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French left pick ex justice minister in ‘people’s primary’ vote

A four-day 'people's primary' on Sunday picked former justice minister Christiane Taubira as the favourite to lead the French left's presidential election campaign, but doubts remained that she can win wider support as a unifying figure.

French left pick ex justice minister in 'people's primary' vote
Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

A total of 467,000 people signed up to take part in the online vote, which started on Thursday. They ranked five professional politicians and two civil society candidates on a scale from “very good” to “inadequate”.

Taubira, who had entered the contest as the favourite, emerged as the only candidate with a “better than good” ranking.

Next came the Green party’s Yannick Jadot, hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon, Euro MP Pierre Larrouturou, followed by Socialist Anne Hidalgo who is the mayor of Paris.

The exercise, initiated by political activists including environmentalists, feminists and anti-racism groups, was to foster the emergence of a candidate capable of rallying all the other hopefuls and their voters behind them, giving the left a fighting change to unseat President Emmanuel Macron in the April election.

But the primary has been dogged by serious drawbacks.

The biggest was the upfront refusal by leading candidates Melenchon, Jadot and Hidalgo to pay any attention to its result.

“As far as I’m concerned, the popular primary is a non-starter and has been for a while,” Jadot said Saturday, while Melenchon has called the initiative “obscure” and “a farce”.

Taubira, however, said from the start she would accept the primary’s verdict which analysts said could now prompt her to declare a formal bid for the presidency.

“We want a united left, we want a strong left and we have a great road in front of us,” Taubira told activists after the result Sunday, adding she would now call on the other candidates to “create unity”.

Polls currently predict that all left-wing candidates will be eliminated in the first round of presidential voting in April.

Macron, who has yet to declare his candidacy for re-election, is the favourite to win according to surveys, with the far-right’s Marine Le Pen the likely runner-up.

But pollsters warn that the political landscape remains volatile, with the vote’s outcome very difficult to call.

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CULTURE

French MP abandons bid to ban bullfighting

A bid to ban bullfighting in France has been abandoned, to the relief of lovers of the traditional blood sport and dismay for animal rights' activists.

French MP abandons bid to ban bullfighting

The 577-seat National Assembly had looked set to vote on draft legislation that would have made the practice illegal.

But the MP behind the bill withdrew it after lawmakers filed more than 500 amendments, many of them designed to take up parliamentary time and obstruct the vote.

“I’m so sorry,” Aymeric Caron, a La France insoumise (LFI) MP and animal rights’ campaigner, told the national assembly as he announced the decision in raucous and bad-tempered scenes.

Though public opinion is firmly in favour of outlawing the practice, the bill had already been expected to be rejected by a majority of lawmakers who
are wary about stirring up the bullfighting heartlands in the south of the country.

“We need to go towards a conciliation, an exchange,” President Emmanuel Macron said on Wednesday, adding that he did not expect the draft law to pass. “From where I am sitting, this is not a current priority.”

His government has urged members of the ruling centrist coalition not to support the text from the opposition LFI, even though many members are known to personally favour it.

During a first debate of the parliament’s law commission last week, a majority voted against the proposal by Caron, who denounced the “barbarism” of a tradition that was imported from Spain in the 1850s.

“Caron has antagonised people instead of trying to smooth it over,” a lawmaker from Macron’s party told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The bill proposed modifying an existing law penalising animal cruelty to remove exemptions for bullfights that can be shown to be “uninterrupted local
traditions”.

These are granted in towns such as Bayonne and Mont-de-Marsan in south west France and along the Mediterranean coast including Arles, Beziers and Nîmes.

Around 1,000 bulls are killed each year in France, according to the Observatoire National des Cultures Taurines.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Could bullfighting finally be banned in France?

Many so-called “bull towns” depend on the shows for tourism and see the culture of bull-breeding and the spectacle of the fight as part of their way of life – idolised by artists from Ernest Hemingway to Pablo Picasso.

They organised demonstrations last Saturday, while animal rights protesters gathered in Paris – highlighting the north-south and rural-versus-Paris divide at the heart of the debate.

“Caron, in a very moralising tone, wants to explain to us, from Paris, what is good or bad in the south,” the mayor of Mont-de-Marsan, Charles Dayot, told AFP recently.

Other defenders of “la Corrida” in France view the focus on the sport as hypocritical when factory farms and industrial slaughter houses are overlooked.

“These animals die too and we don’t talk enough about it,” said Dalia Navarro, who formed the pro-bullfighting group Les Andalouses in southern Arles.

Modern society “has more and more difficulty in accepting seeing death. But la Corrida tackles death, which is often a taboo subject,” she told AFP.

Previous judicial attempts to outlaw bullfighting have repeatedly failed, with courts routinely rejecting lawsuits lodged by animal rights activists, most recently in July 2021 in Nîmes.

The debate in France about the ethics of killing animals for entertainment is echoed in other countries with bullfighting histories, including Spain and Portugal as well as Mexico, Colombia and Venezuela.

In June, a judge in Mexico City ordered an indefinite suspension of bullfighting in the capital’s historic bullring, the largest in the world.

The first bullfight took place in France in 1853 in Bayonne to honour Eugenie de Montijo, the Spanish wife of Napoleon III.

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