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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Philippe Poutou

As candidate for the New Anticapitalist Party, Philippe Poutou does not exactly fit the mould set by other challengers at the 2022 French presidential election.

Philippe Poutou is running as a presidential candidate for the New Anticapitalist Party at the French presidential election.
Philippe Poutou is running as a presidential candidate for the New Anticapitalist Party at the French presidential election. (Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP)

1 He is not part of ‘the political elite’ 

The son of a postman and housewife, he left high school without a diploma and scraped a living with a series of precarious jobs before landing a work contract with a Ford factory in the mid-90s, where he quickly became involved in union activism’.

However this is his third presidential bid and he is currently a local politician in the southern French city of Bordeaux. 

He’s very far from wealthy though, the obligatory declaration of assets for all presidential candidates showed that his highest-value possession is his car – a Peugeot 308.

2 He wants to abolish the presidency 

Poutou wants to abolish the very position he is seeking to win – the French presidency. 

In his manifesto, Poutou also calls for the abolition of the Senate and the creation of a sixth Republic, whereby decisions are made through exercises in direct democracy, such as referenda. 

This is a significant step forward from his last election bids where he argued for moving to a purely parliamentary system. 

“We cannot finish with capitalism in the framework of institutions conceived of to preserve it,” he wrote. 

3 He has been an activist for years

As a staunch anti-capitalist, Poutou has been an activist for many years, beginning in high school. 

He shot to national prominence for his role as a trade unionist in 2007. At the time, the Ford factory in Gironde was set to close, but Poutou led negotiations to keep it open saving close to 1,000 jobs. 

He joined the yellow vest movement in 2018-19, describing it as “an expression of discontent against a profoundly unjust society.”

4 TV debates are his strong point 

In 2017, many media commentators identified Poutou as one of the strongest performers in the televised debate before the election.

He is happy to throw around phrases accusing his opponents of being “corrupt politicians disconnected from reality.” 

During the debate, he told the moderators: “It’s not because I don’t have a tie that you have to interrupt me.”

Criticising Marine Le Pen who had refused to appear before a judge citing parliamentary immunity.

“When we are summoned by the police, we don’t have workers’ immunity,” he said.   

Poutou refused to pose for a photo with the other candidates before programme started. 

5 He is currently a city councillor in Bordeaux

Poutou failed to win the French presidency in 2012 and 2017, scoring less than 2 percent of the first-round vote both times. 

After being fired from his job at a car factory in 2019, he stood in municipal elections in Bordeaux where he had greater electoral success, becoming a city councillor. 

“We have succeeded in making the social anger heard and showing that Bordeaux is not a bourgeois city,” he said upon winning his seat. 

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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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