by Paula Smith
In May 2017 France will go to the polls to vote in a new President. Recent Presidents include the present Francois Hollande and also Nicolas Sarkozy. France is very different from the UK as the President is the head of State and the Prime minister works under him within the 5th Republic. Sometimes the President and the Prime minister are not of the same party and when this situation arises it is called ‘cohabitation’.
It does not seem that long ago when the people of France were shocked in April 2002 when Jean Marie Le Pen made it to the second round. The extreme right played a dominant role although losing in the end but perhaps it was to be the beginning of something. Now, we have Marine Le Pen and it is clear she is a Presidential candidate to be taken seriously. In France one-third of voters will vote in the polls for an extreme party either right or left. So where is the shock now?
Recent developments in France include terrorist attacks. Have tolerance levels changed? Marine Le Pen insists that reducing immigration is the way forward for France. So who is going to compete with her? Last night Francois Fillon, the center right candidate gained victory over Alan Juppe. Many claim that his policies actually overlap with that of Marine Le Pen, especially where immigration and family values are concerned.
So what do we know of Francois Charles Amand Fillon? He was born in 1954 in Le Mans and served as Prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007 until 2012. He has a Welsh wife and takes aspiration from Margaret Thatcher. For example he is skeptical about the EU and Brussels and the amount of power they hold. He claimed after yesterday’s victory that new hope is born and that his mission is to make this hope grow for the Republic.
He goes on to say that France wants the truth and action to be taken and that what unites us is more important than what separates us. He states that he now has to convince the entire country. He speaks of values and how France has everything to be a modern nation ahead in Europe. He asserts that from tomorrow the essential work will start.
When it comes to the other parties Francois Fillon announces that the left have failed and that the extreme right have collapsed. Indeed the present Socialist party are unpopular and have been criticized for how they handled the Paris attacks. Other parties include the Workers Struggle. Many believe the contest will be between Marine Le Pen and Francois Fillon but will some voters contemplate both? A Thatcher admirer against a far right opponent. Does France not deserve more choice?
Marine le Pen refers to Brexit and the latest Presidential results in the USA to argue that change is needed and indeed the results can hold many surprises. However, let us not forget that surprise and shock are closely related, and let us hope that another 21st April 2002 revelation will remind them to keep politics in perspective and to stay close to the principles of the 5th Republic such as freedom of speech, presumption of innocence and rejection of special class privileges.