Sarkozy’s name jeered at French election rally

The name of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was jeered at an election rally of his right-wing Republicans party on Sunday, reflecting anger at his decision not to join campaigning ahead of next weekend's vote.

Valerie Pecresse at a campaign rally
French right-wing Les Republicains (LR) Ile-de-France Regional Council President and presidential candidate Valerie Pecresse delivers a speech during a campaign rally at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre, in Paris on April 3, 2022. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

The 67-year-old former head of state has declined to endorse the Republicans struggling candidate Valerie Pecresse, who served as his budget minister.

“I absolutely didn’t expect that reaction at all,” Pecresse advisor Yann Wehrling said from the stage at a rally in Paris on Sunday after whistles and boos rang out at the mention of Sarkozy’s name.

“On the contrary, you should applaud him,” Wehrling added, referring to the 2007-2012 leader.

Sarkozy’s refusal to back Pecresse as well as his closeness with President Emmanuel Macron have caused frustration among many Republicans rank-and-file members.

He has always been a popular figure among right-wing French voters, but his standing nationwide has fallen in recent years following two convictions for corruption and illegal campaign financing.

Pecresse is running in fourth or fifth position ahead of next weekend’s vote, polls suggest, with the 2022 election appearing on track to be a re-run of the 2017 contest that pitched Macron against far-right veteran Marine Le

Surveys suggest that Macron’s lead over Le Pen is narrowing sharply as next Sunday’s first round approaches, with a second round run-off scheduled for April 24.

A poll for the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday by the Ifop group showed Macron winning the first round with 27 percent, down 2.5 points in a fortnight, while Le Pen had gained 3.5 points to 22 percent.

In a duel between the two of them, Macron was seen on 53 percent while Le Pen was on 47 percent — in line with several other polls at the end of the last week.

Voter sentiment appears to be highly volatile, and many French people have not made up their minds yet, making the outcome difficult to forecast, experts say.

Consultancy scandal
Macron, meanwhile, held his first rally on Saturday at a stadium west of Paris where he drew around 30,000 people.

Emmanuel Macron greets supporters amid fireworks at first campaign rally

French President and liberal party La Republique en Marche (LREM) candidate for re-election Emmanuel Macron greets his supporters during his first campaign meeting at the Paris La Defense Arena, in Nanterre, on the outskirts of Paris, on April 2, 2022. (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

Calling for a “general mobilisation” from his supporters, he warned about the danger posed by Le Pen and fellow far-right candidate Eric Zemmour.

READ ALSO: Macron warns of Brexit-like shock in French election rally

The head of Macron’s parliamentary party Christophe Castaner said that “of course” the president could lose to Le Pen next Sunday.

He told RMC radio that it would be an error to “let anyone believe that the election is won in advance.”

The centrist president’s opponents continue to target him over his governments’ use of expensive management consultancies during his term in office following a highly critical report from the Senate last month.

A Senate investigation found that spending on outside consulting firms such as McKinsey had more than doubled from 2018-2021, reaching more than a billion euros ($1.1 billion) last year, a record.

Rising hard-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon criticised Macron for “inviting the private sector into the state. Who can believe that a private company would give advice in the public interest?”

The head of Le Pen’s National Rally party, Jordan Bardella, said that “Emmanuel Macron has become the front for private interests”.

Macron and his aides have sought to stress that France uses consultants less than some other large EU members and that outside help had been required for technical missions such as IT or cybersecurity, as well as during the
Covid-19 pandemic.


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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.