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French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Élysée Palace in Paris on Jan. 11. (Ludovic Marin/AP)

Never before has the far right appeared as strong in a French presidential campaign as it does now. That should concern everyone who cares about the future of rights and equity in France — but shouldn’t obscure the ways in which government policies are already intrusively targeting Islam.

According to recent polling, far-right candidates are poised to receive about 30 percent of votes in the election’s first round. For the first time, two figures from the far right seem almost equally likely to access the second round of the April election.

One of them in particular has garnered much attention. Éric Zemmour, a controversial pundit who officially declared his candidacy at the end of November, has managed to find a place for himself among the contest’s leaders.…  Seguir leyendo »

Para el presidente francés Emmanuel Macron esta pregunta tiene menos de reflexión teórica que de imperativo práctico. No en vano su futuro en el Elíseo, y el liderazgo de Francia en la Unión Europea tras la era Merkel, dependen de ello.

Si la meta es envidiable, el punto de partida actual no lo es tanto.

Hasta hace no mucho, la reelección de Macron en las presidenciales de abril estaba casi garantizada. Las encuestas le otorgaban un claro triunfo en la primera ronda y una segunda vuelta relativamente cómoda contra Marine Le Pen, gracias al frente republicano que aúna el voto opuesto al Frente Nacional.…  Seguir leyendo »

French President Emmanuel Macron in Tende, France, on Jan. 10. (Daniel Cole/AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron certainly has a way with words. His statements can often be cutting, withering and sometimes even offensive (the man once told a young jobseeker to just walk across the street and get a job). But, sometimes, the ex-investment banker has a point; sometimes, he speaks the truth.

In an interview with France’s Le Parisien newspaper, Macron shared his thoughts about France’s unvaccinated population. He did not mince his words. “The unvaccinated, I really want to piss them off,” Macron said. “And so, we’re going to continue doing so until the end. That’s the strategy.”

The English translation hardly does the comment justice.…  Seguir leyendo »

Emmanuel Macron has found himself impossibly squeezed. Photograph: Eliot Blondet/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

France is both beautiful and brutally bleak. It is a country studded with towns and rural vistas that take your breath away, but pockmarked with districts of soulless, desolate concrete, especially in the suburbs of its cities, the banlieues. It’s as though French planners and architects, in their embrace of modernity, lost touch with what it means to be human. It has been an important trigger for a toxic brew of Islamophobia and wider cultural despair.

The political consequences, now playing themselves out, will ricochet around Europe and the west. The presidential elections this spring will be dominated by the right, overtly mouthing implacable opposition to immigration that even Nigel Farage, who shares similar sentiments, dares not use so openly in Britain.…  Seguir leyendo »

French far-right leader Marine Le Pen, center-right Republican Valérie Pécresse and Socialist nominee Anne Hidalgo are all running to become France's first female president.

As France gears up for a presidential campaign amid a savage fifth coronavirus wave sweeping the country, for the first time in the nation's history, female candidates occupy three of the principal axes of the political spectrum and may hold the key to the nation's future.

Far-right perennial Marine Le Pen, Socialist Parisian Mayor Anne Hidalgo and conservative governor of the Paris region Valérie Pécresse each pose a unique challenge to the incumbent, President Emmanuel Macron. For the moment though, he has still not officially declared his candidacy, and Macron remains the favorite to clinch a second and final five-year term.…  Seguir leyendo »

Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris and the presidential candidate of the French Socialist Party, has warned there may be no future for the left in France. (Ian Langsdon/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

In 1987, the French comedian Guy Bedos quipped, “The left is now the center, the center is now the right, and the right is now the extreme right.” More than 30 years later, the right has become more extreme while the extreme right has become respectable. As for the left, it is missing in action.

This is not at all a laughing matter. Thanks to the Socialist Party, democracy in France has tended to rhyme with generosity and humanity. With the presidential election just four months away, the case of the missing left may well have dire consequences for this older and greater understanding of democracy.…  Seguir leyendo »

With Iran on the cusp of building a deliverable nuclear weapon and with a growing perception that the United States may no longer be the staunch and reliable ally that many, especially in Europe and the Middle East, had long welcomed, the beginning of a realignment of traditional allies is beginning to take shape.

Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron paid a whirlwind visit to the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. In the UAE, he came away with a $19 billion order for 80 Rafale fighter jets and 12 military helicopters.
No such luck for the United States, after the UAE last week suspended its separate sale for $23 billion worth of weapons.…  Seguir leyendo »

Con la elección de Valérie Pécresse como candidata de Les Républicains a la Presidencia de Francia se dibuja ya claramente el que será el panorama electoral de unas elecciones que, sin duda, son un claro indicador de la situación actual de la política en Europa. O más concretamente, del cada vez más evidente distanciamiento de los ciudadanos de las instituciones y del corazón de lo que representa la acción política.

Las primarias de Les Républicains, que se han celebrado las dos últimas semanas, son un interesante termómetro del estado de ánimo político y social en el país vecino. Los candidatos a priori favoritos, los perfiles más de hombre de Estado, Michel Barnier y Xavier Bertrand, ni siquiera alcanzaron la segunda vuelta.…  Seguir leyendo »

French President Emmanuel Macron greets Valérie Pécresse, now Les Républicains' presidential candidate, on Oct. 26. (Ludovic Marin/Pool/Reuters)

Emmanuel Macron has unofficially launched his campaign for the 2022 French presidential election. His victory in 2017 was, to many overseas observers, a welcome repudiation of Marine Le Pen’s far-right politics. Yet Macron’s success hinged on a collapse in support for France’s center-right party, Les Républicains (LR).

Where do things stand now? LR has struggled in recent years, as a corruption scandal engulfed its presidential candidate, François Fillon, and the party failed to find an identity under a succession of underwhelming leaders. But the party’s fortunes could be about to change after choosing Valérie Pécresse to be its presidential candidate.

Who is Valérie Pécresse?…  Seguir leyendo »

Notre Dame sustained major fire damage in 2019. (Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images)

What is it about a church renovation that convinces everyone that society is fast-bound for hell in a handbasket?

I’ve been asking myself this question in recent days because of the hubbub surrounding the proposed rebuilding of Paris’s Notre Dame Cathedral. On Thursday, plans for the renovation of its interior spaces will be presented to the commission nationale du patrimoine et de l’architecture for approval. In advance of the review, press coverage has sought to whip decisions over Notre Dame’s “wreckovation” into an epic battle between the sacred and profane. But as with most controversies surrounding Notre Dame — and historical sanctuaries more broadly — the performative outrage obscures a more benign reality.…  Seguir leyendo »

Images of Josephine Baker are projected on the facade of the Panthéon during her induction ceremony on Nov. 30 in Paris. (Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images)

On Nov. 30, the American-born singer, actress and French Resistance heroine Josephine Baker became the first Black woman to be inducted into the Panthéon in Paris. She joins a select few of France’s national heroes handpicked by incumbent presidents as embodying the nation’s values. Baker’s rise to stardom on the stage of Paris’s famed cabaret music hall, the Folies Bergère, made her a symbol of wealth and freedom in the 1920s and ’30s. Today she is poised to become yet another symbol — this time, according to President Emmanuel Macron, of France as a land of racial equality.

But will that symbolism be accurate?…  Seguir leyendo »

France’s Old Bigotry Finds a New Face

France is the home of “Liberté, Égalité et Fraternité” and the birthplace of the Rights of Man. But running simultaneously through the country’s political traditions is a much darker strain of racism and antisemitism. It looks as if a new, more virulent chapter in that history of French bigotry may now be opening — with a seemingly unlikely champion.

Éric Zemmour, a far-right polemicist who officially declared on Tuesday that he is running in next April’s presidential election, is the loudest and most extreme voice of French racism today. While his poll numbers have started to slide from their highs earlier this fall, Mr.…  Seguir leyendo »

Éric Zemmour announces his candidacy for the 2022 presidential election in a video broadcast on social media, Paris, 30 November 2021. Photograph: Thomas Samson/AFP/Getty Images

On 17 November, the far-right journalist and polemicist Éric Zemmour went on trial in Paris on charges of incitement to racial hatred. In September 2020, he had said on the French news broadcaster CNews that unaccompanied foreign minors were “thieves, they’re murderers, they’re rapists, that’s all they are. We must send them back”. He did not appear at the trial and was represented by his lawyers, who said the charges were unfounded. The verdict is expected to be delivered next year.

Zemmour has previously been convicted of incitement to racial hatred and religious hatred and been tried and acquitted in several other cases.…  Seguir leyendo »

Back to work: why French workers are resisting the Covid ‘Big Quit’

Aubérie Zaro left her Paris-based Big Four consultancy job in January determined to take some time off to ponder what she really “wanted to do”. After a nine-month pause from the job market, the 30-year-old started looking for a new position. Much to her surprise, she found one that matched her goals within a month.

“I thought with the pandemic all hiring might be frozen, but it was really fast,” she said.

Zaro’s swift and successful job search is one that thousands of French workers have experienced in recent months. As in most developed countries, they have benefited from generous government support for businesses and a sharp economic recovery, which have helped bring the unemployment rate — those out of work but actively searching for jobs — back to pre-pandemic levels of 8 per cent.…  Seguir leyendo »

Josephine Baker poses at the Bois de Boulogne waterfall, near Paris, in June 1949. (AFP/Getty Images)

Josephine Baker, one of the most fascinating figures of French 20th-century history, is finally being interred at the Panthéon, after an announcement by President Emmanuel Macron in August. She is the first woman of color and first artist to be interred at the mausoleum, which houses the remains of the most distinguished French citizens. There is no doubt she deserves the honor — but France should not use this moment to congratulate itself on its treatment of people of color.

Baker is a national hero in many ways. The granddaughter of enslaved people, born in 1906 in St. Louis, she later fled to France to escape segregation, succeeding in a career she could never have had in the United States, where, even as an international star, she was not allowed to stay in luxury hotels.…  Seguir leyendo »

El cambio de naturaleza del conflicto

La histeria alcanzada en el debate sobre las cuestiones identitarias, el aumento de la abstención y la multiplicación de las manifestaciones son síntomas del callejón sin salida en el que están sumidas la democracia y la cultura francesas desde hace varios decenios. Revelan un cambio del tipo de protestas que la clase política no ha asimilado aún. En Francia, como en el conjunto de los países occidentales, a las reivindicaciones sociales se suma hoy una angustia existencial que emana del segmento mayoritario, el formado por las clases medias y populares.

Desde noviembre de 2018, fecha en la que empezó a extenderse el movimiento de los chalecos amarillos, no ha habido un fin de semana en el que los franceses no hayan salido a la calle.…  Seguir leyendo »

Éric Zemmour y la venganza de Vichy

El periodista, estrella de la televisión y posible candidato presidencial francés Éric Zemmour está teniendo mucho éxito con sus ideas reaccionarias extremas. Algunas de sus propuestas son que los musulmanes deben elegir entre su religión y Francia, que la deportación de inmigrantes musulmanes es viable y que se prohíban los nombres extranjeros. Odia a los «cosmopolitas», y cree que el liberalismo está destruyendo la familia francesa.

Zemmour ya recibió dos condenas por discriminación racial e incitación al odio. Su libro El suicidio francés, publicado en 2014, vendió más de medio millón de copias en Francia. Las encuestas sugieren que en la elección presidencial del año entrante, Zemmour puede conseguir hasta el 16% de los votos.…  Seguir leyendo »

French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer leaves Elysee Palace after attending the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris on Oct. 20. (Ludovic Marin/AFP/Getty Images)

Months after having identified “Islamo-leftism” — a so-called trend that nobody was able to precisely define — as wreaking havoc in universities, French Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer has found a new opponent: “wokeism” and “cancel culture.”

Despite the fact that schools have not recovered from the major challenges caused by the covid-19 pandemic, Blanquer decided to focus his attention on the creation of a think tank, the Republic Laboratory, meant to reflect on the values of the French republic “at odds with wokeism”. According to him, young people should be prevented from “approaching their social life entering a resentment contest” and be protected from a “doctrine” that “fragments and divides,” “has conquered certain political, media and academic circles” and had brought Donald Trump to power in the United States.…  Seguir leyendo »

Sólo se habla de él. En la radio, la tele, los diarios y, sobre todo, las redes sociales, que alimentan a los primeros. Los editorialistas, sobre todo los de una izquierda atomizada y sin rumbo, denuncian su omnipresencia mediática a seis meses de las presidenciales mientras gastan sus tribunas preguntándose alarmados cómo lidiar con el elefante en la habitación. Mencionarlo es conceder demasiado a la peste parda. Ignorarlo es no hacer lo suficiente para impedir su irrefrenable ascenso.

Al otro lado del espectro político, el viejo Frente Nacional (hoy Agrupación Nacional) ve a su candidata rezagada. Marine Le Pen, que lleva tres carreras presidenciales intentado edulcorar la imagen de la rancia formación que heredó de Jean-Marie, ha sido superada en las encuestas por un periodista sin partido que sigue una estrategia diametralmente opuesta.…  Seguir leyendo »

Un hombre arranca carteles de Zemmour, en Biarritz, suroeste de Francia. Bob Edme (AP)

El pasado 4 de octubre, el filósofo Michel Onfray debatió, ante más de 4.000 personas, con Éric Zemmour, el político de extrema derecha que amenaza con sorpasar a Marine Le Pen en las próximas elecciones francesas. Acabo de escuchar las dos eternas horas que dura el vídeo, y creo que nunca comprendí tan íntimamente aquella frase de Juan Carlos Onetti según la cual no hay peor mentira que aquella que cuenta todos los hechos sin respetar el alma de los mismos. Ciertamente, la suma de dos medias verdades nunca dará lugar a una verdad entera.

Lo primero que me llamó la atención es el contraste entre la crueldad inmisericorde de lo que allí se dijo y la cordialidad, las risas y el esfuerzo de comprensión que ambos contendientes se prodigaron (y que siempre le niegan a sus auténticos rivales).…  Seguir leyendo »