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PODCAST: Could Marine Le Pen become the next French president?

With less than a week to go until polling day, the new episode of Talking France looks at the 'Le Pen surge' in polling and analyses whether she can really win - and what a President Marine Le Pen would mean for France, and for Europe.

PODCAST: Could Marine Le Pen become the next French president?
Graphic: The Local

Ben McPartland is joined by Local France editor Emma Pearson, plus veteran columnist John Lichfield and political analyst Mujtaba Rahman to look at the latest twist in the French presidential election.

With the first round of voting on Sunday, far-right leader Marine Le Pen appears to be closing in on incumbent Emmanuel Macron – but do the latest polls tell the full story?

Listen HERE or find the Talking France podcast on Spotify or Apple.

John Lichfield told us: “Accidents can happen – Macron’s support may not turn out, the left may abstain in huge quantities and it’s just possible now to imagine Le Pen winning, which it was not, I don’t think, until now.

“I’ve said all along that I think Macron will win, now I have a slight doubt – but only a slight doubt. I still think Macron will win.”

And we’re also joined by political analyst Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia group to look at why France’s election is important to Europe and the wider world, and whether a far-right president of France would really spell the end of the EU.

He said: “A far-right president for France, Marine Le Pen or someone like her, would be the end of the European project as we know it. 

“A figure like this in the Elysée would be constrained by parliament, but as the French head of state would attend the European Council and has a tremendous amount of discretion and agency to do lots of things that the rest of Europe would be very concerned about.

“It would be a profound shock and an existential crisis for the European Union.”

We’re taking a look at what actually happens on polling day and how France produces its accurate early results in the 8pm announcement.

And as ever, we’re looking at some French phrases to help you understand the election, from disentangling Macron’s obscure phrases to explaining why you might want to tell a French person that your ass is a chicken. 

You can find all previous episodes of the Talking France podcast HERE, or on Spotify or Apple.

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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.