French elections: 5 things you didn’t know about Fabien Roussel

A lifelong communist who enjoys good French cheese and spent time reporting in Vietnam, here's what you need to know about Fabien Roussel.

French Communist Party National Secretary, Fabien Roussel, is running in the presidential race for the first time in 2022.
French Communist Party National Secretary, Fabien Roussel, is running in the presidential race for the first time in 2022. (Photo by Sebastien SALOM-GOMIS / AFP)

He is a red-blooded Frenchman 

Fabien Roussel, a 52-year-old MP, made headlines on the presidential campaign trail with repeated promises to “defend steak for the French people”. 

“Good wine, good meat, good cheese – for me, that is French gastronomy,” he said during a television interview in January. 

He has also denounced the growing anti-hunting sentiment in France and, like other French Communist leaders before him, is a defender of nuclear energy. 

All of these positions have alienated ecologists in France. 

He grew up in a Communist milieu 

Roussel’s parents were both Communist activists. His father worked as a journalist for the Communist newspaper L’Humanité. 

Roussel’s first name, Fabien, was chosen as a reference to Colonel Fabien – the code name of a famous French resistance fighter from WWII. 

As a youngster, Roussel was taken along to political marches to distribute Communist leaflets. 

READ MORE Why France’s Communist party is hoping for a return to glory

He joined the Mouvement des jeunes communistes de France (MJCF) at the age of 16 and was active in anti-apartheid protests – a moment which Roussel has said inspired his political career. 

His first real step into establishment politics came in 1997, when at the age of 28, he became an adviser to Michelle Demessine, a tourism minister under the government of socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin.

He wants to shorten the working week and raise the minimum wage

Roussel wants to reduce the French working week to 32 hours – the current official working week is 35 hours

On top of that, he is seeking to raise the minimum wage to €1,900 pre-tax – or €1,500 post-tax. 

READ MORE How well is the French economy really doing?

He also wants to lower the retirement age to 60, pay students a monthly stipend of €850 and fully nationalise the EDF and Engie energy providers. 

This would be partly financed by reintroducing and tripling the wealth tax (ISF) scrapped by the incumbent French President Emmanuel Macron. 

He is not afraid to use fruity language

During his time as an adviser to Demessine, he helped design a campaign slogan that created quite a buzz. 

Je vote communiste et je t’emmerde – “I vote communist and I piss you off”, read the posters. 

He is a former journalist

Before working full-time as a politician, Roussel worked as a journalist. 

He reported alongside his father for two years in Vietnam in the late 1990s and then took a job as a photojournalist working on a programme called Au bout de la rue on France 3 Lorraine-Champagne-Ardenne. 


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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.