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POLITICS

Drama and upsets as Hollande secures win

The road was clear Monday for France's Socialists to push through their tax-and-spend agenda to battle the eurozone debt crisis after clinching an absolute majority in parliamentary polls. But the results included upsets for Ségolène Royal and Marine le Pen.

After François Hollande’s victory in the presidential election last month, the Socialists – who already dominated the Senate – took control of the National Assembly by winning 314 out of the house’s 577 seats.

The result means they will not need to rely on the Greens or the far left to pass laws.

The far-right National Front was set to return to parliament for the first time since 1998 after winning at least two seats in the south of the country, although party leader Marine Le Pen lost her own bid for a seat.

Hollande, who defeated right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in a May presidential election, had urged voters to give him the MPs he needs to steer France through the eurozone crisis, rising unemployment and a faltering economy.

“The task before us is immense,” Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said late

Sunday as results from the second round of the legislative vote still trickled in. “Nothing will be easy.”

Beyond Hollande’s election promises of job creation and tax hikes, the government will have to pass unpopular measures to bring the deficit below three percent of GDP.

Hollande was due to hold G20 talks in Mexico Monday, flush with electoral success and brandishing a further mandate to push for growth strategies – rather than austerity measures – to battle the eurozone’s debt crisis.

He has also floated a proposal for a 120 billion euro ($150 billion) “growth pact” to be discussed at a series of high-level meetings ahead of a European Union summit on June 28-29 in Brussels.

The man Hollande beat to the country’s top job, Nicolas Sarkozy, saw his centre-right UMP lose more than 100 seats to keep only 194, while the centrist party of once high-flying François Bayrou won only two.

Le Pen, who has said her success in the first-round parliamentary vote made her party France’s “third political force”, demanded a recount after she was narrowly defeated by a Socialist in a northern former mining constituency. 

But the telegenic Le Pen nevertheless rejoiced in the overall success of her party, whose image she has fought to soften from the days of her father Jean-Marie’s provocative outbursts.

“This is an enormous success,” Marine Le Pen said in Henin-Beaumont.

Le Pen’s niece, 22-year-old Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, won her seat in the southern Vaucluse region, becoming the youngest MP in post-war France, and the FN won another seat in the nearby Gard constituency.

The media spotlight was also focused on Ségolène Royal, Hollande’s former partner and mother of their four children, who conceded defeat in her battle after a dissident Socialist candidate refused to stand down.

Royal, whose campaign was shaken when Hollande’s current partner Valerie Trierweiler tweeted her support for dissident Olivier Falorni, slammed what she called a “political betrayal”.

The Socialists and allies won 50.34 percent of votes overall, interior ministry figures said, almost as high as the record 54 percent won shortly after Francois Mitterrand became France’s last Socialist president in 1981.

As result estimates came in, UMP leader Jean-Francois Cope said he “took note of the left’s victory” and said his party would constitute a “responsible and vigilant opposition.”

With the French voting for the fourth time in eight weeks after electing their first Socialist president in 17 years, turnout was a record low for a second-round parliamentary vote at 56 percent.

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POLITICS

Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers – French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

From coffee runs to rugby tickets and professional photos - France's election financing body has revealed some of the items it has refused to reimburse from the 2022 presidential race.

Rugby tickets, coffee and stickers - French presidential candidates chastised over expenses claims

Spending on the election trail is tightly regulated in France, with maximum campaign spends per candidate as well as a list of acceptable expenses that can be reimbursed.

In France the State pays at least some of the election campaign costs, with the budget calculated according to how many votes the candidate ends up getting. 

READ MORE: 5 things to know about French election campaign financing

On Friday, the government body (la Commission nationale des comptes de campagne et des financements politiques – or CNCCFP) released its findings for the 12 candidates who ran in the April 2022 presidential campaign. 

All of the candidates had their accounts approved, but 11 out of the 12 were refused reimbursement on certain items. Here are some of the items that did not get CNCCFP approval;

Rugby tickets 

Jean Lassalle – the wildcard ‘pro farmer’ candidate who received about three percent of votes cast in the first round of the 2022 election – bought “19 tickets to attend a rugby match” according to the CNCCFP’s findings. The organisation said it would not be reimbursing the tickets and questioned “the electoral nature of the event”. 

The total cost of the tickets was €465 (or €24.50 each).

Too many coffees

Socialist candidate, and current mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo reportedly spent at least €1,600 on coffee for her team during the campaign.

According to the CNCCFP, however, the caffeine needed to keep a presidential campaign running did not qualify under the country’s strict campaign financing rules.

Too many stickers

Hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s was told that the 1.2 million stickers that were bought – to the tune of €28,875 – to advertise the campaign would not be reimbursed. Mélenchon justified the purchasing of the stickers – saying that in the vast majority of cases they were used to build up visibility for campaign events, but CNCCFP ruled that “such a large number” was not justified. 

Mélenchon was not the only one to get in trouble for his signage. Extreme-right candidate Éric Zemmour was accused of having put up over 10,000 posters outside official places reserved for signage. The same went for the far-right’s Marine Le Pen, who decided to appeal the CNCCFP’s decision not to reimburse €300,000 spent on putting posters of her face with the phrase “M la France” on 12 campaign buses.

Poster pictures

Emmanuel Macron – who won re-election in 2022 – will not be reimbursed for the €30,000 spent on a professional photographer Soazig de la Moissonière, who works as his official photographer and took the picture for his campaign poster. 

The CNCCFP said that Macron’s team had “not sufficiently justified” the expenditure.

Expensive Airbnbs

Green party member Yannick Jadot reportedly spent €6,048 on Airbnbs in the city of Paris for some of his campaign employees – an expense that the CNCCFP said that public funds would not cover.

Translating posters

The campaign finance body also refused to reimburse the Mélenchon campaign’s decision to translate its programme into several foreign languages at a cost of €5,398.

The CNCCFP said that they did not consider the translations to be “an expense specifically intended to obtain votes” in a French election.

Best and worst in class

The extreme-right pundit Zemmour had the largest amount of money not reimbursed. Zemmour created a campaign video that used film clips and historic news footage without permission and also appeared on CNews without declaring his candidacy – because of these two offences, CNCCFP has reduced his reimbursement by €200,000. He has been hit with a separate bill of €70,000 after he was found guilty of copyright infringement over the campaign video. 

The star pupil was Nathalie Arthaud, high-school teacher and candidate for the far-left Lutte Ouvriere party, who apparently had “completely clean accounts”. A CNCCFP spokesperson told Le Parisien that if all candidate accounts were like Arthauds’, then “we would be unemployed”.

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