In the news over the past few months, or more recently in Australia, you have certainly noticed the importance that politics generates for French people, and with good reason… 2016 and 2017 have been full of rebounds in politics especially with the French Presidential elections but also due to the multiple terrorist attacks that have impacted the hearts of French people even on the other side of the planet.
So a few of my Australian friends started to ask questions about French politics. Before getting to the heart of the matter, I want to make a point about the fact that I haven’t studied politics, I’m just interested even sometimes passionate about the topic, curious and most of all realising with age how important it is for me to feel invested in politics, in my professional life or in my personal life, to fight for what I believe to be fair and for my convictions. Also, I’m not a journalist, just a woman who loves words and shares her doubts, her certainties, her fears. For a long time I wanted to be a journalist but decided finally to turn to communication and advertising. In a nutshell, all this to tell you that I’m not the right one to give you a judicious and in-depth political analysis however I’m glad to share and highlight the main points of these elections for you.
As a child, I remember François Mitterand. I was only 3 years old when he was elected and it was only when I was 17 that a new President was elected. Indeed, at this time, the French President was elected for 7 years and Mitterand was elected twice. When you are a child, it seems like an eternity. Imagine a President for 14 years. Since then a lot of time has passed and things have changed, from a 7 year term we changed to 5 years (voted in 2000 and applied in 2002) and in the meantime of course there have been many changes: names of parties, political leaders, and for me at 18, the majority that gave me the right to vote.
The history of France spans of hundreds of years so obviously I’m going to skip the time of Carolingians, Merovingiens and others to right up nowadays, the 5th Republic.
The Vème République started in 1958 with a new Constitution and the first President of this Republic Charles de Gaulle, who was a general who had been called in the middle of the Algerian crisis. The new constitution has some key principles, including the respect of universal suffrage (a right to vote for all citizens), the separation of powers and the Government’s responsibility before the Parliament.
Ok but what is the Parliament? Sorry but I believe that I have to highlight this point too. So quickly, the Parliament formed by deputies who represent the citizens, they vote the laws and control the government (formed by ministers). Obviously, you can understand, it’s an important role. This Parliament consists of two chambers:
- the National Assembly elected by the citizens and able to vote the laws
- the Senate at Luxembourg Palace, indirectly elected and which examines the draft legislation and controls the government.
Well are you following up to now? So to briefly recap, we have:
- a Republic and a Constitution,
- a President elected by universal suffrage,
- a Prime Minister nominated by the President of the Republic who will lead the ministers,
- and a Parliament for the laws.
Personally, I think it’s a thoughtful structure, the fact is that it seems to be working because we are up to our 7th President (François Hollande) and we are preparing to vote for the 8th President of the Republic.
But then why are these elections undoubtedly the most important of our time?
The geo-political changes in the world, the economy, the disappointment that politicians have created and unfortunately the multiple terrorist attacks have been a few factors which have economically and emotionally affected France which is looking for renewed politics and some hope. Like a lot of French people often tired of deaf politics or politicians, these elections touch me more than ever.
It was therefore the 23rd of April that French people have been called to vote during le premier tour (the first round). The citizens actually vote twice. The first round introduced 11 candidates and only the two favourites, the ones obtaining the majority of votes, were retained for the second round to be held on May 7.
However, it is a historical moment for France and I have to say that it is also sad for a lot of people in terms of the results, France rejected two leading parties, the right and the left to choose as the winners of the first round the right extremist party on the one hand, The Front National with Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron who is not claiming to be a left or right wing party, on the other.
A little story: left and right parties were born during the French Revolution. To keep the story short, right is attached to traditional values whereas left is open to changes, both sharing the values of liberty, justice, equality and tolerance.
Today, from the other side of the planet, I am watching as France changes and obviously, I know it is my duty as French citizen to vote. France is a democracy, a political regime for the citizens and by the citizens, specifically translated by our Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité motto. The first democracy was born in the Antiquity, the term democracy meaning “demôs” – people and “kratos” – power, so the power of the people.
I remember learning these values at school, growing up in a country that gave me the opportunity to have an education that taught me to think (with the legacy of the philosophers), to reason, to have freedom of expression, to respect differences and to be tolerant. Today at 38 years old, I will remember all these values when I vote on May 7, an election that I hope will make me proud of France and not ashamed, a vote that will unite French people and won’t divide them, a vote of love and solidarity.
Most of all, I want to honour this right to vote that was authorised in 1944 in France for women (1902 in Australia) because I know that somewhere on this planet, a woman like me, of the same age, does not have the same chance to vote and express herself openly.
SO ON SUNDAY, I WILL VOTE!
Thank you NHM Translation for helping me with the translation