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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

Macron rules out ‘national unity government’ for France

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised a new style of government based on 'listening and respect' - but did not announce an alliance with any other parties that would give him a majority in parliament.

Macron rules out 'national unity government' for France

Macron has been holding meetings with all other party leaders in an attempt to break the deadlock in parliament after his group lost its majority in Sunday’s elections, but in a live TV address to the nation he did not announce an alliance.

Instead he said that a new style of government was called for, saying: “The responsibility of the presidential majority is therefore to expand, either by building a coalition contract or by building majorities text by text.”

He rejected the idea of forming a “government of national unity” with all parties, saying that the present situation does not justify it.

READ ALSO Can Macron dissolve the French parliament?

But he said that opposition groups have signalled that: “They are available to advance on major topics” such as the cost of living, jobs, energy, climate and health.”

He said: “We must learn how to govern differently, by dialogue, respect, and listening

“This must mean making agreements, through dialogue, respect, and hard work. The country has made its desire for change clear.”  

Speaking for just eight minutes in the gardens of the Elysée, Macron added: “I cannot ignore the fractures and strong divisions that traverse our country.”   

He said urgent draft laws, especially to alleviate the impact of inflation and rising energy prices, would be submitted to parliament over the summer.

Macron called on the opposition parties to “clarify in all transparency, in the coming days, how far they are willing to go” in their support of such measures, which he said would not be financed by higher taxes.

He added that he himself had been re-elected in April on a platform of “ambitious reform” which he expected to carry out.

The parliamentary impasse should not lead to “stagnation”, Macron said, but to “dialogue and the willingness to listen to each other”.

Macron’s centrist group Ensemble (Together) ended Sunday’s elections as the largest group in parliament – but with 245 seats they are 44 short of an absolute majority.

The leftist coalition Nupes – an electoral alliance of the hard-left La France Insoumise, the centre-left Parti Socialiste, the Greens and the Communists – got a total of 131.

Meanwhile Marine Le Pen’s far-right Rassemblement National got 89 seats and the centre-right Les Républicains got 61 seats. 

With deadlock in parliament, Macron has been holding meetings over the last two days with the party leaders in the attempt to create an alliance that will allow him to pass legislation over the next five years.

Reacting to Macron’s speech, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the leftist alliance which is the second largest group in parliament, said: “He was elected because most French people did not want the extreme right – the French people have rejected the president’s proposals.

“Nothing can change the choice of the French people.”

Macron’s position as president is not directly threatened by the lack of a majority, but it will mean that passing any legislation – which must be agreed by parliament – will be very difficult.

While negotiations between all parties will continue, Macron himself heads to Brussels on Thursday for an EU summit.

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