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2022 FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

7 of the best Macron memes from the French election campaign

The 2022 French presidential election campaign has been a fairly dour affair - elections usually are - but recent images of candidate Emmanuel Macron during his TV debate with opponent Marine Le Pen, and relaxing with shirt unbuttoned have given rise to some much-needed smiles.

7 of the best Macron memes from the French election campaign
Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP)

One photo in particular has sparked widespread interest – and even international media coverage – and it’s from Macron’s personal photographer Soazig de la Moissonnière.

She has been posting regular sequences of ‘behind the scenes on the election trail’ images on her Instagram account, including Macron’s recent election rally in Marseille. In among images of Macron preparing for his speech, running on stage and greeting the crowd was one of him relaxing after the event was over.

Slumped on a sofa with his shirt open to the waist (well, it’s hot in Marseille), the image caught the attention of social media.

Photo: Soazig de la Moissonnière via Instagram

Combined with other images of Macron – including that ‘Zelensky’ hoodie photo from earlier in the campaign – the image quickly became a meme circulating on Twitter.

There are dozens of these circulating as people fill in their own jokes and comparisons.

The Financial Times’s chief features writer Henry Mance gave us this scarily accurate portrayal of a journalist’s life. Freelances, in particular, will recognise this all too well.

And Nicolas Quenel compared and contrasted the daily lives of journalists in different areas of the media – print journalist, radio journalist, web journalist and TV journalist.

Here’s one for classicists…

But it’s not just Macron’s chest-hair that has been gaining attention, many also remarked on his ‘bored’ face during the live TV debate with Marine Le Pen.

According to the strict rules of the debate, each candidate had a set time to lay out their policies on a certain area, before their opponent could challenge them.

Both candidates engaged in a little ‘non verbal campaigning’ but using facial expressions and body language to show that they disagreed with what the other was saying. 

Macron’s bored expression sparked many comparisons, including this from professor, author and columnist Olivier Babeau who tweeted “when your Tinder date talks without stopping and the evening is going to be a long one”.

Another Twitter user hit the nail on the head, with this picture of Macron making notes during the debate. He really did look that bored at times on Wednesday that we could believe he was writing a shopping list (milk, onions, cereal, butter).

And Emma James wasn’t the only one to wonder about his body language.

And you know you’ve made it when you’re the subject of a sketch on a US TV chat show – here’s host Jimmy Fallon paying, erm, tribute to Macron’s new look in song. Enjoy! 

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ENERGY

EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

As energy prices soar around Europe, France is the notable exception where most people have seen no significant rise in their gas or electricity bills - so what lies behind this policy? (Hint - it's not just that the French would riot if their bills exploded).

EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

On most international comparisons of rising energy prices, France is the outlier – but the government control of energy prices is not in fact a new policy and was in place well before the Russian invasion of Ukraine sent gas and electricity prices soaring.

At present prices for domestic gas are frozen at 2021 levels and electricity prices can only increase four percent per year. According to economy minister Bruno Le Maire, without these measures French bills would have risen by 60 percent for gas and 45 percent for electricity.

Both these measures – collectively known as the bouclier tarifaire (tariff shield) – are in place until at least the end of 2022, and could be extended into 2023.

The extension of the price shield was confirmed by parliament earlier in August – part of a €65 billion package of measures aimed at tackling the cost-of-living crisis – but had been in place for much longer.

Tariff shield

The reason that gas prices are frozen at 2021 levels is that the freeze came into effect on November 1st 2021 – well before Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

The measure was initially put in place to help people deal with the economic after-effects of the pandemic, but was extended in the spring of 2022, when electricity prices were also capped at four percent.

Price regulation

But although prolonged price freezes are unusual, the French government involvement in price-setting is completely normal and during non-freeze periods, a rate is set each month.

If you read French media (or The Local), you’ll notice regular articles on ‘what changes next month’ which include gas and electricity prices, usually expressed as a month-on-month percentage rise or fall. This refers to the maximum rate that utility companies are allowed to increase their charges per month.

The government-set rate refers to the basic price plan from EDF. Some people are on special deals or time-limited tariffs, so if their deal or payment plan ends and they go back onto the basic rate, they can see a rise above the government rate.

Around 85 percent of households in France get their electricity from EDF. 

READ MORE: Reader Question: Why did my French electricity bill increase by more than 4%

State-owned utilities

So, why is the government involved? Well, it’s the majority stakeholder in EDF, the country’s largest electricity supplier, and owns Gaz de France (Engie). 

At present EDF isn’t completely state owned – although there are plans to fully nationalise it – but it owns 84 percent.

The French state owns a lot of service and utility companies including the country’s rail provider SNCF, postal service La Poste and France Télévisions. One notable exception is the country’s autoroutes, which are run by private companies, although the government sets limits on toll charges. 

Nuclear 

France is less exposed to energy shocks than some other European countries because of its nuclear sector.

It is unusual among European nations in the size of its nuclear industry – around 70 percent of electricity comes from its own domestic nuclear power plants, although during the heatwave several plants have had to lower output as rivers have become too hot to effectively cool the reactors. There are also ongoing technical issues that have seen some of the older plants shut down or forced to lower output.

READ ALSO Why is France so obsessed with nuclear?

France is usually a net exporter of electricity, but at peak times it has to import electricity, usually via the high-priced international spot market.

It does, however, import its gas, mostly via pipeline – in 2020 its biggest supplier was Norway, followed by Russia.

The French government has launched a sobriété energetique (energy sobriety) plan to cut its total energy consumption by 10 percent this year, which it hopes will allow it to get through the winter without Russian gas. 

Riots

Even before the recent €65 billion aid package, the French government was taking a pro-active role in helping people deal with rising prices – from the price shield to fuel rebates for drivers, €100 grants for low-income households and financial aid for industries such as agriculture and logistics so they could avoid passing prices on the consumers.

Cynics say this happened for two reasons – because there were elections in April and June and because the French would riot if their utility bills suddenly doubled.

There’s a kernel of truth in both – cost of living became a major issue in the April presidential elections and one that far-right leader Marine Le Pen very much made her own from early in the campaign, leaving Emmanuel Macron slightly on the back foot, although in truth his government had already introduced several measures to ease the burden on ordinary voters.

It’s also true that the French have a robust approach to holding their government to account, and high living costs have previously inspired noisy and sometime violent protests – the ‘yellow vest’ movement of 2018 and 19 began as a protest over living costs.

But it’s also true that the French State is generally quite involved in people’s everyday lives – as evidenced by those monthly gas and electricity price rates – and taking a laissez-faire approach such as that seen in the UK would be unusual for any French government, even outside of election season.

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