, the “Haut Marais”), had a fabulous rooftop terrace, I can see why the staff were pissed off to have to sell up and move!)

Marianne: Marianne (magazine) - Wikipedia

Marianne is a bit of a strange (inclassable) one and difficult to pigeonhole as it’s changed in the last few years. Wiki is wrong IMO here, they need to update their disque dur as the French say. Marianne not that leftwing now, it was leftwing/centre-Left when run by Jean-François Kahn, a stalwart of French journalism, in his 80s now, but now that the editor-in-chief is Natacha Polony, since 2018, it’s more centre/centre-Right IMO.

Polony describes herself as “réac de gauche et anarchiste de droite”, which is vague and a bit of a cop-out. She was a “Chevènementiste” 20 yrs ago, so leftwing but then drifted to the Right, she voted for centre-Right Bayrou in 2007 and admitted voting for that Alt-right nutter Dupont-Aignan in 2012, which is quite an ideological grand écart. She recently said that she might have voted for Mélenchon hadn’t he been so pro-Cuba or something similar. So, to recap: she started on the Left, then veered to the centre-Right, then only a few yrs later voted basically for a Far-Right presidential candidate then nearly pro-Mélenchon in 2017. In other words, she is all over the place and could well be a bit of an opportunist more preoccupied with feathering her own journalistic nest at all cost than anything else. I still think Marianne is far less leftwing than it was a few yrs ago under Khan when most of their journalists were solidly leftwing. I’d say that it’s centre/centre-right now. Anyway, whether centre-right or centre-Left, Marianne is fiercely Republican and lay into all parties and are critical of all governments whatever their orientation. They’ve always refused to position themselves ideologically and/or politically.

Mediapart: Mediapart - Wikipedia (solid Left/Hard Left for Mediapart, undoubtedly a success story).

Le Monde: Le Monde - Wikipedia

(they recently opened stonking new HQs in Paris near the Austerlitz railway station, stunning; centre-Left now that billionaire Xavier Niel, the founder of free who first made his money with the legendary “Minitel rose”, owns most of it. I think that it’s designed to be more open to the public, with a café, a media library etc.)

(photo above from Dec. 2019)

L’Obs: L'Obs - Wikipedia

Le Parisien: Le Parisien - Wikipedia

Le Point: Le Point - Wikipedia

Valeurs Actuelles: Valeurs actuelles - Wikipedia

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Thanks, a very interesting summary.
What is striking is how the French media is still quite strong in hard print, and that some survive on cover cost and subs’ a business model not sustainable in the UK.
What also strikes me is the strength of the regional press here again unlike the UK where most local papers have either closed or merely reproduce press releases/agency output interspersed with ads.
Eg Yorkshire Post, Stockton and Darlington Gazette, The Press (York) and Northern Echo being examples I’m familiar with.
We have Ouest France, regionally, and very locally Le Télégramme and Le Trégor, all of which remain true newspapers with traditional reports by journalists, but of course also have online output.

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We’re steadily working through this thread and finding it very interesting so thank you very much @Fred1 We’re late arrivals to it and jumped in at the middle as a post there explained to my partner the judges he’s come across in documentaries etc who seemed to be acting as detectives - not something that exists at all in the UK so it’s interesting to see how that works.

I’d also like to confirm @strudball 's comment about newspapers here - I know they have political slants but they are much more detailed and informative than most of the UK ones (which I have largely abandoned) so must still have serious hournalists on their staff? Like John, I love Ouest France - a paper giving me international, national, regional and local village news is absolutely marvellous!

Sorry about going off piste a bit there but I wanted to make sure that @Fred1 knew his informative posts are appreciated, even if we are reserving them mainly for when we have an apero in hand… :smiley: