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POLITICS

French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Jean-Luc Mélenchon

The leader of the far-left La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) party is making his third bid for the French presidency. Here's what you need to know about him.

French elections: 5 things you didn't know about Jean-Luc Mélenchon
Presidential candidate of French left-wing party La France Insoumise (LFI) Jean-Luc Melenchon poses prior to take part in the evening news broadcast of French TV channel TF1 in Boulogne-Billancourt near Paris, on February 6, 2022. (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

1 He’s got a lot of political experience – Despite his preferred image as an ‘outsider’ Mélenchon has among the most experience of all the candidates in terms of the number of roles he has performed – he’s been a local and regional councillor, an MP, government minster, a Senator and an MEP since he won his first election in 1983. 

He had his first presidential run in 2012 then formed his own political party La France Insoumise (France Unbowed) in February 2016 and ran in the 2017 election – finishing 4th with 19 percent of the vote. This time he is again running as the LFI candidate. 

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2 He was born in Tangiers – Morocco was at that time was a French colony and Mélenchon’s parents worked as a teacher and postmaster in the Tangiers international zone, before moving to France when Jean-Luc was 11. 

3 He’s got a temper – in 2018 he was placed under police investigator for shoving a prosecutor who was supervising a raid on Mélenchon’s offices. The party was at the time under investigation in relation to political funding. 

Raiding the homes and offices of politicians who are under investigation is common practice in France – it aims to ensure they don’t destroy documents – and Mélenchon said he did not object to the raid, but to the manner of the officers who carried it out.

He blamed his  “Mediterranean” origin for his tendency to lose his temper and said there was “no need to make a big deal of it”. 

4 He can be in two places at one – OK not really, that’s impossible, but during his 2017 election campaign he made good use of holograms which enabled him to appear before his supporters simultaneously at rallies in Paris and Lyon. 

5 He’s a controversial figure – he has repeatedly been accused of anti-Semitism and has also been accused of  spreading conspiracy theories. He’s on record as saying that the former leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, should not have apologised for anti-Semitism within the Labour Party.

His long-standing policy of bringing France out of Nato has also raised question in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He’s also no fan of much of the media, lashing out at individual journalists as ‘fascists’, ‘spies’ or ‘CIA agents’ (he’s never levelled any of those accusations at The Local, but it’s highly possible that he’s not a reader).

He is a fan of immigrants though, saying “Today as yesterday, I am delighted that France is a mix of races and all the children are our children.”  

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POLICE

France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.

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