Today in France: The latest news from the 2022 French presidential election

The 2022 French presidential election campaign is now officially underway. Each weekday our new early morning roundup "Today in France" takes a look at the latest news, events and gossip from the campaign trail.

Today in France: The latest news from the 2022 French presidential election
It's not just people who are exposed to French politicians' charm offensives. Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP

A vos marques, prêt . . . partez!

Monday marks the official start of the campaign, with all candidates required to formally declare by 6pm on Friday, March 4th. Most of them did this weeks ago, but Emmanuel Macron left it until just 24 hours before the deadline to confirm what was already widely assumed – he is running for a second term in the Elysée Palace.

READ ALSO 5 key points from Macron’s election announcement

On Monday at 12 noon, the Constitutional Council released the names of all candidates who have gained more than 500 signatures of support – known as parrainages – and who will therefore appear on the ballot paper. Again, we already know that most of the high-profile candidates have achieved this, but the Trotskyist candidate Philippe Poutou may or may not have got the final few signatures he needed before the Friday deadline.

Talking points 

Macron spent most of the weekend engaged in international diplomacy over Ukraine, including another lengthy call with Russian premier Vladimir Putin – 1 hr 45 minutes – his fourth such call since Russia invaded Ukraine. According to the Elysée’s readout of the call Macron expressed serious concerns about nuclear safety.

We don’t want to worry anyone, but this is the photo that his official photographer posted on Instagram on Sunday 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by ©Soazig de la Moissonnière (@soazigdelamoissonniere)

Tu and vous

We also know via the Elysée that Macron and Putin chat in French and Russian, respectively, with translators, and that Macron tutoyers Putin – ie uses the informal tu, rather than the formal vous.

Entente un-cordiale

Macron’s interior minister Gérald Darmanin was engaged in international diplomacy of a rather different kind, sending a letter to his British counterpart Priti Patel accusing the UK government of a ‘lack of humanity’ towards Ukraine refugees, after many who were trying to join family in the UK were turned back at Calais by British officials.

Patel has angrily snapped back. The pair have form for this type of clash – they have already butted heads on the issue of migrant crossings in the Channel. They’re actually quite similar in some ways – both from immigrant backgrounds (Darmanin’s grandfather was from Algeria), both to the right of their respective political parties and both seemingly ambitious and keen to be seen to ‘getting tough’ on issues including crime and immigration – but maybe it’s a case of being too close for comfort.

Moooving on up

This weekend also saw the final days of the Paris Salon de l’Agriculture, a very fun farm show that’s also a must-visit for any serious French politician, where they show that they are women or men of the people, unafraid of getting their hands dirty by petting cows.

It was Jacques Chirac who really popularised this, but social media has been invented since he was president, and now no major French politician’s social media feeds are complete without pictures of them at the farm show.

After careful consideration, we reckon that Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire has the best cow-petting picture, a relaxed shot of him apparently having an in-depth chat with a fairly indifferent looking bovine.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Bruno Le Maire (@brunolemaire)

Family dramas

Things seem a bit less relaxed in the Le Pen camp, where Marine Le Pen’s niece and former protegée Marion Maréchal has announced that she is defecting to her far-right rival Eric Zemmour.

Marion had previously said that she would not support her aunt, and over the weekend confirmed that she will instead back  Zemmour. Interviewed on TV at the time of her niece’s earlier announcement, Le Pen appeared close to tears as she talked of the “cruelty” of the move from the niece she helped raise.

Candidates trips

Monday sees Macron do his first official campaign event. A planned rally in Marseille was cancelled due to the Ukraine crisis, so instead his first trip onto the campaign trail is a low-key one – visiting Poissy in the greater Paris area where the mayor Karl Olive is a close Macron supporter, for what his team say will be mostly ‘free conversation with the locals’.

Prime Minister Jean Castex will be at Gare du Lyon with education minister Jean-Michel Blanquer and equality minister Elisabeth Moreno for the the arrival of the Women’s Foundation Equality Train.

Marine Le Pen is giving a press conference on education at her campaign HQ and Valérie Pécresse is visiting a supermarket in Val d’Oise.

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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.