Parliamentary elections in France: beacons of hope a. D

In the old Beauvau covered market and outdoor stalls, vendors offer an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, seafood and flowers. European Minister Clément Beaune and former Prime Minister Édouard Philippe grin for the cameras in front of a dangling ham at a butcher’s stall. The former head of government, who is very popular with the French, came to the Marché d’Aligre in Paris as a saviour. In his constituency in the heart of the capital, the Europe Minister is a good five points behind the candidate of the left-wing alliance NUPES, Caroline Mécary. Should he lose in the second ballot of this Sunday’s general election, Beaune would also have to say goodbye to the government table. This is what President Emmanuel Macron has decided for all 15 ministers running in the election. Anyone who is not democratically legitimized cannot remain in government.

“There is a lot at stake,” says 40-year-old Europe Minister Beaune, who is running for the first time. He is campaigning in a suit and in the name of famous sponsors. In a letter of recommendation, former EU Commission President Jacques Delors called for people to vote for Beaune. A victory for the left would be devastating, warns Beaune, who is one of Macron’s small circle of confidants. The left spokesman Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who wants to become prime minister, embodies “a Trump à la française”. “When Mélenchon claims that the police are killing, that our army is making mistakes in the Sahel, that we have to get out of NATO, then there is a great risk,” says Beaune. A left-wing parliamentary majority would also be fatal for the future of the EU. “Disobedience to the EU means permanent breaking of the rules. We cannot move Europe forward like this.”

Former French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (right, with beard) with Europe Minister Clément Beaune (on the left) during the election campaign in Paris

Former French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe (right, with beard) with Europe Minister Clément Beaune (on the left) during the election campaign in Paris

Image: AFP

“Bonjour, a kilo of tomatoes, please.” The young woman with the pram at the market stall didn’t notice the election campaign. She is currently benefiting from her parental leave, she says. “President Macron is re-elected. But there is no sign of his new method,” she says. She gave him her vote to prevent Le Pen, “but that wasn’t carte blanche.” You don’t like how the left-wing alliance is being demonized. She found the front page of the newspaper “Libération” very successful: “Does this man eat children?” was written there under a photo of Mélenchon. “The Macron camp is spreading fake news,” she says. She is disappointed that Macron no longer distinguishes between the extreme right and the extreme left. She didn’t go to the polls but wonders if she’ll vote for NUPES on Sunday “so that Macron has to be more considerate of the National Assembly.”

“For many, it has simply become too expensive”

The crowd of people that has formed around Caroline Mécary can be seen from afar. The candidate with the short shock of gray hair wears a white and pink blouse and stopped in front of a stand with olives and spices. A pensioner asks her: “Who is going to pay for all this?” The left-wing alliance of the Left Party, Greens, Socialists and Communists promises retirement at the age of 60, an unconditional basic income of 1063 euros for all young adults up to the age of 25 and a minimum wage of 1500 euros. Mecary speaks of the 300 economists who approve of the spending program. Star economist Thomas Piketty, whose book “Das Kapital” became a world bestseller, is one of the supporters.

Mécary, 59, has made a name for herself as a gay rights advocate. She defended in court the first couple who married near Bordeaux in 2004 and whose marriage was declared invalid a little later by the Court of Appeal. Ever since the socialist government pushed through “marriage for all” in 2012, Mécary has never tired of suing for the rights of children born to French gay couples by surrogate mothers abroad. “Oh, Clément Beaune is here for the election campaign,” she says mockingly. “If he thinks he’s going to win by posing with Hillary Clinton or a former prime minister, then he’s wrong,” she says. She has lodged a complaint with the Radio and Television Council because her competitor is constantly being invited for interviews by the major radio and television stations.

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