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POLITICS

French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Valérie Pécresse

She's the first female presidential candidate for the French centre-right Les Républicains party and has described herself as 'one third Margaret Thatcher and two thirds Angela Merkel', but here are some thing you might not know about Valérie Pécresse. 

French elections: 5 things you didn't know about Valérie Pécresse
Valerie Pecresse. Photo: Julien De Rose/AFP

1 She is married with three children – Her husband Jérome says that if she is elected he will take care of ‘the children and the cooking’, as he did when she was the budget minister under Nicolas Sarkozy.

Their kids are now 26, 24 and 18 though, so we’re not sure exactly how much childcare they still require. 

He also works, he’s part of the leadership team of General Electric in France.

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2 She is currently head of the greater Paris region of Île de France –  Here she has made herself popular with commuters first by giving full refunds of travel passes during the mass transport strikes of 2019/20 and then by rolling out a fare cap of €5 for any single journey within the region (which covers 12,000 km sq). 

3 Certain sections of the French press dub her ‘Macron-en-jupe’ (Macron in a skirt) – This slightly bizarre image is intended to refer to the fact that her policies on Europe and the economy are in many ways similar to the centrist Macron.

Socially, however, she is a lot more conservative and was a leading opponent of the equal marriage bill which gave same-sex couples the right to marry in 2013. She has, however, said that now the legislation is passed she would not seek to overturn it. 

Incidentally, she doesn’t often wear skirts and is much more likely to be photographed in well-tailored trousers and a smart jacket.

4 She’s a linguist – She speaks fluent English, Japanese and also Russian, thanks to time spent at what she described as ‘communist youth camps’ in her teens in what was then the USSR.  

5 And she wants you to be one too – She takes a hard line on immigration and has previously suggested a cap on visas issues to arrivals from outside the EU, and also making renewing residency permits conditional on ‘mastery of the French language’.

She has so far not specified what language level would be required or how long foreigners in France will be given to get their language skills up to scratch. 

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POLITICS

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France’s disabilities minister

France's disabilities minister will not face a new inquiry "as things stand" over a rape allegation that surfaced just after his nomination by President Emmanuel Macron last week, prosecutors have said, citing the anonymity of the alleged victim.

Prosecutors: No new rape inquiry for France's disabilities minister

Damien Abad has faced growing pressure to resign after the news website Mediapart reported the assault claims by two women dating from over a decade ago, which he has denied.

One of the women, identified only by her first name, Margaux, filed a rape complaint in 2017 that was later dismissed by prosecutors.

The other woman, known only as Chloe, told Mediapart that in 2010 she had blacked out after accepting a glass of champagne from Abad at a bar in Paris, and woke up in her underwear in pain with him in a hotel room. She believes she may have been drugged.

She did not file an official complaint, but the Paris prosecutors’ office said it was looking into the case after being informed by the Observatory of Sexist and Sexual Violence in Politics, a group formed by members of France’s MeToo movement.

“As things stand, the Paris prosecutors’ office is not following up on the letter” from the observatory, it said, citing “the inability to identify the victim of the alleged acts and therefore the impossibility of proceeding to a hearing.”

In cases of sexual assault against adults, Paris prosecutors can open an inquiry only if an official complaint is made, meaning the victim must give their identity.

Abad has rejected the calls to resign in order to ensure the new government’s “exemplarity,” saying that he is innocent and that his own condition of arthrogryposis, which limits the movement of his joints, means sexual relations can occur only with the help of a partner.

The appointment of Abad as minister for solidarities and people with disabilities in a reshuffle last Friday was seen as a major coup for Macron, as the 42-year-old had defected from the right-wing opposition.

The new prime minister, Elisabeth Borne, said she was unaware of the allegations before Abad’s nomination, but insisted that “If there is new information, if a new complaint is filed, we will draw all the consequences.”

The claims could loom large over parliamentary elections next month, when Macron is hoping to secure a solid majority for his reformist agenda. Abad will be standing for re-election in the Ain department north of Lyon.

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