Recent Posts

France and AUKUS

France and AUKUS

The sudden announcement of AUKUS on September 15, 2021 has caused some significant diplomatic damage between the United States and its oldest ally, France.  The trilateral agreement, among Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, is both a submarine technology deal and a new 

The Crimes of Agnès Buzyn

The Crimes of Agnès Buzyn

Or should that be the “crimes” of Agnès Buzyn? As widely reported even in the international press, Dr. Agnès Buzyn, Macron’s former Minister of Health and Solidarity, has been charged with “endangering the lives of others” in her handling of the pandemic.  She has been 

A Dinner in Béziers?

A Dinner in Béziers?

Brigitte Bardot has affirmed her support for Éric Zemmour, the  journalist/commentator who is flirting with a run for the presidency of France next year.  Brigitte Bardot has also denounced the pass sanitaire (the proof of vaccination or negative test within 72 hours) imposed by Emmanuel Macron for entry into cafés, restaurants, trains, and other public spaces.  She has compared the pass to the “ausweis,” the identity card imposed on Occupied France in World War II by the Nazis.  She has suggested that the unvaccinated, denied “the possibility of living normally and freely,” respond by refusing to pay their taxes.  

The person who will ultimately get her vote will be the one who is strongest on the issue of animal rights. (1)

Not Brigitte Bardot, but in the spirit of, on the Rivieras in the 1960s.

Éric Zemmour is the featured commentator on CNews, a network which seems to have set its sights on becoming the Fox News of France.  He is openly considering a run for the presidency in 2022–so openly that he is being included in the polling–and it is widely believed that the far right gadfly, as he is, will cut into the vote totals of Marine Le Pen, possibly even denying her a spot in the second round.

So what does Béziers have to do with all this?

Robert Ménard is the high-profile mayor of Béziers, elected in 2014 and easily re-elected in 2020.  He is a self-described former “Trotskyite” and he was the founder of “Reporters without Borders.”  Though he has never joined Le Pen’s Rassemblement National, he accepted its endorsement in both of his elections, and has declared that he will be supporting Marine Le Pen for the presidency.

Béziers, by the way, is a beautiful city of about 78,000, close to the Mediterranean Sea and the Spanish border.  It is a conservative outpost in southwest France, which recently re-elected the Socialist Carole Delga as President of Occitanie, the région in which Béziers is located.

Béziers and Perpignan

Ménard was the guest on Bourdin Direct, with Jean-Jacques Bourdin, on September 3, 2021.  He stated that he was ready to accept Afghan refugees in his town, then qualified it: if they were not “true” refugees, in danger in their own country, they would have to leave; and he also wondered why the countries of the  Middle East wouldn’t take them.  He denounced Zemmour’s recent statement that Afghan refugees would have to choose between being Muslim and coming to France: “It’s not because you are Muslim that you are a problem, the problem is when you are an Islamist [politically radical], this isn’t the same thing.”

Published on Youtube, September 3, 2021

But Ménard was primarily on the show to talk about his new book, Chère Marine, described as a no-holds-barred, tough-talking admonition on what Marine Le Pen must do to win the presidency.  The book is not out yet–apparently it will appear in mid-September–but some extracts from it appeared in the twitter feed of Jeremy Trottin, head political reporter at RMCInfo.  

Ménard  noted, for example, that Le Pen was correct to push back against the description of “extreme right,” leveled against her, because “your party [has never] contested the verdict of the ballot box, which is a major characteristic of this current of thought.”  

Only extreme-right authoritarians, in other words, lie about the results of elections.

To continue:

He chided her for attacking the “pass sanitaire, a common sense measure” of Macron, a moment of “demagogy” that she had taken in order not to lose her far right followers.  He urged her to “disengage” herself from the anti-masker, anti-vaxxer elements.  What she needed to do, he suggested, was get rid of some of her entourage, the crazies who would drag her down.  “I still remember,” he said, “the words of one of your close advisors (proches) speaking to me, some months from the elections of last June [regional and departmental], of a ‘prerevolutionary’ situation and of departments that would fall ‘into the bag’ of the RN . . . At this level of unreality, not to say imbecility, I was in complete shock (les bras m’en sont tombés).  And this person affirmed that he had your ear. . . . (sic) I prefer not to believe this.”

Ménard was equally blunt about Zemmour, acknowledging that he has some “talent,” but “the passage from polemicist to politician, from ‘I have a television show’ to Head of State, I don’t believe Éric is capable of doing it.”  His candidacy would, in fact, only serve to prevent Marine Le Pen from getting into the second round.

But it was after the show, perhaps in a burst of enthusiasm, that Ménard caused a problem as he sought to become peacemaker or kingmaker.  Here, his tweet, and almost immediately the response of Zemmour.

But notice the difference.  Ménard invited Le Pen and Zemmour to dinner, to gather around a table and talk.  Zemmour said he would be happy to “debate” Le Pen.

Le Pen had to think about it for awhile, but finally acknowledged that she “had never refused to converse with whoever”; she clarified that her understanding of Ménard’s proposal was that it was a “dinner,” not a public debate. Then Zemmour’s entourage stipulated that the polémiciste had agreed to a debate, “not to back-kitchen nonsense,” (2). BFMTV, which had started all the chatter about the non-event, finally brought it to a close with “Érik Zemmour refuses the dinner with Marine Le Pen.

The tempest in a teapot, or scarcely that, was enough to occupy the media for a few days, but the non-story seemed to have two primary meanings.

First, and least importantly, Ménard learned first hand the danger of being spontaneous, though perhaps he meant to put himself at the center; he did, after all, write a pamphlet with instructions for what Le Pen has to do to win, and he went on the show to promote it–and clearly also, to promote his view of what the RN should be.  And within Le Pen’s camp, there were some who believed that he had elevated Zemmour, to the irritation of her various spokesmen who found their appearances sidetracked by questions about Zemmour, as here, with Julien Odoul:

Second, and much more importantly, there is obviously some behind-the-scenes grumbling about Le Pen’s leadership.  No one wants to see a repeat of her dreadful performance in the 2017 debate with Macron, where she lost on both substance and style, and yet most polls predict that the two will emerge from the first round as opponents in the second.  And after priming the Régionales (June 21 and 28, 2021) as the opening salvo in the presidential election, Marine Le Pen saw the RN fail to take a single region, not even PACA (Provence-Alpes Maritimes-Côte d’Azur), the traditional stronghold of lepénisme.  

An indication of how Le Pen planned to handle the defeats in the regionals was on display less than a week later.  The Party Congress was held early in July, in Perpignan in Occitanie.  At 122,000, Perpignan is the largest RN mayoralty in France; Louis Aliot, Le Pen’s former partner, hosted the gathering as the city’s newly-elected mayor.  The Congress was supposed to celebrate their recent victories, which were non-existent; but Le Pen performed as if they had been victorious, with a 44-minute speech, perhaps the same she would have given if they had won.  She confirmed the strategy of “dédiabolisation,” of “de-demonizing” the party, cleansing it of all traces of her father Jean-Marie (who is still alive and still openly critical of her), asserting that “We will not turn back.  With all the respect that we [the RN] have for our own history, we will not return to the National Front [the original name].   The party had been consistently correct in its views: “We have seen clearly on immigration, on the [growing] savagery of society, on globalization and so many other subjects which have structured the political debate . . . [there is] a choice of society, better, of civilization, [between] a France that dares to name the enemy or one which gives up in the face of Islamism.”  She denounced “uncontrolled immigration” that threatened “a possible submersion.”  She swept past the recent elections and the threat of Zemmour. 

She was reelected as head of the RN with 98.5% of the vote. (3)

There is a way in which Ménard’s pamphlet (what I have read of it from the tweet) meshes with her declaration during the Congress that they were not returning to the days of the National Front.  What could that mean, particularly given that many have seen the name-change, from “Front” to “Rally,” as merely a cosmetic one?  

Jean-Marie Le Pen, the long-time leader of the National Front, who had served in the military (even though he missed both Dien Bien Phu and Algeria) had attracted a number of old campaigners, Gaullists, paratroopers, Resistance fighters, who remembered the days of struggle as the best days of their lives.  They were Frontistes because the party was potentially transgressive, a movement rather than a party; it threatened to “bring back” some essence of the nation that was in danger of being overrun by immigration, embourgeoisement, timidity.  Make France Great Again.

Marine had domesticated the party.  Her ambition was to make of the RN the alternative governing party of France.  They would play by the rules.  They would put forward a political platform.  Their policies–populist and anti-immigrant as they were–would win at the ballot box, not by means of a frontal attack on the National Assembly (for example).

“In truth, dear Marine,” wrote Ménard, “you are at the crossroads.  On the eve, perhaps, of becoming a woman of Destiny.  You know perfectly well–you have said it to me and repeated it–that you cannot win a presidential election with your own forces.  You know it so well that you are evolving, each day, toward positions more acceptable for the rest of the Right, this Right which, in spite of its desertions and betrayals once installed in power, is necessary to us if we want to carry the day.  I’m not speaking of its leaders, who with some rare exceptions, will end by preferring a Macron–but of their voters.  But for that, it is necessary that you rid yourself of the words and ideas which stick to you and mark you with the scarlet letter . . . (sic) of lepénisme.” (4)

How long will Ménard cling to his dreams of remaking the party?

Header Image by Shutterstock.

======================================================

(1) “2022: Brigitte Bardot tresse des lauriers à Éric Zemmour,” August 10, 2021. https://www.lepoint.fr/politique/2022-brigitte-bardot-tresse-des-lauriers-a-eric-zemmour-10-08-2021-2438399_20.php

(2) “Présidentielle: Zemmour et Le Pen d’accord pour une rencontre, Ménard s’en réjouit,” Le Point, September 3, 2021.https://www.lepoint.fr/politique/presidentielle-menard-propose-a-zemmour-et-le-pen-de-discuter-a-beziers-03-09-2021-2441348_20.php

(3) Thierry Bouldoire, “Congrès du RN à Perpignan.  Marine Le Pen: ‘Nous ne reviendrons pas au Front national,’” L’indépendant,  July 4, 2021.https://www.lindependant.fr/2021/07/04/congres-du-rn-a-perpignan-marine-le-pen-nous-ne-reviendrons-pas-au-front-national-9651027.php

Julien Marion, “Congrès du Rassemblement national à Perpignan: Louis Aliot rate la marche de la présidence,” L’Indépendant,” July 4, 2021.https://www.lindependant.fr/2021/07/04/congres-du-rassemblement-national-a-perpignan-louis-aliot-rate-la-marche-de-la-presidence-9650902.php

(4) Michael Esdourrubailh, “‘Chère Marine’: la lettre de Robert Ménard à Marine Le Pen pour gagner la présidentielle,” Midi Libre, September 3, 2021.https://www.midilibre.fr/2021/09/03/pourquoi-on-continue-a-faire-peur-la-lettre-de-robert-menard-a-marine-le-pen-pour-gagner-la-presidentielle-9766887.php

Context: Macron and Afghanistan

Context: Macron and Afghanistan

There are several important points to remember in regard to Emmanuel Macron, as reporters quote him on Afghanistan.  It’s largely a matter of context. First, Macron is facing reelection in April, 2022, less than a year away. Second, he is likely to be in a 

Afghanistan: The Doha Agreement

Afghanistan: The Doha Agreement

The mid-August 2021 end of the Afghan War (in the United States, anyway) came about a month earlier than projected, but it was eighteen months in the making. Longer than that, of course. But we were preoccupied with covid and lockdown, with watching Tiger King 

The Regionals 2021, first round: An Overview

The Regionals 2021, first round: An Overview

The first tour (round) of the 2021 regional and departmental elections in France is now over.  

It surprised everyone.  

The elections held throughout the country on June 20 seem to have muddied, rather than clarified, the forecasts for the presidential elections next year.

And they are not over.  The finalists of the first round will go against each other on Sunday, June 27.

The Régions and departmental cantons were redrawn in 2015, under President François Hollande; the departmental elections of that year were held in March, and the regionals were held in December.  (Because of the pandemic, these next elections for both departments and regionals were moved to June.)  

Departmental elections are voted canton by canton within the departments; and each ticket runs a binôme, or male/female pair, to promote equality of representation.  The winning binômes for each canton are both elected to the departmental council, but each may then go their own separate ways.

In regional elections, the head of each regional list is selected (in an investiture) by the party or an alliance of parties.  He or she then selects those on the regional list, alternating between male and female (the higher the rank on the list, the more likely the chance to sit on the council).  These regional lists are running for election to the regional councils; they are divided according to departments (i.e., only those in the same department may vote for their departmental section of the list, not the entire list.)  The winning list automatically gets 25% of the seats; the rest of the seats are distributed proportionally among those who contest the second round, including the winning list.  The regional lists are chosen among local “civilians” or officeholders; thus a regional list may include local mayors or departmental council members, for example.  Though the Regional departmental sections may overlap in terms of personnel, the regional lists are separate from the departmental lists–something that is harder to understand when both sets of elections are held on the same days, as they are this year.

The main points to take away from the results (focusing mainly on the outcome of the regionals):

PARTICIPATION:  Disturbingly low.

  • There was a very high rate of abstention, averaging about 66%.  The highest rate of participation was in Corsica, at 57% (only 43% abstention).
  • The participation rate was lowest among young people (18-24 years old), at a dismal 13%, with even those of 35-49 years old only rising to 17%. (1)
  • All of the regions in France will have a second round, next Sunday (June 27) because no party or electoral alliance achieved a majority of the votes.

THE BIGGEST LOSERS:

  • Marine Le Pen’s party, the Rassemblement National.  Their supporters were expected to turn out in great numbers, and especially the young, to support the RN candidates, creating a wave that would carry Le Pen into the presidency in 2022.  They actually did relatively well throughout the country, but fell victim to their own high expectations, which they magnified instead of tamping down; indeed, the leadership had publicly indicated that this was a trial run for the presidentials.  While they remained strongest in the South, their traditional stronghold (see Riviera Regionals, this blog), they also had creditable showings throughout the country.  But their hopes for taking a region now rest largely in Paca (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur), and they face obstacles there.
  • Emmanuel Macron’s party, La République en Marche.  The expectations for this party were low, and they fulfilled them.  At best, they had hoped to be “kingmakers” in the second round by winning at least 10% of the vote (the floor for running in the second round, or for deal-making.  In 6 of the 13 regions of Metropolitan France of the regions, they fell short of even that modest goal.  After the municipal elections of 2020, in which LREM did not win the mayoralties of any of the major or even middling cities, it is clear that LREM has no deep-rooted strength in the countryside. It is a new party, built around Macron, who also carried a stunning majority of new-minted LREM candidates into the National Assembly with him. What now?
  • The polls. They grossly over-predicted Marine Le Pen’s party and under-predicted Les Républicains. The apparent answer for this? Or at least the answer that the RNs preferred: the old people attached to the old parties (including the Socialists) voted, the RN’s young people did not. Another answer: the educated and comfortable tend to vote; while the voters that the RN has cultivated, in the popular and precarious classes, are less reliable.

THE BIGGEST WINNERS:

  • Les Républicains (LR).  Under the leadership of Christian Jacob, they took a hard line against any alliances with LREM or with the RN, a highwire act that seems to have paid off–though the greatest test of that strategy will be in Paca, a rather more complicated situation.  They ran as LRs or under the DVD line (diverse droite, in alliance with smaller conservative parties) but maintained a clear identity–even in Hauts-de-France (see earlier post, this blog), where the leading candidate, Xavier Bertrand, is no longer a member of the party but whose political history and ideology leave him firmly in the LR camp; and the LRs wisely chose to back him, rather than running a different candidate.  After being excluded from the 2017 presidential second round, and their disastrous showing in the European Parliament elections in 2019 (see earlier post, this blog) they are positioned for a comeback as the leading opposition party.  While there are some divisions within, they have maintained their “center-right” identity relatively intact–indeed, some of the far right members of the party have already joined the RN.
  • Incumbent council presidents in general, many of whom are LR.  With the exception of Paca, where the incumbent president of the Regional Council, Renaud Muselier (LR) came in second to Thierry Mariani (formerly of Les Républicains, now representing Le Pen’s National Rally)–with that notable exception, all the incumbents came in first in their respective races and in at least two cases seem poised to win. (2)

MIDDLING SUCCESS (i.e., rather more than survival, and better than they hoped):

  • The Left, in electoral alliances, led by either the Socialists (PS) or the Ecology-Green party (EELV), and often with the participation of the French Communist Party (PCF).  This is a far more modest victory than the one scored by the LRs, in part because of a number of small splinter groups, but mainly because of La France Insoumise (LFI), the “left of the left,” the party founded by the former Socialist Jean-Luc Mélenchon.  The LFI controls a sizable portion of the far-left-but-not-actually-communist wing, and the prickly, controversial Mélenchon has declared that he will run for president.  Perhaps more significantly, the LFI will clearly be the target of both the National Rally and the Republicans, who have already demonized this party as pro-immigrant and pro-Muslim; the Republicans have been experimenting with the conceit that the LFI is the left-wing equivalent of the RN–extremist, fringe, dangerous. This rhetorical strategy will create a dilemma for the rest of the Left, who will be forced to exclude them, or to defend them.

The RN candidates, riding high in the polls before the election, were gobsmacked by the low turnout, and berated their supporters who had deserted them at the time of voting: “I ask you to move!” (Chénu, Hauts-de France); “Wake up!” (Odoul, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté); “If you don’t vote [next] Sunday, nothing will change in our region, nothing will change in your lives!” (Mariani, PACA).(3) 

Some, including Marine Le Pen, issued a renewed call to go vote on Sunday, June 27, to wrest victory out of the jaws of defeat: “We’re talking about this election as if it’s over, but it isn’t over. . . . Our voters can turn out massively in the second round and totally change the results.”

Jordan Bardella, who led the RN list in Ile-de-France (the Paris region) was more pragmatic, and showed why he, at only 25, is one of the elite circle of party leaders around Marine Le Pen.  The first round of voting gave the lead with about 36% to incumbent Ile-de-France president Valérie Pécresse (a national figure, formerly a minister, who has since dropped out of Les Républicains and founded  her own party, Libres).  Coming in second was Bardella, who led the RN list to only 13% of the vote.  The Left candidates–Audrey Pulvar, Socialist Party, with 11% of the vote, and Clémentine Autain, La France Insoumise, with 10% of the vote–immediately united behind EELV candidate Julien Bayou, who took 12.97% of the vote.  The presidential majority (LREM) candidate at 11.79%, Laurent Saint-Martin, is remaining in the contest, for a quadrangulaire. (4)

Autain, shown here in the midst of the campaign. Image by Shutterstock.com.

In the between-rounds debate, while other RN candidates were repetitively delivering soundbites imploring their voters to turn out, Bardella took a different tack: “Valérie Pécresse will be elected president of the Region, everybody knows it.”  He went on to suggest that a strong turnout on Sunday would strengthen the RN opposition to the support, by the Left and by Pécresse, of the migrants and the undocumented. In a very brief answer, he managed to convey the essential sameness of the “old” Left and Right, and the mission of the RN to stand up for France and its people.

The next round of elections will be held on Sunday, June 27; they will have the results later on Sunday.

============================================================

(1) *Nicolas Berrod, “Abstention record aux régionales: qui en a vraiment profité?” Le Parisien,  June 21, 2021.  https://www.leparisien.fr/elections/regionales/abstention-record-aux-regionales-qui-en-a-vraiment-profite-21-06-2021-KRN5EIGEPRHS7NY2MZAGTZZ6WU.php?xtor=EREC-109&utm_medium=email&utm_source=internal&utm_campaign=newsletter_politique  

(2) Ibid.

(3) As collected by Nabil Touati, “Régionales 2021: quand le RN sermonne ses électeurs déserteurs,” Le Huffpost, June 21, 2021. https://www.huffingtonpost.fr/entry/regionales-2021-quand-le-rn-engueule-ses-electeurs-deserteurs_fr_60cfa77fe4b0dd017428b06c?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=NL%2006%2021%202021&utm_term=fr-daily-brief

(4) (4) “Île-de-France: résultats des élections 2021,” Le Monde, June 21, 2021.  https://www.lemonde.fr/resultats-elections/ile-de-france/

The Regionals in Hauts-de-France and the Presidential Election

The Regionals in Hauts-de-France and the Presidential Election

The région of Hauts-de-France came into existence in 2016, as Picardy was added to the previous Nord-Pas-de-Calais region. It is the northernmost part of the country, bordering Belgium and the English Channel, and includes the cities of Lille (the site of the Prefecture), Dunkirk, Amiens, 

Riviera Regionals, Part I: 2015 (and the worst Joan of Arc day ever)

Riviera Regionals, Part I: 2015 (and the worst Joan of Arc day ever)

A recent survey in France suggested that 61% of those polled would not vote for Emmanuel Macron in the first round of the presidential elections next year.  Of the remaining 39%, 11% said they would definitely vote for him, and 28% said it was “possible.”  

The Occupation of the Odéon Theater

The Occupation of the Odéon Theater

First, watch this terrific performance of the Chilean resistance song (“The people united will never be defeated!”) in front of the Odéon Theater. (An original version is in the notes below, along with the link to the full 30 minute open air concert.)

So what is this about?

The concert was to salute and encourage the dozens of theater workers–under 100–who are occupying the venerable 1782 Odéon theater, in protest against the existential threat to their livelihoods and to French culture in general.  The occupiers are the “intermittents”: not the major stars but rather the “independent cultural workers”  who go from job to job, picking up work where they can get it. Think The Chorus Line, but extend it to film as well as the stage, to stagehands, the costumers, and all the others who create spectacles.

A major part of their problem is Covid-19, which forced the theaters, museums, libraries and other similar spaces to close.  There was an attempted limited reopening in May 2020, and then a definitive closing at the end of October, with no clear reopening date yet in sight, as France seems to be heading into a third wave.

The theater workers are demanding that the theaters reopen, with health protections in place. But in large part the protests are driven by changes in the law.  And though it seems likely that the government will adjust the enforcement of the new laws according to circumstances, the mere threats of the changes have created a real climate of uncertainty and fear. 

One such issue, and one that affects only the culture workers, is the ending of l’année blanche, best translated in this case as the “pause” year.  The Macron government declared it on May 6, 2020, in response to the requests of intermittents and others to extend the unemployment benefits.  According to the terms of Macron’s decree, everyone whose unemployment compensation rights end, or have ended, at some point between March 1, 2020, and August 31, 2021, will have their compensation period prolonged until the end of August, 2021.  The pandemic, it was thought back in May 2020, would surely be over by then.  As the date is approaching, and as the vaccine rollout (astrazeneca) has been relatively slow, there is widespread concern that the economy, and especially the theaters, will not pick up fast enough.  

The other problem is the new unemployment benefits law (the assurance-chômage) that is scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2021.  This particular issue involves all workers, not just the theatrical sector, and It has also been subject to pushbacks, to adjustments of the calculus (in November 2020 and again in March 2021), and altogether is seen by many people as unduly harsh: in the words of a CFDT union leader in November, the government is balancing the budget “on the backs of the most precarious.”  The new law is complicated, but the heart of the matter is that unemployment compensation will be lower for some 840,000 people, and perhaps more, and especially of those in the situation of the intermittents–that is, those “temps” who have short-term employment.  The theory behind the new reform–actually passed in 2018, early in Macron’s tenure, but pushed back until now–is the idea that if unemployment compensation is too attractive, people will not be inclined to go looking for work. 

There are two key elements of the reform that have been the subject of recent meetings in the Ministry of Labor: eligibility and degressivity.

Eligibility, which does affect the intermittent, is relatively simple: they are moving from the requirement of four months, to six months of work, in a two-year period, to qualify for unemployment benefits.  Degressivity, or the monthly lowering of the amount of unemployment compensation, is the other key element of the reform that might be delayed by current circumstances.  As with many other attempts at social engineering from the Right, this is a punitive measure that does not make much economic sense, since it most clearly hits the upwardly mobile and aspiring middle classes (below the age of 57, thus below retirement age). The targeted group would receive their normal compensation for six months, and then in the seventh month would see a sharp decline in the amount they receive, though not beneath a certain floor.  Bruno Coquet, a government economist interviewed by Bertrand Bissuel for Le Monde, noted that the goal was to force the unemployed person to look for work.  However, as Coquet noted, the figures from unemployment offices showed that 90% of the unemployed are actively looking for work, as they are required to.  This kind of financial pressure placed on those with skills or degrees would likely force them to accept any offer, even those at a much lower level than was warranted by their training or experience.  It would also place them in competition with the lesser skilled; and altogether in both groups, the policy would lead to a decline in purchasing power for consumer goods, which would then slow the recovery.

Because of the continuing difficulty with Covid, the Minister of Labor Elisabeth Borne, in consultation with representatives of unions and employers, in late March determined two economic conditions that would have to be met before the new unemployment law could go into effect–a sustained growth (beyond a certain number) of new hires, and a sustained decrease in new unemployment claims. The measuring of these conditions started on April 1; when the two measures are attained, the Ministry will then fix the date–no more than three months in advance–when the new, less generous conditions will go into effect.  If the economic situation deteriorates in that time, then they will be put on hold again.  Thus the government has made a commitment to take account of conditions on the ground; but the real question is: why make (or keep alive the threat of) these changes now, in the midst of a pandemic?

And what of l’année blanche, and the continuing likelihood of reduced theatrical and film production even beyond August 31?  The issue was raised at this year’s Césars, the French equivalent of the Oscars, which was held in person with a masked crowd limited mostly to nominees.  The attention was captured by actress Corinne Masiero, who turned her announcement of the best costume awards into a plea for the intermittents. She came onstage in a donkey skin which covered an apparently bloody rag of a dress, which she removed, leaving her completely in her “last costume,” her skin–on which she had written “No culture, no future,” and “Give us back art, Jean [Castex, the prime minister].” The video is widely available online; since it’s NSFW, I won’t post it here.

Masiero’s donkey skin was somewhat less random a choice than it appeared; she had wanted, she said, a gold dress like the one worn by Catherine Deneuve in La peau d’âne (The Donkey Skin), a film made in 1970 by Jacques Demy, but had been forced to improvise–”trop trash?” (too trashy?) she asked the announcer.  Thus the caricatured image she presented would probably have been immediately recognizable to a French audience, with Deneuve as cinematic icon in a classic work of cinema.

Posted by BadPrincess Movies, July 16, 2020, on Youtube.

On February 2, Roselyne Bachelot, Minister of Culture, announced a study of the situation of the theater workers.  On February 4, the intermittents marched in Paris, with leaders of the CGT, to ask for a withdrawal of the new unemployment insurance law and a prolongation of the pause year.  On March 4, a group of intermittents, representing the estimated 110,000 of them, began their occupation of the Odéon.  To their surprise, Bachelot came during the evening of March 6, but with “empty hands,” according to Marie-José Sirach of l’Humanité.  (Fourteen days later Bachelot announced that she had tested positive for Covid, was placed on oxygen, and finally, after about a week in the hospital, was released.  The Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne was also hospitalized and released.) 

President Macron had declined to impose a lockdown early in the new year.  Forced by surging cases and shortages of intensive care beds, Macron announced on March 31 that he was extending the lockdown, already imposed on some areas, to all of mainland France until mid-May.  (The terms of the lockdown, in English, are here: https://www.gouvernement.fr/en/coronavirus-covid-19.)   Macron’s speech, with English translation, is here:

https://youtu.be/EP5EdgtYM3Y, France24 (English), posted on March 31, 2021

Macron ended this rather lengthy speech with hope: the school spring holidays and schedules would be rearranged, so that children could remain in schools; the toll in nursing homes was receding, as the elderly were being vaccinated; and the supply of vaccines was increasing, so that there was real hope that everyone could be vaccinated by the end of the summer, and that France could gradually return to the cultural and sporting events that they loved.

One of the political realities, however, is that Macron is facing a presidential election in Spring 2022.  And while France has not handled the pandemic as badly as the US under Trump, the European Union commission, under the leadership of Ursula von der Leyen, has badly fumbled the European response, after insisting upon controlling it for all member countries.  That has an impact on Macron, who has been a staunch supporter of the EU, to the point of arranging for Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” the European anthem, at his victory celebration in 2017.  It does not help that post-Brexit-UK is doing significantly better in getting its people vaccinated.  Nor does it help that Macron was instrumental in installing Von der Leyen.

In the meantime, another concert, this time with Caribbean musicians, was planned in front of the Odéon, still occupied, for Saturday, April 3.  It was forbidden on Friday night by Prefect of Police Didier Lallement.  

========================================

https://youtu.be/AcR-BRO8SZY, full concert, March 27, 2021

Bertrand Bissuel, “Dégressivité des allocations-chômage: une ‘incitation au déclassement,’ selon l’OFCE,” Le Monde, January 26, 2021.https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2021/01/26/degressivite-des-allocations-chomage-une-incitation-au-declassement-selon-l-ofce_6067644_823448.html

Alain Ruello, “Réforme de l’assurance-chômage: le gouvernement ajuste sa copie,” Les Echos, March 17, 2021.https://www.lesechos.fr/economie-france/social/reforme-de-lassurance-chomage-le-gouvernement-ajuste-sa-copie-1299079

Alain Ruello, “Réforme de l’assurance-chômage: les mesures durcies, et celles suspendues,” Les Echos, March 2, 2021.https://www.lesechos.fr/economie-france/social/assurance-chomage-ce-qua-finalement-decide-le-gouvernement-1294670

Marc Vignaud, “Réforme de l’assurance-chômage: cette fois, c’est la bonne,” Le Point, March 2, 2021.https://www.lepoint.fr/economie/reforme-de-l-assurance-chomage-cette-fois-c-est-la-bonne-02-03-2021-2416042_28.php

“Emmanuel Macron annonce une ‘année blanche’ pour les intermittents,” francemusique, May 6, 2020.https://www.francemusique.fr/actualite-musicale/emmanuel-macron-annonce-une-annee-blanche-pour-les-intermittents-83633

Raphaëlle Besse Desmoulières and Bertrand Bissuel, “Les droits à l’assurance-chômage prolongés pendant la durée du confinement,” Le Monde, November 13, 2020.https://www.lemonde.fr/politique/article/2020/11/13/assurance-chomage-le-gouvernement-prolonge-les-droits-durant-le-confinement_6059581_823448.html

”La réforme controversée de l’assurance-chômage entrera partiellement en vigueur le 1er juillet,” Le Monde, March 2, 2021.https://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2021/03/02/la-reforme-partielle-de-l-assurance-chomage-entrera-en-vigueur-le-1er-juillet_6071697_3234.html

Steven Erlanger, “Vaccine ‘Fiasco’ Damages Europe’s Credibility,” The New York Times, April 2, 2021.  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/02/world/europe/europe-coronavirus-vaccine.html

“How Europe has mishandled the pandemic,” The Economist, March 31, 2021.https://www.economist.com/leaders/2021/03/31/how-europe-has-mishandled-the-pandemic?utm_campaign=coronavirus-special-edition&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_source=salesforce-marketing-cloud

Marie-José Sirach, “#Occupons.  À Paris, le préfet Lallement interdit un concert devant l’Odéon,” l’Humanité, April 6, 2021.https://www.humanite.fr/occupons-paris-le-prefet-lallement-interdit-un-concert-devant-lodeon-702498

The Presidential Elections, 2022: The Outsider from Cannes

The Presidential Elections, 2022: The Outsider from Cannes

David Lisnard has been Mayor of Cannes–home of Riviera beaches, sun, the film festival– since 2014.  He was reelected to another six year term in March 2020 by 88% of the vote.  He is 52.  He is a father to three children from his first