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Ministers, maids and ‘Wolverine’ – Who’s standing in France’s parliamentary elections

France goes to the polls again on Sunday to vote in parliamentary elections, so here's a guide to the big names - and the surprise entries - in the race.

Ministers, maids and 'Wolverine' - Who's standing in France's parliamentary elections
A man casts his ballot during the second round of the 2017 French parliamentary elections 2017. (Photo by Benjamin CREMEL / AFP)

As France’s parliamentary elections approach, you’ll need to know who is who: some are familiar faces, but there are a few surprises in there. If you are looking to see who is running in your area, you can use this interactive map by Franceinfo:

The candidates you might recognise:

Among the candidates, there are several members of the previous government:

Olivier Veran, former Health Minister (Photo by Geoffroy VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

The former Minister of Health Olivier Véran is running in Isère (Grenoble) in Eastern France. He is still a member of government, currently serving as the Minister Delegate for Relations with Parliament and Democratic Life.

Véran is running in a district that voted very strongly in favour of President Emmanuel Macron in the presidential election, but his election could be a reflection of French attitudes towards his handling of the health crisis these last two years. 

Former government spokesperson Gabriel Attal (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

The former government spokesman Gabriel Attal, running in Hauts-de-Seine just outside Paris, also hopes to be re-elected.

Since the start of Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s tenure, Attal has occupied the post of Minister of Public Action and Accounts. He is expected to perform well in his constituency, with little competition from opposing parties. 

Former Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP)

Former Minister of Education Jean-Michel Blanquer is running in Loiret, near Orléans.

Blanquer is likely to find himself in more difficulty, as his nomination is being contested by another candidate who is also allied with Macron’s coalition. A controversial figure who suffered low approval ratings at the end of his mandate, particularly from teachers, Blanquer is running in a stronghold for Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National party.

Od the current cabinet of 28 ministers, 15 are running in the parliamentary elections.

The below Twitter thread from pollster Mathieu Gallard asseses their chances, based on local and national factors.

French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

Elisabeth Borne, the new Prime Minister, is a candidate in Calvados, in Normandy, under the banner of Ensemble, Macron’s coalition.

This is the first time she is running in an election – although she has a long career in politics behind her including several stints as a minister, she has always been a ‘technocrat’ appointment – if she fails to win her seat, she will have to leave Matignon “by the republican tradition.”

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin (Photo by Thomas COEX / AFP)

The Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is seeking re-election in Tourcoing, close to the Belgian border.

This area is his electoral stronghold – he was mayor of Tourcoing before becoming a minister – but Darmanin has been at the centre of several controversies recently, including his handling of policing problems at the Champions League final in Paris and the swimming pool ‘burkini’ row.

French Minister for Solidarity, Autonomy and Persons with Disabilities Damien Abad (Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP)

Damien Abad, the Disabilities Minister, will be running in Ain, eastern France. Abad was recently accused of sexual assault by two women. He will also have to contend with a strong opposition candidate, Julien Martinez, representing his former party, Les Républicains.

Other members of Borne’s cabinet running in the parliamentary elections are: health minister Brigitte Bourguignon (Pas-de-Calais), labour minister Olivier Dussopt (Ardèche), environment minister Amélie de Montchalin (Essonne), agriculture minister Marc Fesneau (Loir-et-Cher), public functions minister Stanislas Guérini (Paris), overseas territories minister Yaël Braun-Pivet (Yvelines), Europe minister Clément Beaune (Paris), Economic atractiveness minister Franck Riester (Seine-et-Marne), government spokesman Olivia Grégoire (Paris) and maritime minister Justine Benin (Guadeloupe).

Some familiar faces from France’s recent presidential elections are also running:

French far-right party Reconquete! president Eric Zemmour (Photo by CLEMENT MAHOUDEAU / AFP)

On the far-right, there is Éric Zemmour, who will be running in the 4th constituency of the Var, which is in the south near Côte-d’Azur.

Zemmour founded his political party ‘Reconquest,’ and in the first round of the presidential election he won around seven percent of votes cast, though his presence made a mark. According to a recent Ifop poll, Zemmour could make it to the second round this time, but his opponent Sereine Mauborgne, representing Macron’s LREM, is favored to win the election in the end. 

Former Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen (L) and her sister Marie-Caroline Le Pen (R) (Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP)

Marine Le Pen, is running for re-election in the 11th constituency of Pas-de-Calais.

After refusing to join with Zemmour’s party in a far-right pact, Le Pen’s Rassemblement National has put up 569 candidates, among them Marine’s sister Marie-Caroline Le Pen, who is running in Hauts-de-Seine. 

Other recognisable names running fall under the left alliance la Nupes: Julien Bayou from the Green Party who is running in Paris, and Communist presidential candidate Fabien Roussel who is running in Saint-Amand-les-Eaux, located along the Belgian border.

There are also plenty of newcomers to politics who are running for the first time, here are some of the most interesting or recognisable.

Candidate for the left-wing coalition “NUPES” Rachel Keke (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

A former maid at the Ibis hotel in Paris’ 17th arrondisement near Batignolles, Rachel Kéké is running in the 7th district of Val-de-Marne with the left alliance Nupes.

Kéké is known for having organised the Ibis Batignolles hotel maids strike, which lasted 22 months and is considered the longest strike to have taken place in France’s hotel industry. This will be the first time she is a candidate in a political election.

Stéphane Ravacley (R) candidate with NUPES (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

Stéphane Ravacley is a baker who first hit the headlines when he went on a hunger strike to fight to prevent the deportation of his apprentice, Laye Fodé Traoré, who arrived in France as young, undocumented Guinean orphan.

Ravacley also distinguished himself again recently by working to organise a convoy to bring aid to the border between Ukraine and Poland. Now he is the Nupes candidate in Doubs (near Burgundy). 

Isabelle Seguin, candidate with LREM (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

Former reality TV contestant, Isabelle Seguin, who won the show Koh-Lanta in 2003, will be running with President Macron’s coalition, Ensemble.

A former flight attendant, Seguin has been an activist since 2017 and is now a candidate in Ain, eastern France.

Toulouse’s French fullback Maxime Medard runs with the ball during a rugby match (Photo by Valentine CHAPUIS / AFP)

Toulouse and France rugby player Maxime Médard – known as ‘French Wolverine’ because of his impressive sideburns – will be running as a substitute for Laurence Arribagé in Haute-Garonne, south west France.

Médard, who retires at the end of the 2021/22 season, represents the centre-right Les Républicains. 

Former French Prime Minister and candidate Manuel Valls (Photo by OSCAR DEL POZO / AFP)

Finally, France’s former Prime Minister Manuel Valls attempted to represent French citizens abroad in Spain, Portugal, Andorra and Monaco.

French people living abroad vote one week earlier, so we already know that he didn’t make it past the first round.

Valls, who is a dual French-Spanish national, was a Barcelona city councillor from 2019 to 2021 and prime minister under François Hollande from 2014-2016. In recent years he has come into the spotlight for making inflammatory statements – like suggesting flattening Marseille.

READ MORE: Why has a former French Prime Minister suggested flattening Marseille

The noticeable absences 

Finally, there are some notable names that are missing from this list.

Jean-Luc Melenchon, the third placed presidential candidate and leader the Nupes coalition, is visibly missing from the list of candidates running for the législatives. Melenchon has stated that he hopes to ‘pass the baton‘ to the next generation in his constituency of Bouches-du-Rhône (Marseille).

However he’s certainly not ruling out a bigger job – the veteran leftist hopes to force Macron into making him Prime Minister if his group can gain a parliamentary majority and force a cohabitation.

Ex presidential candidate and longtime MP Jean Lassalle is not running for re-election.

Which parties are running candidates?

Several parties have created alliances ahead of the parliamentary elections, and agreed not to run candidates against each other.

President Macron’s party LREM is running in an alliance with MoDem (The Democratic Movement) and Horizon (the party founded by ex PM Edouard Philippe) under the name Ensemble.

Meanwhile, the coalition of left-wing parties known as La Nupes, is composed of the hard-left La France Insoumise, the centre-left Parti Socialiste, the Communist party and the Green party.

On the centre-right Les Republicains are running.

Meanwhile, on the far-right the two parties: Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National and Éric Zemmour’s Reconquest party are also running candidates – they have not formed an alliance.

Several smaller parties are also in the mix, as unlike presidential elections there is no requirement for parrainages (endorsements) in order to get on the ballot paper.

These include the Rural Movement (formerly the Hunting, Fishing, Nature and Traditions party), the Animalist Party, the Worker’s Struggle party (led by Nathalie Arthaud in the presidential election), the Pirate Party, the Centrist Alliance, the Solidarity of Regions and People party, the UDI, The Ecologists, the Independent Democratic Workers’ Party, The Patriots, the Republican and Socialist Left, and the Ecology at the Centre party. 

Of these, the Animalist Party ahs caused perhaps the biggest buzz, due to their campaign posters which feature a very cute fluffy duckling (although all the party candidates are in fact human).

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JOHN LICHFIELD

OPINION: France has two presidents – one is confident, the other weak and directionless

France has two Emmanuel Macrons: one is strangely depressed and directionless, the other confident and clear, writes John Lichfield. But which one will emerge in his second term as president?

OPINION: France has two presidents - one is confident, the other weak and directionless

There is a global Emmanuel Macron, confident and clear; and then there is a domestic Emmanuel Macron, who sometimes appears petulant and indecisive.

Global Macron is admired by many people outside France for his eloquence and his intelligence. He is also mocked and feared by some people abroad (especially in the Brexit camp in Britain) for his alleged pretentiousness and arrogance (in other words for his eloquence and intelligence).

For Global Macron, it has been a good couple of weeks. 

His speech to the United Nations General Assembly this week was the best given by any world leader.

He placed the Ukraine war in a sweeping, global and historical context, lambasting allegedly “neutral” countries for failing to stand up for the core UN principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. The “fake” non-aligned countries were, he said, betraying not just the values of the UN but their own interests.

Macron has also been word perfect in his tributes to the Queen.

He obtained little credit for that fact from the hardest-line,  professional Macron-haters in the UK media. They preferred to concentrate on the fact that he wore posh trainers during an informal visit last weekend to the enormous queues of people waiting to file past Her Majesty’s coffin in Westminster.

King Charles has, however, seized on this opportunity to improve relations between France and Britain which Liz Truss had ignored. After a dinner with Macron in London last Sunday, the new king is reliably reported to have decided that his first state visit next year should be to France.

So much for the global Macron.

The other Macron, the domestic president, is newly re-elected but strangely weak and directionless.

His popularity in opinion polls is fading. He seems unable to come to terms with his loss of his parliamentary majority in the legislative elections in June. He has yet to give a clear road-map for his second term to his newly renamed Renaissance party and their centrist allies.

(REMEMBER: You can listen to John Lichfield discuss the crisis on the French left and the mixed fortunes of Emmanuel Macron in the latest episode of our Talking France podcast below)

He has alternated in recent weeks between Blood, Sweat and Tears warnings to the French people that they face a cold and difficult winter and a generous (but reluctant) decision to extend domestic energy subsidies for another full year.

He has alarmed some of his own allies by raising the possibility that he might use his emergency constitutional powers to push pension reform through a divided National Assembly.

At the same time, he has pressed ahead with his vague plan for a grandiloquently-named Conseil national de la Refondation (National refoundation council). This body is supposed to find common ground between Left and Right, unions and bosses, to “refound” the French welfare state created just after the 1939-45 war.

On the one hand,  Macron says that he wants to find a new social consensus for the 21st century. On the other hand, he says that he wants to charge, without negotiation, into the social and political minefield of pension reform.

In a briefing with journalists earlier this month, the President suggested that he could avoid a lengthy negotiation with unions and the parliament to increase the standard French retirement age (now in theory 62). Changes in system could be tacked onto the annual social security budget next month and then pushed through the Assembly, in effect, by decree.

This week, the government back-pedalled. No decision has yet been taken, they say. One of Macron’s principal allies, the veteran centrist leader, François Bayrou, warned that any attempt to impose such a transformation on French lives by force would be a calamity.

How can we explain the two Macrons?

Partly, they reflect the constitutional powers given to French presidents. On international affairs and European affair, Macron can go largely his own way. On domestic policy, if he has no majority in parliament, his powers are limited.

I believe, however, that the problem runs deeper. There have been reports for months that Macron suffered after his re-election in April from a “drop in energy” or a period of depression.

The second half of his first term had been brutally occupied with non-stop management of the Covid and Ukraine crises. His attempts at mediating with Vladimir Putin had been a discouraging failure.

After his victory over Marine Le Pen, Macron drifted for weeks, delaying his decisions on a new Prime Minister and a new government. He was strangely absent from the parliamentary campaign in June (well below the limits imposed by his position as head of state).

Macron’s distraction contributed to his failure to win a new parliamentary majority; his lack of a majority has, I believe, compounded his mood of indecision and depression.

What to do with five years of a second term? Should he accept that his only role is now crisis-management? After all there are crises enough to manage.

Is the career of the self-proclaimed revolutionary of 2017 finished at the age of 44?  He cannot run again in 2027. He faces the prospect of five years of managerialism and drift while attention switches to his possible successors, from Edouard Philippe in the centre to Marine Le Pen on the Far Right.

“Macron is a magician who has lost his wand,” says one pro-Macron parliamentarian. “He’s still searching  for a way forward, a sense of direction. In short, he has the blues.”

By comparison with French politics, international crises are simple. Macron has clear ideas about the place of France and Europe in the world. He can express himself, both off the cuff and in set-piece speeches, with elegance and intelligence.

Macron has had no other position in elected politics than President of the Republic. He has no background as local or parliamentary politician. The prospect of five years of grinding negotiation to achieve quarter-baked reforms is, I believe, appalling to him.

Hence, his domestic zig-zagging.

He faces three choices in the next few months. He can accept a role as a manager of crises and minimal reforms; he can risk a Yellow Vest-type revolt by using, maybe abusing, his limited constitutional powers to impose change.

Or he can hope for an opportunity in the first half of next year to call a new parliamentary election.

Which way will he go? I don’t know. Nor, I suspect, does Emmanuel Macron.

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