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Category Archives: Society & Culture

France 2017: Old fault lines, new salience

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‘France has voted like it never did before’, was the headline of Spiegel Online on Monday morning, and many other foreign observers expressed similar views on the manner in which the traditional parties of the Left and Right were kicked out of the competition by an overwhelming desire of renewal of the political class. But […]

France 2017: That ‘pschitt!’ feeling

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‘Pschitt!’ is – at least in colloquial French – the disappointing sound of flat champagne, a deflating balloon, or a damp firecracker. It is also a good description of the feeling that many French voters will inevitably have on Sunday evening in front of their television screen. With an unprecedented degree of uncertainty, with virtually […]

France 2017: Ready for the Fake Presidency?

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Oops – they did it again! They made us believe that the Fifth Republic provides its president with a particularly wide array of prerogatives, little constrained by checks and balances, and reigning well above the heads of a weak parliament. And with all the hype around the presidential election, this highly personalised ‘encounter of a […]

France 2017: Disappointed, disillusioned, disgusted. A geography lesson.

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Six weeks ago Brice Teinturier, whose face is well-known to the French from numerous election evenings on public television as the polling pundit who explains the gains and losses of the different parties, tried to introduce a new acronym named ‘PRAF’. In a book based on many previously published IPSOS polls and coming dangerously close […]

France 2017: Where have all the flowers gone?

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Over the last twelve months the Greens have had quite a few celebrations across Europe: Winfried Kretschmann was re-elected as minister-president of Baden-Württemberg in March 2016; in December Alexander von der Bellen succeeded in stopping the rise of the Austrian populists in the presidential elections, and in the Dutch general elections, Jesse Klaver quadrupled the […]

France 2017: And then there were eleven

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Why do they do it? Just for four precious weeks of fame? For seeing their faces on billboards and being invited to Parisian television studios? For walking into the polling station on election day and finding their names printed on the ballots in the same font and size as the big political celebrities? For fulfilling […]

France 2017: Polling paradoxes

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The French take delight in pointing out that they are World Champions in producing political opinion polls (only to shake their heads in disbelief and despair about their own addiction). While the claim to this honorary title may not be corroborated by empirical data, it confirms the impression of saturation that a politically interested individual […]

France 2017: Protestant protests

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Not a good week for French democracy. It started with the communication of false figures from the first round of the Socialist primary, followed by the verdict sending Sarkozy’s former minister Claude Guéant to jail for his ‘automatic cash teller’ practices while in office. It ended up overshadowed by what is now known as #penelopegate, […]

France 2017: The Party Formerly Known as Socialist

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On a study trip to Brussels about fifteen years ago, a major French socialist MEP gave a good lesson in French political semantics to my student group. In a nutshell, she explained that she and her group were perfectly at ease working with all the Social-Democrats from Germany or Sweden and elsewhere, as well as […]

France 2017: Two years on, how Charlie can you be?

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Already two years since the Charlie Hebdo shootings, which in hindsight look like a prelude to a series the end of which does not seem to be in sight. Is Europe still Charlie? Many Europeans, the large majority of whom had never heard of this magazine before, still claim they are, and there is no […]

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