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FOOTBALL

Cantona takes shot at French presidency

 

Footballer-turned-actor Eric Cantona, after failing in a quixotic bid to destroy global banking, is lining up a long-odds shot at the French presidency, according to a report Tuesday.

 

Cantona takes shot at French presidency

The ex-Manchester United player, known to English fans as King Eric, has written to French mayors seeking the 500 signatures from elected officials that are necessary for a presidential bid, Liberation said in a front-page report.

But in an editorial, the newspaper said Cantona was applying one of his legendary footballing feints on the political field, using the unlikely presidential run to secure his real aim – help for the poorly housed.  

In his letter to city mayors dated January 4, Cantona did not mention whether he saw himself as a potential candidate for president. 

But the 45-year-old said he was “a citizen very much aware of our times”, which he argued offer “too-limited chances” to the young and generate “violent” and “systematic” injustices.

He said he felt obliged to speak up “at a time when our country faces difficult choices” and that the current economic uncertainty gave him “a sense of my responsibility”.

He added that getting the 500 mayors to sign up to his message on housing and poverty “would allow me to send a simple but clear message; a message of truth and respect”.

Speaking to Liberation, Cantona said he “chose the housing issue as it seems to me to be essential and concerns tens of millions of people”.

“I had to act at a time when I was likely to be heard.”  

The presidential election will get under way in April.

As a player Cantona was known for both his genius and ill-discipline, as well as his often colourful and incomprehensible remarks.

Late in 2010 he entered the political and economic fray, calling on his compatriots to withdraw cash en masse as a way to bring banking to its knees – although it emerged that his actress wife had appeared in a TV bank advert.

French and European politicians and bankers condemned Cantona as irresponsible, naive and misguided, and his call to action was not taken up.

Considered one of the greats of the game, Cantona retired from professional football in 1997 and has since turned to acting, notably in director Ken Loach’s “Looking For Eric”.

FRENCH POLITICS

Pro-Macron MP becomes France’s first woman speaker

France's lower house of parliament has agreed to pick an MP from President Emmanuel Macron's centrist coalition as the first woman speaker, despite the ruling alliance losing its majority in legislative elections.

Pro-Macron MP becomes France's first woman speaker

Yael Braun-Pivet, who had been serving as the minister for overseas territories, is the first woman to ever hold the post of speaker in the history of the Assemblée nationale.

Despite the loss of its overall majority, Macron’s ruling alliance still managed to push through her appointment in the second round of voting.

Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and other senior Macron backers have been trying to win over individual right-wing and moderate left parliamentarians to bolster their ranks.

Borne, appointed last month, is France’s second woman prime minister after the brief stint by Edith Cresson in the 1990s.

Olivier Marleix, head of the centre-right Les Républicains group seen as most compatible with Macron, met Borne on Tuesday. “We’ve told her again there is no question of any kind of coalition,” he said.

But he added that the prime minister “really showed that she wanted to listen to us. That’s quite a good sign.

“We’re here to try and find solutions,” he added. “There will be some draft laws where I think we should be able to work together,” including one to boost households’ purchasing power in the face of food and energy inflation.

“It’s not in the interest of parties who have just been elected” to make a long-term deal to support the government, said Marc Lazar, a professor at Paris’s Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Borne under pressure

One key question will be whether Thursday’s vote to head the finance committee – with its extensive powers to scrutinise government spending – will be won by an MP from the far-right Rassemblement National (RN).

Led by Macron’s defeated presidential opponent Marine Le Pen, the RN would usually have a claim on the post as the largest single opposition party.

It faces a stiff challenge from the NUPES left alliance – encompassing Greens, Communists, Socialists and the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI) – who agreed on Tuesday on a joint candidate after some internal jostling.

Next week could see exchanges heat up in the chamber, as government chief Borne delivers a speech setting out her policy priorities.

Macron told AFP at the weekend that he had “decided to confirm (his) confidence in Elisabeth Borne” and asked her to continue talks to find either allies for the government in parliament or at least backing for crucial confidence and budget votes.

The president has ruled out both tax increases and higher public borrowing in any compromise deals with other parties.

Even as the government projects business almost as usual, hard-left LFI especially has vowed to try to prevent key proposals, such as the flagship reform to raise the legal retirement age from 62 to 65.

Party deputy chief Adrien Quatennens said on Sunday there was “no possible agreement” with Macron, saying cooperation would “make no sense”.

“We haven’t heard (Macron) move or back down one iota on pension reform” or other controversial policies, he added.

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