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Posts tagged ‘Land of the French Oppression’

France’s Macron to reshuffle government after parliament win

June 19, 2017

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron is poised to rearrange his Cabinet after his new centrist party swept parliamentary elections. Government spokesman Christophe Castaner said Monday on RTL radio that Prime Minister Edouard Philippe would resign “in the coming hours” and a new government would be named in the coming days. It’s a largely symbolic move required after legislative elections.

Since Macron’s Republic on the Move! Party won an absolute majority in the 577-seat National Assembly, Castaner said the government reshuffle would be “technical and not far-reaching.” He refused to say whether ministers who have come under corruption suspicions would keep their jobs.

Many victorious parliament members have never held office before. They started arriving Monday at the National Assembly to learn their way around before the first parliament session next week.

Vietnamese dissident recounts forced deportation to France

June 26, 2017

PARIS (AP) — A Vietnamese dissident who says he was arrested at his home in southern Ho Chi Minh City and forcibly exiled to France said he is determined to continue his activity as a pro-democracy blogger.

Pham Minh Hoang, a 61-year-old math lecturer, recounted his arrest and deportation in a phone interview Sunday with The Associated Press a few hours after his arrival in France. He said three police officers burst into his house on Friday and grabbed his arms when he refused to follow them while wearing only shorts, an undershirt and slippers.

“Once outside, I was horrified to see that there were not three, but a hundred policemen in uniform and in plainclothes around my house and in the neighboring streets,” said Hoang, who was a dual French-Vietnamese national before he was stripped of his Vietnamese citizenship last month.

After being detained in front of his wife, Hoang said he was driven to a detention center two hours away, where he spent 24 hours and was visited by the Consul General of France. He said Vietnamese authorities forced him on a plane to Paris on Saturday night.

Hoang’s deportation came two weeks after he learned a presidential decree had revoked his Vietnamese citizenship. Human Rights Watch denounced Hoang’s expulsion in a statement as a “blatantly illegal, rights violating act” that effectively forces the activist into “indefinite exile.”

Vietnam’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to a request for comment Sunday. The French foreign ministry confirmed that its Consul General assisted Hoang in Ho Chi Minh City. As a French citizen, he can settle in the country and enjoy full freedom of speech, the ministry said.

The human rights activist and blogger was sentenced to three years in prison in 2011 for attempted subversion by posting articles on his blog criticizing the Communist government and for being a member of the California-based Vietnam Reform Party, or Viet Tan. The government considers Viet Tan a terrorist organization.

Hoang eventually served 17 months in prison and three years of house arrest. International human rights groups and some Western governments have criticized Vietnam for jailing people for peacefully expressing their views, but Hanoi says only law breakers are put behind bars.

“The vaguely worded decision was a thinly veiled move to silence Pham Minh Hoang for his peaceful advocacy,” Viet Tan said in a statement about the stripping of Vietnamese citizenship from Hoang. Before being deported from his country, Hoang said he was questioned at length by two officials whom he thinks were members of the political police. When he refused to consent to his deportation, he said officials reminded him that his wife and daughter were still living in Vietnam. Two policemen slept in the room where he was held, he said.

France is not a country unknown to Hoang. He studied and lived here for 27 years between 1973 and 2000, working as a computer and civil engineer. It is where he started to write articles critical of his country’s regime. He said he returned to Vietnam to teach and help the Vietnamese youth with the new technologies.

Today, he doesn’t know who will take care of the disabled brother who lived with him in Ho Chi Minh City. He hopes he’ll be able to stay in regular contact with his wife and his 13-year-old daughter. “I will continue to help my daughter do her homework, using internet video or other secure means,” he said.

Hoang assumes he will have to remain in France for a long time and said he is determined to continue his political activism — “my raison d’être” — as an exile. “I still have a little hope, one day, to come back to live and die in Vietnam,” he said.

Macron’s takeover of French politics is all but complete

June 12, 2017

PARIS (AP) — Emmanuel Macron’s takeover of French politics is all but complete. The newly elected French leader’s gamble that voters wanted to throw out old faces and try something new is paying off in full — first by giving him the presidency and, on Sunday, the crucial first step toward securing the legislative power to deliver on his pledge of far-reaching change.

As when voters turned the previously unelected Macron into France’s youngest president last month, Sunday’s first round of voting in two-stage legislative elections again brought stinging black eyes to traditional parties that, having monopolized power for decades, are being utterly routed by Macron’s political revolution.

His fledgling Republic on the Move! — contesting its first-ever election and fielding many candidates with no political experience at all — was on course to deliver him a legislative majority so crushing that Macron’s rivals fretted that the 39-year-old president will be able to govern France almost unopposed for his full five-year term.

Record-low turnout, however, took some shine off the achievement. Less than 50 percent of the 47.5 million electors cast ballots — showing that Macron has limited appeal to many voters. Macron intends to set his large and likely pliant cohort of legislators, all of them having pledged allegiance to his program, to work immediately. He wants, within weeks, to start reforming French labor laws to make hiring and firing easier, and legislate a greater degree of honesty into parliament, to staunch the steady flow of scandals that over decades have eroded voter trust in the political class.

With 94 percent of votes counted, Macron’s camp was comfortably leading with more than 32 percent — putting it well ahead of all opponents going into the decisive second round of voting next Sunday for the 577 seats in the lower-house National Assembly.

Macron’s prime minister, Edouard Philippe, confidently declared Sunday night that the second round vote would give the assembly a “new face.” “France is back,” he said. Pollsters estimated that Macron’s camp could end up with as many as 450 seats — and that the opposition in parliament would be fragmented as well as small.

The Socialist Party that held power in the last legislature and its allies were all but vaporized — their 314 seats likely reduced, according to pollsters’ projections, to as few as 20 seats, and possibly no more than 30, in the new assembly. Projecting seat numbers is an imprecise science in the two-round system.

Socialist Party leader Jean-Christophe Cambadelis warned that Macron’s party could end up “almost without any real opposition.” “We would have a National Assembly with no real power of control and without democratic debate to speak of,” he said.

On the right, the conservative Republicans were also reeling, projected to end up with possibly no more than 110 seats, and possibly as few as 70, having controlled 215 in the outgoing parliament. The National Front of far-right leader Marine Le Pen looked unlikely to convert her strong showing in the presidential election into anything more than a small handful of legislative seats and certainly not enough to make the party into a major opposition force. That was Le Pen’s hope after she advanced for the first time to the presidential runoff that Macron won on May 7. Le Pen complained that the legislative voting system didn’t fully represent voters’ wishes — because her party got around 14 percent of votes but wasn’t able to greatly improve on the two legislators it had in the last legislature.

The party’s secretary general, Nicolas Bay, warned of Macron getting “a majority so big that he will have a sort of blank check for the next five years.” Another sign of voters’ rejection of the political mainstream was that far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon was, with the Communist Party, projected to see his camp win as many as 18 seats, an improvement on the 10 they held before.

Voters said polls that had predicted a large majority for Macron’s camp likely dissuaded people from turning out. They also blamed the long election cycle, with party primaries that started last year before the two rounds of presidential and then legislative voting, for turning voters off.

“I’ve voted seven times in the last few months,” voter Jean-Luc Vialla said after casting his ballot in an eerily quiet voting station in Paris where voters came in a trickle. “And the result seems written in advance. It demotivated people.”

Associated Press writers Nicolas Garriga, Philippe Sotto and Angela Charlton contributed to this report.

France’s Macron faces test in parliamentary elections

June 11, 2017

PARIS (AP) — French voters are choosing lawmakers in the lower house of parliament on Sunday in a vote that is crucial for newly-elected president Emmanuel Macron. A total of 7,882 candidates are running for 577 seats in the National Assembly in Sunday’s first round of the two-stage legislative elections. Top vote-getters advance to the decisive second round June 18.

Polls suggest the elections will strongly favor Macron’s party and dramatically shake up French politics, punishing the traditional left and right parties and leaving no single strong opposition force.

Macron’s year-old centrist movement, Republic on the Move, is seeking an absolute majority to be able to implement his campaign promises, which include simplifying labor rules and making it easier to lay off workers in hopes of boosting hiring.

The government outlined the main themes of a major labor reform that has already angered French unions and is likely to prompt tensions over the summer. Macron also plans to quickly pass a law to strengthen security measures — effectively making the state of emergency permanent, after multiple Islamic extremist attacks in France — and another one to put more ethics into French politics.

The government needs a new Assembly in place to vote on the bills. Macron called on French voters to give him a “majority to make changes” on the night of his victory May 7. “That’s what the country wants and that’s what it deserves,” he said.

A minimum of 289 seats is required to secure an absolute majority. According to the latest polls, Macron’s movement appears in a position to win potentially as many as 400 seats. The candidates of Republic on the Move include many newcomers in politics, like a retired bullfighter, a fighter pilot and a mathematical genius. Half of them are women.

Candidates from the conservative Republicans party are expected to arrive in second position, and other parties with possibly more than 100 seats. The Socialists, who dominated the last Assembly are expected to suffer a stinging defeat and win just a few dozen seats.

In the wake of far-right Marine Le Pen’s qualification for the presidential runoff, the National Front party is expected to get its highest-ever score — but does not appear able to become the major opposition force Le Pen had hoped for. Polls project it could win about a dozen seats, in part because of a voting system that favors the biggest parties.

Marine Le Pen herself is running for a seat in Henin-Beaumont in northern France. Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon, who came in a strong fourth place in the presidential vote with nearly 20 percent support, is running for a parliamentary seat in the southern city of Marseille. His movement could obtain between 10 and 20 seats.

The turnout rate is expected to be low for France, with possibly only half of the voters going to the polls. To win in the first round, candidates need an absolute majority and support from at least a quarter of the district’s registered voters.

Otherwise, all contenders who get at least 12.5 percent of the votes of registered voters advance to the second round. The French Parliament is made up of two houses, the National Assembly and the Senate. The legislative elections don’t concern the Senate, which is currently run by a conservative majority.

The National Assembly always has the final say in the voting process of a law.

French prez seeks clean gov’t as 2 ministers fight suspicion

May 30, 2017

PARIS (AP) — Two ministers of newly elected President Emmanuel Macron — who promised a squeaky-clean government — are defending themselves against suspicions of ethical lapses just as a new law is being prepared to inject morality into politics.

No investigation was being opened against Social Cohesion Minister Richard Ferrand for business practices that carried undertones of potential conflicts of interest. But the pressure was on Ferrand because he was a trailblazer for Macron’s En Marche (On the Move) movement, among the first to sign onto the initiative that swept him to the presidency.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Tuesday evening that despite the “exasperation of the French” Ferrand would remain in the government. However, any minister placed under investigation will have to resign, Philippe said in an interview with France 2 TV. Old behaviors that “are no longer accepted today, can no longer be tolerated” even if they aren’t illegal, the prime minister added.

European Affairs Minister Marielle de Sarnez also was in an unwelcome spotlight after she filed a slander complaint against a far-right European Parliament member. The lawmaker, Sophie Montel, has claimed that a batch of fellow French members of the European body improperly used their EU aides for political activities in France.

Montel, who pointed the finger at colleagues, is suspected of doing the same. She is among the National Front party parliamentarians under investigation, along with party leader Marine Le Pen, for allegedly cheating the European Parliament out of about 300,000 euros ($336,000) paid to aides who held political jobs on the side.

The Paris prosecutor’s office confirmed that 19 French European Parliament members were under investigation, but refused to name names. The prosecutor’s office said that in addition to the lawmakers, more than 20 parliamentary aides are under investigation for allegedly receiving money through an alleged breach of trust.

Suspicions about Ferrand, who is close to the president, arose last week when the weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaine reported that an insurance company struck a rental deal with a company owned by Ferrand’s romantic partner when he led the firm.

A report published in the Le Monde newspaper on Tuesday said the insurance company had contracts with both Ferrand’s ex-wife and his current companion. The newspaper also reported that Ferrand advocated for a bill advantageous to insurance companies in 2012, when he was a lawmaker.

Ferrand denied any wrongdoing in a statement Tuesday. “I refute and condemn all the suspicions,” he said. Macron, 39, has vowed to clean up French politics. A law to notably prohibit politicians from hiring family members, currently a legal practice, is to be formally presented to the Cabinet in June.

A once-leading candidate in the presidential race, former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, was brought down by claims that he hired his wife and other family members as aides who allegedly did little work for high pay.

Macron defeated Le Pen by a landslide in the May 7 presidential election.

Newcomer Macron makes France’s mark, with Trump and globally

May 28, 2017

TAORMINA, Italy (AP) — Within days of taking the French presidency, Emmanuel Macron faced a string of diplomatic tests — pushing the Paris climate deal on a skeptical Donald Trump, rallying European allies to do more to fight Syria’s extremists, and now hosting Vladimir Putin.

Europe has a lot riding on Macron’s diplomatic performance. So far, it appears, so good. Macron struck up an unusually chummy rapport in his first meetings with Trump, winning a handshake contest and the U.S. leader’s cellphone number, despite their stark political differences.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, too, is warming to the energetic Macron — they’ve already met three times in the two weeks since Macron took office — and is pinning hopes on him to boost Europe’s economy and unity.

Macron is eager to dispel doubts about his presidential stature that have dogged him since he launched a wild-card presidential bid just six months ago. During his very first days in office, he visited Berlin and a French military base in Mali, where the country’s troops are fighting Islamic extremism. Then over this past week, he cemented his status as a new global player at a NATO summit in Brussels and a Group of Seven summit in Italy.

While he has never held elected office before, Macron was helped by his comfortable English and backstage knowledge of international summits gained as top economic adviser to predecessor Francois Hollande from 2012 to 2014, then as his economy minister.

Beyond the important issues Macron’s tackling, his body language drew the most public attention on his summit outings. The most symbolic image was his handshake with Trump at their first meeting, in Brussels. After some friendly chatter, the two gripped each other’s hands so tightly before the cameras that their jaws seemed to clench. It looked like Trump was ready to pull away first, but Macron wasn’t quite ready to disengage.

The next day at the G-7 summit in Sicily, Macron attracted attention for his friendly interactions with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. At their bilateral meeting, Macron, 39, and Trudeau, 45, went on a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, were they posed for photographers, surrounded by flowers.

Macron showed proximity with other leaders, joking and making a gentle tap on the arm a habit. He often paid special attention to Merkel —as if making efforts to embody the French-German friendship. Germany is hoping Macron jumpstarts France’s economy, a pillar of European unity and the shared euro currency.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was visibly touched when Macron addressed his condolences in English following the Manchester attack that killed 22 people. “We were very shocked, because … we know how this can hurt the people of your country, but more generally for Europe. Because they attack our young, and very young people,” Macron told her.

Both leaders pushed to get a separate, unanimous statement on the fight against terrorism by the G-7. The text is appealing to internet providers and social media companies to more actively fight extremism, an issue widely promoted by Macron during his presidential campaign.

Macron has promised to discuss the Syria crisis on Monday with Russia’s president when he visits the royal palace in Versailles. That may be Macron’s toughest test so far, amid tensions over Moscow’s role in fighting in Syria and Ukraine, and after Putin openly supported rival French candidate Marine Le Pen of the far-right National Front party.

“Russia invaded Ukraine,” Macron told a news conference Saturday. On Syria, where extremists plotted attacks against France and where Europe’s migrant crisis began, he said, “I said at the G-7 table that I don’t regard it as a collective victory that on Syria … not one of us was capable of being around the table. You have Russia, Iran and Turkey. That is a defeat.”

“So we must talk to Russia to change the framework for getting out of the military crisis in Syria and to build a much more collective and integrated inclusive political solution,” he added. The G-7 called on Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and said they “stand ready to take further restrictive measures in order to increase costs on Russia should its actions so require.”

Macron promised he will have a “demanding dialogue with Russia, but it means having a dialogue.” At the end of the G-7, Macron appeared to soften his stance on the climate talks, the most problematic issue between the U.S. and the six other nations. Macron showed unfailing optimism.

While Merkel called the G-7 climate talks “very difficult, if not to say, very unsatisfactory,” Macron said “I think Mr. Trump is someone who is pragmatic and so I have good hopes that having considered the arguments put forward by various people and his country’s own interest he will confirm his commitment (to the accord) — in his own time.”

“I saw someone who listens and who is willing to work,” he added. “For Mr. Trump and myself, it was a first experience. I think he saw the purpose of these multilateral discussions.” Optimism, and an almost constant smile on the face, are part of Macron’s strategy French voters are now getting used to.

The French leader was especially careful to avoid diplomatic or political faux-pas only two weeks before crucial legislative elections. Macron needs to get a majority at France’s lower house of parliament to fully implement his pro-European, pro-free market agenda.

Meanwhile, his wife Brigitte Macron experienced the role of first lady, symbolizing easygoing French chic, and at ease with other spouses, especially with Melania Trump with whom she was seen chatting.

Angela Charlton reported from Brussels.

France’s Le Pen to run for parliament with party in disarray

May 19, 2017

PARIS (AP) — Emerging from her crushing defeat in France’s presidential contest, far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Thursday she will run for a parliamentary seat in June elections and that her National Front party has “an essential role” in a new political landscape.

Le Pen will run for a seat in a district in her northern stronghold of Henin-Beaumont, a hardscrabble former mining region where she lost a similar bid in 2012. A new failure could jinx her bid to unite the National Front and to make it France’s leading opposition party.

“I cannot imagine not being at the head of my troops in a battle I consider fundamental,” Le Pen said in an interview on the TF1 television station, her first public appearance since her May 7 loss to centrist Emmanuel Macron.

Le Pen announced her candidacy while facing forces of division that could frustrate her new goals. Her popular niece is leaving politics, her disruptive father is back in the ring and her party is in disarray.

At the same time, Macron has upset the political equation, drawing from the left and right to win the presidency and to create his government. The new president now is looking across the political spectrum to obtain a parliamentary majority to support his agenda.

“We are in reality the only opposition movement,” Le Pen said. “We will have an essential role to play (and) a role in the recomposing of political life,” she said, reiterating her contention that the left-right divide has been replaced by “globalists, Europeanists and nationalists” like herself.

Le Pen is counting on the 10.6 million votes she received as a presidential candidate to propel her anti-immigration party into parliament in the June 11 and June 18 elections. The party also hopes to pick up votes from “electoral orphans” unsatisfied with Macron and feeling betrayed by the mainstream right, National Front Secretary-General Nicolas Bay said this week.

The National Front plans to field candidates for each of France’s 577 electoral districts, hoping to block Macron’s movement from obtaining a majority of seats and to secure a strong bloc of its own to counter his new government.

Le Pen dismissed the notion that there were links between her loss and a series of events widely seen as potentially weakening the National Front. The party recently lost a rising star who served as a unifier on its conservative southern flank. One of the National Front’s two current lawmakers — Le Pen’s niece, Marion Marechal-Le Pen — announced last week that she was leaving politics, at least temporarily.

Enter Jean-Marie Le Pen, who likened his granddaughter’s exit from politics to a “desertion.” The elder Le Pen, who was expelled from the party he co-founded because of his penchant for making anti-Semitic comments, is backing up to 200 parliamentary candidates through an ultra-conservative alliance, the Union of Patriots.

Some of the five parties represented in the alliance are headed by former National Front militants who, like Jean-Marie Le Pen, were expelled by his daughter in her bid to scrub up the party’s image for the presidential contest.

His own Jeanne Committees will present some 35 of the 200 candidates. The decision smacks of revenge, but the elder Le Pen’s aide denied that was the case. “This is not meant to cause trouble for the National Front. It is to defend the values that the National Front no longer defends,” the aide, Lorrain de Saint Affrique, said.

The risk that other far-right parties would challenge the National Front “has existed since the National Front decided to exclude Jean-Marie Le Pen,” De Saint Affrique said. “They should have thought of that then.”

The competition from all but obscure parties is not a substantial threat to Le Pen, but mirrors frustrations roiling the National Front, some of which became public following Le Pen’s defeat. More menacing, her top lieutenant, Florian Philippot suggested after Le Pen’s loss to Macron that he would leave the party if it decided to do away with the goal of leaving the euro currency — a divisive proposal but at the top of Le Pen’s presidential platform.

“I’m not there to keep a post at any price and defend the reverse of my deep convictions,” he said last week on RMC radio. Le Pen conceded Thursday that the subject of the euro “considerably worried the French” and would be discussed after the parliamentary elections. “We will have to take this into account, reflect,” she said.

She welcomed Philippot’s launching this week of an association, called The Patriots, which could be seen as the budding of a potential rival, like the movement Macron started 13 months ago, En Marche (On the Move).

“The more ideas the better,” she said.

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