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Saturday 08 April 2017

Ominous signs in France

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 3rd February 2017

Like New Zealand, France also has its national elections in 2017. According to the Economist, the news is not good for the incumbent Socialist centre-left government- and what about the gay-hating neofascist French National Front?


It isn't because Socialist presidential candidate Manuel Valles, who has replaced the unpopular Francois Hollande, is lacking in political pragmatism or is an ineffective communicator. His home electorate, Evry, applauds him for getting more surveillance cameras installed, excellent ethnic relations and urban beautification. He is disadvantaged by the fact that he is a member of an unpopular incumbent government and facing an insurgent challenge from Francois Fillion, a popular UMP (centre-right) presidential rival, as well as from factions within his own Socialist Party.

Valles' political preferences are comparable to those of Tony Blair across the English Channel, however, and wants to weaken trade union influence within his party, as well as crack down on issues of national security and integration into French society. He is trying to leaven this through support for France's comprehensive welfare state and creating more public sector employment. However, he faced a strong challenge from rivals within his own caucus, namely former Industry Minister Arnaud Monteburg and Beniot Haemon, advocate of a universal basic income.

As matters turned out, Haemon beat Valles in primary polling. He was formerly a Member of the European Parliament and has also served as minister for social services and education during the current Socialist Hollande administration. He supports a thirty-five hour working week, the introduction of cannabis and euthanasia decriminalisation, and wants an emphasis on renewable energy. Whether his selection can turn the tide for the Socialist Party is a matter of debate. 

And unfortunately, Marine Le Pen and her National Front associates are fuelling Socialist Party divisions, exploiting left fissures over globalisation and internationalism, while the centre-right's candidate Francois Fillion may exploit French rural and provincial social conservatism over issues such as marriage equality and the recent abolition of the "right" to parental corporal punishment. 

Fortunately, although Le Pen is currently leading the French presidential opinion polls, there is the small matter of the pacte republicaine- the cross-party tactical alliance of voters who will vote across party lines to support the non-neofascist candidate if she or he looks as if they might ever get near the presidency. Le Pen has spun herself and her National Front as a "post-fascist" party, supposedly cleansed of its stygian past praise of Vichy France's Nazi collaboration or Holocaust trivialisation at the hands of her blundering father, unreconstructed fascist Jean-Marie Le Pen.

In which case, asked the British Independent's Namila Rabdani (14.01.2017), why is it that she is going to borrow six million euro from one of her father's companies to fund her presidential campaign? Unlike UKIP, but more like One Nation in Australia, the French National Front derives its strength from rural and provincial county councils, which means little in a highly centralised unitary state like modern France (and New Zealand as well, for that matter). The French National Front is also facing a finance scandal which could undo Le Pen's presidential aspirations and France's preferential voting unproportional electoral system may do the rest. 

As for the third presidential candidate, the UMR's Francois Fillion, he has been compared to Margaret Thatcher- as he is a social conservative and a neoliberal in terms of his policy prescriptions, which involve raising the retirement age, preventing overtime payments to French workers, slash 500,000 jobs from the French public sector, slash government spending by 110 million Euros and increase France's Value Added Tax to 22 percent of goods and services.

In foreign policy terms, he is staunchly independent and desires closer relations with Russia, which has not been the case under the Socialist Hollande administration. Unfortunately for French LGBT communities, Fillion also opposes adoption rights for same-sex couples, granted under the aegis of marriage equality in 2013. Recently, his campaign has run into difficulties after the disclosure of a large donation of money to his wife. 

All of which leads one to the question of LGBT rights in France, three years after the passage of its own marriage equality legislation at roughly the same time as New Zealand and the United Kingdom did so. What are the outstanding areas? French lesbians and bisexual women do not have access to assisted reproductive technology for purposes of starting their own families, unlike New Zealand, where this has been the case since 1994, given the Human Rights Act 1993 applies to service provision, including assisted fertility services. Gay men do not have access to commercial surrogacy either, although that prohibition extends to all other French citizens.

Consequently, unlike provisions within New Zealand's Care of Children Act 2004, there are no provisions for the partners of French lesbian and gay biological parents to be recognised as joint parents within the context of assisted reproductive technology. Many French lesbians and bisexual women travel to neighbouring Belgium, where legislative equality is the norm for assisted reproductive technology and there are no such barriers. As for gender identity discrimination, it has been illegal under French antidiscrimination legislation since 2012. 

Like Britain and the United States last year, France may be entering a period of instability and political animosity. One hopes not. 


Namila Rabdani: "This is why Marine Le Pen can never pull off a Trump style political upset in France" Independent: 14.01.2017:

"Sarkozy Ally, Liberal, Conservative...Who is the Real Francois Fillion?" Sputnik News: 16.01.2017:

Angelique Christafis: "How Francois Fillion became the French right's new hope" Guardian: 23.11.2016:

Wikipedia/Benoit Hamon: Benoit_Hamon

Wikipedia/LGBT rights in France:
Craig Young - 3rd February 2017

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