While politicians encourage French people to buy products that are "made in France", an investigation by a daily newspaper suggests they may not be practising what they preach.

"/> While politicians encourage French people to buy products that are "made in France", an investigation by a daily newspaper suggests they may not be practising what they preach.

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Made in France? Political parties off-message

While politicians encourage French people to buy products that are "made in France", an investigation by a daily newspaper suggests they may not be practising what they preach.

Made in France? Political parties off-message
Izabela Habur

20 Minutes looked at the products sold by the three major parties contesting presidential elections this spring.

At the headquarters of the far-right Front National, T-shirts are on sale with the slogan “les gars de la Marine” (a play on words as the phrase means “the boys of the navy”, but Marine is the name of the party leader, Marine Le Pen).

Selling for €10 ($13) each, shoppers might expect the fiercely patriotic party’s products to be made in France. 

Marine Le Pen herself told a public meeting in December of her horror that the post office was “taking delivery of scooters from Thailand.” Yet the party’s T-shirts are made in Bangladesh.

“Yes, they’re from abroad,” the shop manager told the newspaper, “but the printing is done in France.” However, he said the lighters were French-made.

At the headquarters of the governing UMP party, which President Sarkozy is likely to lead into the election when he officially declares his candidacy, there’s a mixed picture.

Mugs and ashtrays proudly carry the “fabriqué en France” mark, while the T-shirts are made in Morocco and the calculators come from China.

Socialist party officials said they made every effort to have products from France but that “certain products are impossible to make in France or even in Europe.”

T-shirts, yet again, are imported, this time from Portugal. “But the flags are made in the Drôme” said an official. 

Only the centrist MoDem party, led by François Bayrou, thinks it will live up to the “made in France” mandate.

It will sell T-shirts made in Brittany and pencils from the Vosges. The party’s online story is still yet to launch though, so it’s too early to say whether every product on sale will be proudly French.

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Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée

Right-wing candidates for the French presidential election face off in the first round of a US-style primary on Sunday with former president Nicolas Sarkozy and ex-prime minister Alain Juppe fighting to avoid being knocked out by an outsider.

Leaders Sarkozy and Juppé stumble in race for Elysée
Alain Juppé and Nicolas Sarkozy. Photo: AFP

In a contest overshadowed by the election of Donald Trump in the United States, support for the early favourite Juppe has slipped and Francois Fillon, who served as prime minister under Sarkozy, has risen fast.

The right-wing nominating contest is crucial because with the French left divided, the winner is expected to go on to take the presidency in May, beating far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the runoff.

Juppe, 71, entered the two-month-long contest with polls showing him to be France's most popular politician, but his approach of playing the moderate against the fiery Sarkozy and the conservative Fillon appears to be backfiring.

Most polls now show Juppe and Sarkozy are neck-and-neck at around 30 percent, with Fillon close behind after making striking progress in recent weeks.

The two winners on Sunday will go through to the second round run-off a week later.

Two becomes three

“We were expecting a duel but in the end a three-way contest has emerged,” political scientist Jerome Jaffre said in Le Figaro newspaper on Thursday.

Many have noted that 62-year-old Fillon's rise had coincided with the publication of his latest book entitled “Beating Islamic totalitarianism”.

An often confused final TV debate of the seven candidates on Thursday offered few clues about the possible outcome, although viewers polled afterwards said Fillon had performed the strongest.

Sparks flew when Sarkozy was asked about fresh claims that he received millions in funding from the late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi towards his 2007 campaign.

Sarkozy called the question “disgraceful” and refused to answer.

Turning to the Trump effect, the former president said a more isolationist America created “a fantastic opportunity for France and Europe to re-establish a leadership role” on issues including border security and the reform of the UN Security Council.

“The next five years will mark the return of France and Europe to the international scene. America won't be there to put us in the shade,” he said.

Juppe meanwhile said the Trump-era heralded a triple “shock” — in the areas of trade, defence and the environment.

A return to protectionism would be “a tremendous regression”, Juppe said, while warning Europe against being “naive” in its dealings with the United States.

The three leading candidates have similar programmes, underpinned by pledges to reinforce domestic security in a country still under a state of emergency following a series of jihadist attacks.

They also share a desire to reinforce European borders and reduce immigration, while tax cuts also loom large.

The choice will come down to style.

Sarkozy has emphasised his tough-guy credentials, saying it makes him a better choice to handle Trump than the mild-mannered Juppe.

Fillon, who is popular in the business world, has promised “radical” economic measures but is the most conservative of the three on social issues.

Another unknown factor in Sunday's first round is the number of left-wing voters prepared to pay two euros and sign a declaration that they subscribe to “the values of the centre and the right” to vote in the right-wing primary.

Those who do are expected to vote against 61-year-old Sarkozy, who remains a highly divisive figure in France four years after he left office.

When the right-wing candidate is chosen on November 27, it is expected to trigger an announcement from deeply unpopular Socialist President Francois Hollande on whether he intends to bid for re-election.

On Wednesday, Hollande's former economy minister Emmanuel Macron announced he would stand as an independent.

by AFP's Guy Jackson