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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

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

Each weekday, our early morning roundup 'Today in France' takes a look at the latest news, events and gossip from the campaign trail - here's what is happening on Thursday.

Today in France: The latest news from the 2022 French presidential election
A legal complaint has been filed against presidential candidate Eric Zemmour for describing the deportation of homosexuals to concentration camps as "a myth". Photo: JANEK SKARZYNSKI / AFP

Jean-Luc Mélenchon surges in the polls 

The most popular left-wing candidate in the race, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, is surging in the polls. 

The 70-year-old is still currently 14 points behind the president but stands a chance of making it to the second round if he continues to build momentum. 

“This tortoise has already overtaken quite a few hares,” Mélenchon told supporters this week.

The veteran politician has vowed to cut the retirement age to 60, boost the minimum wage to €1,400 and cap food and energy prices. 

Macron joins the war on ‘wokeness’

French President Emmanuel Macron has joined the culture wars. 

In an interview on Wednesday, he outlined his vision for French overseas territories. 

The president was asked about how France should remember its colonial past. 

“We must look at history in the face – not delete it or rewrite it. I am against taking down statues, I hate this thing,” he said. 

“I am against woke culture.”

Legal complaint #1

More legal troubles for extreme-right candidate Eric Zemmour, as six equality organisations have filed a formal complaint against him for disputing a crime against humanity.

The legal complaint refers to a passage in Zemmour’s most recent book, in which he calls the deportation of homosexuals to Nazi concentration camps during World War II “a myth”.

Zemmour has already been convicted several times of inciting racial hatred, but since launching his presidential campaign he has also incurred a €70,000 fine for breach of copyright in his campaign video, while a Paris grocery store has also accused him of walking out with out paying (although he has since settled his bill at Bon Marché).

Legal complaint #2

French energy giant Total also says it will be taking legal action, this time against green candidate Yannick Jadot, who described the company’s continued operations in Russia as “complicity in a war crime”. 

Total has said it will continue to buy Russian gas but will stop purchasing Russian oil and petroleum products by the end of this year.

It’s not the only French company still operating in Russia, and Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky had tough words for the French supermarket chain Auchan, DIY retailer Leroy Merlin and car-maker Renault, saying: “French companies must stop financing the murder and rape of women and children. Everyone must remember that values are worth more than profits.”

Zelensky made his comments in a speech, via videolink in the French parliament,. He also praised the efforts of Emmanuel Macron to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Attempted Elysée ‘coup d’état’

Seven people are in custody over what prosecutors describe as an attempted coup d’état against the president.

The plot, headed by a well-known conspiracy theorist, was to create a paramilitary organisation to overthrow the French state. Those arrested include a lawyer, an ex police officer, an army veteran and former members of the ‘yellow vest’ protest movement.

Macron warned not to get complacent 

When you look at the polls, Macron is a clear favourite to win reelection. 

His closest rival, Marine Le Pen, is 8 points behind him. At this point, it seems like fantasy that Valérie Pécresse or Éric Zemmour could be in with a shot. 

But former Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, a Macron ally, has warned the French head of state not to get complacent. 

“The predictive value of polls is nothing,” he said on Wednesday at a public meeting in Nice. 

“If you hide behind polls to reassure yourself, you are hiding in a void, an image that does not correspond to tomorrow… It is those who vote that decide, not those who conduct, comment on or order polls.” 

An unnamed government minister told Politico that Macron would attempt to “do more” on the campaign trail from next week.

Candidates’ trips

Emmanuel Macron is taking part in a marathon diplomatic effort in Brussels to resolve the Ukraine crisis, attending NATO, G7 and EU summits today. On the home front, ministers Bruno Le Maire and Amélie de Montchalin are among those hitting the campaign trail on the president’s behalf. 

Macron’s rivals also have a busy day ahead. Philippe Poutou is holding a public meeting in Marseille at 19h; Marine Le Pen is appearing on M6, TF1 and CNEWS later in the evening; and Valérie PécresseFabien RousselJean Lassalle and Nathalie Arthaud will take part in a programme called Élysée 2022 on France 2. 

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POLITICS

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.

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