May 11, 2017
PARIS (AP) — One led the elite French police unit that took down an Islamic State cell, another lost a sister in the attacks that killed 130 people in Paris. There is also a computer whiz who started working at age 16, a farmer and a primary school director whose family is known for its sparkling wine.
Their shared goal: to deliver French President-elect Emmanuel Macron the parliamentary majority he needs to be effective. Macron’s Republic on the Move party on Thursday unveiled its eclectic, still partial, slate of 428 candidates for France’s legislative elections in June. More than half — 52 percent — are citizens who, like Macron, have never held elected office.
They range in age from 24 to 72. The slate also adheres to an often-ignored parity law of 50 percent women and 50 percent men. A final batch of candidates is expected to be announced next week. The party plans to contest most — but not all — of the 577 seats in the National Assembly, the lower house of France’s parliament.
“Our candidates signal the permanent return of the citizen to the heart of our political life,” the secretary-general of Macron’s party, Richard Ferrand, said, underscoring the “boldness” of the venture for a movement created but 13 months ago.
Some districts will not be contested by a Macron candidate, including that of former Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Macron’s party rejected Valls as a candidate, but does not plan to put up its own to oppose him, the secretary-general of Macron’s party, Ferrand said at a news conference announcing the initial campaign lineup.
Valls has held three parliamentary terms and is not a member of Macron’s party, making him ineligible under the strict terms set out for candidates. “We won’t change our criteria, no special treatment …,” Ferrand said, “but we note the singularity of this prime minister in office in recent years and we don’t seek quarrels with this one or that one.”
The rejection could prove troublesome for Valls, who risks expulsion from his Socialist Party for backing Macron’s candidacy. Jean Launay, who was involved in Republic on the Move’s selection process, said at least a dozen or so others who weren’t selected won’t face an opponent from Macron’s party.
The novice candidates who made the cut hope to repopulate the political map of France with new faces and new ideas. An initial batch of 14 legislative candidates previously announced in April by Macron’s camp offers a taste of how Macron’s grassroots, startup-style movement sought to recruit outside the circle of career politicians.
Among them, Jean-Michel Fauvergue. He commanded the elite RAID unit during the 2015 siege in which Abdelhamid Abaaoud, a ring leader of the Paris attacks a few days earlier, was killed. There is also Claire Tassadit Houd. Her sister, Djamila, was among the 130 killed in the Nov. 13, 2015, Paris attacks, according to the party.
More than 19,000 would-be legislators answered Macron’s call for candidates. The party asked them to sign up on its website with a resume and letter explaining their motivation to join the National Assembly.
“I signed up right from the beginning on the website,” Jean-Baptiste Moreau, one of the initial 14, told The Associated Press on Thursday. The 40-year-old is contesting a seat in the Creuse region of central France where he farms.
Moreau said he was drawn by the profile of 39-year-old Macron, who will be France’s youngest president when he takes power Sunday, and by the party’s efforts to make grassroots ideas part of his campaign platform. Moreau is new to elected politics.
“If I’m elected, I don’t want to become a political professional. I’ll serve one or two terms,” he said. Mireille Robert, the head of a primary school in a village of 1,000 people in the Aude region of southwestern France, will be up against a local Socialist Party heavyweight.
In a phone interview during the school lunch break Thursday, Robert likened herself to women who were on the front lines during the French revolution in 1789. She said one of her main motives for getting into politics under Macron’s banner is fighting the rise in France of the political extremes.
Far-right leader Marine Le Pen made the May 7 presidential election runoff for the first time; she was handily beaten by Macron but still achieved the highest-ever score for the National Front, her party with a history of anti-Semitism and racism. In the first-round ballot, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon got nearly 20 percent of the vote.
In the village of Pieusse where Robert lives, Le Pen received 271 votes in Sunday’s presidential runoff, five more than Macron’s 266. “That’s really scary,” Robert, 55, said. “I feel like we are in danger.”
Also new to politics, she said she doesn’t plan to do big campaign rallies reading prepared speeches to bored crowds. Instead, she’ll do smaller gatherings to talk about specific local issues. Her family is well-known in the area for its sparkling wine, which she expects will help her pick up support.
“Yes, we can,” she said. “It’s going to be a great experience.”
Elaine Ganley and Angela Charlton in Paris contributed.