Macron’s Mascara Faux Pas

French President Emmanuel Macron has been in hot water lately because of his… makeup? Since moving into the Palais de l’Élysée three months ago, he has reportedly spent over $30,000 to look good. Apparently, makeup artist Natacha M. is assez cher.

The French are shocked — this after Macron demanded deep budget cuts?! Twitter is, of course, amused. The Elysée has promised to cut back on future make-up spending, but is this actually a lot for a French leader to spend on their signature style? Let’s look at history to see how others have done it.

You can read the full story at Frenchly.

Food Fight!

The French Presidential Debate

France will hold its presidential election in just over two weeks and last night was the big debate. These usually only pit the leading candidates against each other.   This tends to weed out the extremists and make for a more reasonable debate.

Not this time. And it sure was fun to watch.

I guess the folks at BFM TV decided that since there were already extremists among the leading candidates, what’s a few more? So for the first time, every presidential candidate was on stage together, all 11 of them, ranging from the extreme left to the extreme right.

Want a Trotskyist? No problem, there were two – the candidates from the Worker’s Fight and New Anti-Capitalist parties. Plus there was Jean-Luc Mélenchon of France Undefeated, who had nice things to say about Karl Marx.

Want a proto-fascist? Ok, we’ve only got one, Marine Le Pen of the National Front, but she comes by it honestly – her dad is one, too. I guess it’s the family profession.

And what’s an election without a man of the people? My favorite was the guy whose main qualification was, “I’m the son of a shepherd and the brother of a shepherd.” He’s definitely got the shepherd vote locked up.

Eleven candidates on stage together reminded me of the early Republican primaries in the US. But unlike those debates, in France no single candidate can dominate the debate because each gets the same amount of time to speak. It’s a nice way to let the minor party candidates show their stuff. Except when some of them are crazy.

The winner was Emmanuel Macron, who currently leads in the polls. He didn’t say anything remarkable but he didn’t make any mistakes, either, which was the most important thing. He came across as smart, centrist and ready for the big leagues.

The loser was François Fillon, the once-leading candidate who has been laid low by a corruption scandal. He has the most experience and has some excellent ideas about the French economy. He may still make a comeback. But last night he tried to look calm and above the fray and instead came across apathetic.

Plus he had to deal with the itchy hands guy.

The candidates stood at podiums at the bottom of an amphitheater full of their supporters. It was so steep that when a candidate spoke, you could see just a few of the people sitting behind them – the faces of people in the first row and the laps of people in the second row.

Unfortunately for Fillon, when he gave his opening remarks some guy in the second row decided to scratch an itch on his hand. And scratch. And scratch. So while Fillon spoke, you saw this pair of hands just to the side of his head, scratching and scratching. It was mesmerizing – you couldn’t look away. I thought maybe we should call a doctor for this poor guy.

The Trotskyists were the most animated candidates. The woman from Worker’s Fight had only one volume level – shouting – and blamed everything on capitalists who exploit workers “because it’s in their DNA.” The man from New Anti-Capitalists spoke so fast it was unbelievable. And he never seemed to take a breath. I’m pretty sure he had twelve espressos right before coming on stage.

The debate was less than edifying, with lots of finger pointing. Everyone and everything you can imagine was blamed for France’s ills. Except for the French themselves, of course.

It was the fault of capitalism, immigrants, big bosses, Romanians, “the system,” the European Union, globalization, Muslims, and bankers. There were so many scapegoats milling around on stage that at one point they had to shoo some off to make room for more.

A few solutions were proposed and some were, um, interesting. One was to reduce the workweek even further, from its current 35 hours down to 32. Another was to make layoffs illegal. A third was to “temporarily” nationalize some businesses.

And we wonder why the French economy suffers.

The high point came when the New Anti-Capitalist guy went after Le Pen. She’s a populist and presents herself as the “anti-system” candidate. She’s also caught in a corruption scandal of her own, accused of taking public money for fake jobs. But she can’t be personally prosecuted because she is a member of the European Parliament and has immunity.

Pointing his finger and talking even faster than usual, the Anti-Capitalist guy said, “You steal from the till. And then you, who are anti-system, protect yourself with Parliamentary immunity. But when we, the workers, are summoned by the police, we don’t have worker’s immunity – we have to go.”

“You’re anti-system? That’s bullsh*t!”

For once, Le Pen was at a loss for words. Which was nice.

The Power of Cheese to Sway French Elections

runny-cheeseElections are different in France.

A few years ago my wife and I were there during the election for seats in the European Parliament. About a dozen political parties had slates of candidates running.

A few days before the election, the conservative party had a televised rally to fire up the troops and get out the vote. We decided to watch it, figuring it would give us insight into the important political issues of the day. Plus it would be good for our French.

Most of the speeches were boring, with the usual applause lines. There were shout-outs to dignitaries in the audience, potshots at the competition, promises to lead France boldly into the future. The crowd clapped politely but there wasn’t a lot of real enthusiasm.

Then things got exciting.

The final speaker was wrapping up his speech and wanted to go out on a high note. “We will work together with the European Union on initiatives like the electric car,” he thundered, “but we will defend ourselves against those bureaucrats in Brussels when it comes to important French interests like”…(dramatic pause)…”RAW MILK CHEESE!”

Suddenly, the crowd went wild, cheering and stamping their feet, throwing things in the air. It was like Charles de Gaulle had just liberated Paris from the Nazis or something.

My wife turned to me. “Did he really say raw milk cheese?” she asked. “That’s crazy!”

The next day we asked some French friends about this. It’s true, they said, and they were outraged. They explained that there was a move afoot to force cheese makers across Europe to pasteurize their milk. “This will make the cheese tasteless!” they cried. “Tasteless food – the English must be behind it! “

Sometimes it is in the most unlikely places that you find what really moves French hearts.

A few days later the results came in and the conservative party was the big winner. They far outperformed the pre-election polls.

Never underestimate the power of cheese.

France is About to Pick a New President, Too

french-election-photo
I’m sick of hearing about the US presidential election, aren’t you? Let’s talk about France instead.

France elects a president every five years. And the next election will be in April 2017. But everyone in France knows that the country is really picking its president this month.

Wait, what?

First, a quick explanation of the French electoral system

The president is elected in two rounds of voting. The first round is a kind of free-for-all, with nearly a dozen candidates from parties large and small.   The big parties are the Socialists on the left, the Republicans on the right and the National Front on the far right. But these are boring. My favorites are the New Anti-Capitalist Party (so French) and the Royal Alliance (bring back the king!)

Usually, no one wins a majority in the first round and so the top two winners face off a few weeks later.

Normally, this second round is between a Socialist and a Republican. But right now the Socialists are in disarray, with their leader President Francois Hollande regularly setting new records for unpopularity. And the National Front, led by demagogue Marine Le Pen, is on the rise.

All indications are that the runoff will be between the Republican candidate and Marine Le Pen.

This happened once before, in 2002. In that election the National Front’s Jean-Marie Le Pen, Marine’s father, edged out Socialist Lionel Jospin and made it into the second round.   Fearing a National Front victory, Socialists went overwhelmingly for conservative Jacques Chirac, who cruised to victory with 82% of the vote.

This is expected to happen again, with Socialists holding their noses and voting for the Republican. So whoever is the Republican candidate will almost certainly be the next president of France.

And who is that?

Until now, the Republicans have chosen their candidate in the proverbial “smoke-filled room.” But this time they are holding their first-ever primary election.   And it takes place this month.

The favorites are former President Nicolas Sarkozy and former Prime Minister Alain Juppé. The election is expected to be close.

Interestingly, the Socialists may tip the balance. The Republican have decided to hold an open primary, meaning anyone can vote. And large numbers of Socialists are expected to do so, with most of them plumping for Juppé. Their thinking is, why let the Republicans pick the next president all by themselves?

So while the electoral calendar shows the French president being elected next spring, the real action is this month. Keep an eye on it.

As a bonus, the President of France also becomes Prince of Andorra, the only elected monarch in the world. So the French are picking a prince as well as a president.

Interesting country, that France.

Read more at www.keithvansickle.com