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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

French 2022 elections: How are the candidates doing so far?

Monday marks the start of the official presidential election campaign period in France (although of course in reality most candidates have been campaigning for months) ahead of the first round of voting on April 10th.

French 2022 elections: How are the candidates doing so far?
Election posts put up in the French town of Saint-Herblain, near Nantes. Photo by Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP

A total of 12 candidates managed to muster the 500 endorsements from elected French officials needed to enter the race. The top two in the first round will face off in a second-round run-off on April 24th.

AFP looks at all of them, from the frontrunner, President Emmanuel Macron, to an eccentric former shepherd from the Pyrenees mountains.

Far right

Marine Le Pen – The veteran far-right leader is making her third attempt for the presidency after reaching the second round in 2017, with her political future widely seen as on the line in this year’s polls.

Rather than holding flashy rallies, the 53-year-old has opted for low-key grassroots campaigning while seeking to cast herself as more mainstream, moderate and competent than her far-right rivals – and even her former self.

Eric Zemmour – The ex-journalist, TV pundit and best-selling author has a major national following thanks to his anti-Islam and anti-immigration views, which has enabled him to draw away supporters from Le Pen and the mainstream right.

As a political newcomer, the 63-year-old enjoyed a surge in the polls last October, but gaffes and his uncompromising style have seen him slip significantly behind Le Pen, according to surveys.

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan – The eurosceptic head of the “Rise Up France” party is a pugnacious mayor of a Paris suburb who bubbles up in French public life every five years at presidential election time.

He has promised to crack down on migration and give “a kick in the butt to the lazy, slackers and free riders”, but has been largely drowned out by Le Pen and Zemmour.

Right

Valérie Pécresse – The head of the Greater Paris region surprised many by winning the primary for the conservative Republicans party, becoming its first female candidate in a presidential election.


Centre
The former budget minister has accused Macron of overspending and being soft on crime, but her campaign has struggled to gain traction and a disastrous first major rally in February dented her credibility.

Emmanuel Macron – In power since 2017 when he won the presidency in his first ever election, the 44-year-old pro-European was already the favourite at the turn of the year but the war in Ukraine has raised his chances further.

Seen as having drifted rightwards during his term, he is promising more tax cuts, benefits reform and a raise in the retirement age if he becomes the first French president to be re-elected in 20 years.

Left

Anne Hidalgo – The mayor of Paris took on the task of trying to revive the fortunes of the floundering Socialist Party after it was trounced in the 2017 presidential and parliamentary elections.

The 62-year-old has rarely convinced and appeared to be looking for a way out at the end of last year, with polls suggesting she is on course to score under 5 percent.

Yannick Jadot – The former Greenpeace campaigner is hoping to transform the dazzling success the Greens enjoyed in local elections two years ago, saying the French are ready to embrace an environmental revolution.

He is pushing what he calls pragmatic policies to combat climate change instead of the more radical solutions sought by some in his party, but polls show him struggling to make double-digits.

Far left

Jean-Luc Mélenchon – A political veteran famous for his tirades against globalisation and the “elites,” the former Trotskyist is polling the strongest among the left-wing candidates.

A forceful speaker and debater, he is gaining momentum in the run-up to the election and his chances of making it into the second round run-off are being taken seriously.

Fabien Roussel – The charismatic leader of France’s Communist Party has seen his single-digit poll numbers mount in recent weeks, though his party remains a shadow of its former self in the post-war glory days.

Roussel has promised to increase taxes on companies and the highest earners as well as nationalise big banks and energy giants.

Philippe Poutou – An self-styled voice of the workers and scourge of professional politicians, the former Ford factory worker insulted fellow candidates during a TV debate in 2017 and refused to take part in a joint photo.

He is standing for the New Anti-Capitalist Party with a campaign promising to disarm the police and rebuild France’s public administration.

Nathalie Arthaud – A low-key and bookish former teacher who is standing for the Workers’ Struggle party in her third tilt at the presidency.

The Trotskyist is promising a huge hike in the minimum wage, a ban on job cuts and retirement at 60, but like all the other fringe candidates has made little impact on the campaign so far.

Ruralist

Jean Lassalle – The eccentric MP from the southwest Pyrennees mountain region is a former shepherd known for his strong regional accent and passionate defence of rural communities.

Viewed affectionately by many French people, he stands almost no chance in the presidential vote but will probably retain his seat in parliament if he stands in elections in June.

Follow all our latest coverage of the French 2022 presidential elections HERE.

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JOHN LICHFIELD

OPINION: Putin is advancing rapidly – in his invasion of French-speaking west Africa

Events in Mali and more recently Burkina Faso have proved humiliating for the French government - and while many people won't be shedding any tears for the former colonisers, the advance of Russian militias should concern us all, says John Lichfield.

OPINION: Putin is advancing rapidly - in his invasion of French-speaking west Africa

Russia may be retreating in Ukraine but it is advancing rapidly on another front 7,000 kilometres away in what used to be French west Africa.

Vladimir Putin’s great African offensive – using bribery, lies, mercenaries and some genuine development aid – scored a new victory in recent days in Burkina Faso, one of the ten poorest countries in the world.

The second coup d’état in Ouagadougou in eight months brought to power a 30-something army captain who lauded Moscow and berated the “colonial” iniquities of France.

The immediate loser from Russia’s African campaign is what used to be called “Françafrique” – the once-deep political and economic involvement of France in its former African colonies. That decline is not new and has many causes. It is probably inevitable and might eventually be healthy, for both Africa and France.

If the Kremlin wasn’t involved…

The great losers from Russia’s stealthy invasion of west and central Africa will be the Burkinabés and other Africans. Whatever Vladimir Putin’s motives in building an African empire, it is certainly not to help Africans achieve greater control over their own lives, resources and governments.

The spearhead of Putin’s Africa policy is the Wagner mercenary army, run on the Kremlin’s behalf by a billionaire oligarch, Yevgeny Prigozhin. The Wagner army has already been implicated in brutal incidents and massacres in several African countries.

Who popped up this week to praise Burkina Faso’s new young strongman? Yevgeny Prigozhin.

In a bizarre statement, more like that of a government than a billionaire businessman, Prigozhin said that he “saluted and supported” Captain Ibrahim Traoré, a man who acted in the name of “liberty and justice”.

In return, Captain Traoré lambasted France and said that Burkina Faso was ready to seek “other partners ready to help in the fight against terrorism”. The next day the French embassy was attacked and vandalised.

The two statements amounted to a brazen admission that the  coup was planned in Moscow. They also reflect a confidence that many west and central Africans now see Russia as their liberator from “imperialist” France.

Burkina Faso has been bombarded in recent months by social media propaganda accusing the deposed Colonel Damiba of being a French stooge. Similar material has appeared in the French language Russia Today TV channel and Sputnik news agency, which have a growing following in all Francophone central and west Africa countries.

Meanwhile, the various jihadist, radical Islamist forces operating in the Sahel and west and central Africa have been gaining ground (including one third of the territory of Burkina Faso). Russia is not in alliance with the Islamists but it does exploit their success for its own gain.

Trust by local people in the French forces deployed (with mixed effect) to fight the jihadis has been constantly undermined by Russian propaganda. The Islamist insurgence is, the propaganda says, just a pretext for “French colonial” interference. Otherwise, the jihadis would have been defeated long ago.

Mali, next door to Burkina Faso, also suffered a double coup by officers hostile to France in 2020 – leading Emmanuel Macron to end the nine years old French anti-Islamist military deployment in the country. Wagner Russian “mercenaries” are now heavily active in the country (though officially just “instructors”).

Similar anti-French feeling is being stirred up in Niger. In June, President Emmanuel Macron suspended all financial and military aid to Centrafrique (the Central Africa Republic) after accusing its government of being “the hostage of the paramilitary Russian Wagner group”.

France fears similar advances in Senegal and Ivory Coast.

This lightning advance of Russian influence in Africa explains in part Macron’s eloquent and angry speech to the UN last month in which he accused (by implication) African countries of betraying their own long-term interests by refusing to condemn the “new colonialism” of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Anti-French feeling in Africa is not entirely a Russia invention. Successive Presidents since Jacques Chirac have tried to unwind the unhealthy and corrupt relationship which existed until the 1990s between Paris and African political elites. Resentment of France as the former colonial power remains – sometimes justified, sometimes fanciful.

In a sense, France has the worst of both worlds. It paying for its past sins rather than benefiting from its present, sometimes clumsy, efforts to fight Islamist terrorism, reduce corruption and foster democracy. Russian power has spread partly because France can no longer call those shots in Africa which Moscow accuses Paris of calling.

Emmanuel Macron has gone even further than his predecessors in trying to create a new relationship with “Françafrique.”  He invited students, artists and successful entrepreneurs, as well as the usual politicians, to the annual France-Africa summit in Montpellier this year.

Macron has said that it is up to African countries whether they want to carry on with the so-called “African franc”, a shared currency (or actually two regional currencies), tied to the Euro and guaranteed by Paris. The “CFA” is the object of many anti-French fantasies in Africa but provides a stability which has helped all its member countries grow faster than most other African nations.

Into this difficult ground, Russia has advanced with much greater skill than it has shown in its brutal, failed attack on Ukraine. Many Africans have been persuaded that Moscow is their ally against a greedy, hypocritical West.

China has advanced with even more subtlety in other parts of Africa. In both cases, African countries may learn to their cost that they have exchanged one form of colonialism for another – even greedier and more corrupt.

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