Macron’s Big Challenges Are Still to Come: Pollsters

In the midst of an extraordinary French political season, pollsters Edouard Lecerf of Kantar Public, Bruno Jeanbart of OpinionWay, and Jérôme Fourquet of Ifop spoke to members of the Anglo-American Press Association for a second time this year to make sense of a shake-up that continues to reverberate around us.

The three polling experts met with some 20 AAPA members on June 6, just a few days ahead of the legislative race, in an event kindly hosted by Bloomberg.

Members were seeking to understand how President Emmanuel Macron was poised to capture an absolute majority in the National Assembly in June 11 and June 18 polls, when his official party was just one-month-old.

The pollsters attributed La République En Marche's victory to President Macron's firm start, demonstrating French strength in the face of international leadership, particularly President Macron’s white-knuckle handshake with US President Donald Trump or his dismissal of Russian media propaganda in front of President Vladimir Putin. "He has responded very, very well by showing he could don the clothes of the president of the Republic," Mr. Jeanbart said.

He has also been buoyed by the ongoing implosion of the established political class, which began with the presidential campaign and shows little signs of abating. “It will reorder the way we see and interpret the political landscape,” said Mr. Lecerf.

But they also warned that Macron's real test lies ahead, as he turns his campaign pledges into political reality. “En Marche has drawn from a very large spectrum of candidates, from both the left and right, and it remains to be seen if they can stay united when voting on things like labor reform or taxing France’s wealthiest earners,” says Mr. Fourquet. “Their biggest challenges are yet to come.”

 

-Sara Miller Llana

 

 


Political Scientist Sees Bumpy Road Ahead for Macron

Dominique Reynié, CEO of the think tank Foundation for Political Innovation (Fondapol--liberal, progressive and European) and professor at Sciences Po, spent nearly two hours on June 2 sharing his thoughts with the AAPA on topics ranging from Emmanuel Macron’s election as president to the miscasting of Gérard Collomb as interior minister.

Democracy has been plunged into a historic crisis by three major factors: globalization, demographics (aging society and immigration), and budgetary constraints, he told 14 AAPA members in Fondapol’s Parisian headquarters. In the case of France, the nation is losing its vitality, but this is more existential than structural. Moreover, the country increased the risk in its “perilous” system of universal suffrage by shortening the presidential term from seven to five years. “It is French roulette,” he added.

Macron’s election as president on May 7 was reassuring, but does not mask the worrying rise of populism in France. In this “pathological” election, the eight non-mainstream candidates won 49.6% of the vote in the first round, a precedent in France since the introduction of universal suffrage after World War 2. The National Front and blank votes plus abstentions accounted for 57% of the electoral roll, up from 39% in 2002, when the then National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen fought the presidential runoff against Jacques Chirac. Only the FN’s negative stance on the Euro prevents it from capturing more support from rightwing voters, as its anti-immigration stance is echoed by other mainstream parties.

The chances are that Macron, the first French president to be elected without a political party behind him, will win a majority in the National Assembly elections to be held in two rounds on June 11 and 18, but he may have to rely on François Bayrou’s Modem members to push legislation through now that La République En Marche! is losing support over Richard Ferrand, who should already have stepped down, Reynié said. A strong Modem would be a nightmare for Macron, as he could have a hard time persuading Bayrou to back his proposals on labour law reform and the government budget. The National Front and France Insoumise are unlikely to win many seats, which means that the opposition will come from beyond the confines of parliament.

Macron--the first hyper president--was elected because he grasped that the system was collapsing, rather like a surfer who rides a wave. His arrival in the Elysée triggered a “phase of rupture”, like “jumping over a wall” that is opening the way to many novelties, including a recentralization of the system and an authoritarian approach to government. No doubt this is inspired partly by his first-hand experience of ex-President Hollande’s inability to make decisions, Reynié said. The fact that the Elysée chose most of the ministers’ advisors illustrates the point.

Because Macron has only now created his political party, the next parliament could include up to 70% new faces, compared to a usual 20%, predicted Reynié. If 350 Macron candidates win seats in parliament, different forms of protest movements could multiply. Even though the unions represent only 8% of employees in France, their power lies in their ability to harness public opinion. Macron could lean increasingly to the right, and will have to placate the pressured security forces, but Interior Minister Gérard Collomb was “miscast” to do the job, he added.

-Barbara Casassus

 

 

 


AAPA Members Visit World’s Biggest Auction Space

The AAPA’s evening field trip on May 18 to Drouot, Paris' historic and esteemed auction house, was an eye-opener to most of the group who had never experienced a high-powered auction in full swing.

Drouot opened in 1852 and is the world’s largest public auction space, with 18 auction halls where 110  affiliated auctioneers sell off objects to the highest bidders from premium art works to more humble possessions. Today, some 500,000 items a year pass through Drouot - art, furniture, wine and curios from past centuries as well as younger bargains.

Our group was greeted with champagne and a presentation of Drouot from CEO Olivier Lange. Then we were taken upstairs and allowed to wander the exhibit rooms where vast worlds were on display.

What sets this house apart from confreres Christies and Sotheby's is it’s accessible to everyone. You don't have to be an art expert or a millionaire to bid at Drouot. Some 5,000 people come in off rue Drouot every day to browse or bid.

We were able to watch two auctions taking place, including a competitive, modern art sale where a work by French artist Yves Klein was knocked down for 465,000 euros, many times the estimate. Bidders' calls came in from around the world as a line of multilingual staff manned the phones and logged internet bids.

We also had the privilege of being taken downstairs in a freight elevator into the bowels of the newly redesigned auction house to see all the items being stored for pick up. If you can’t take what you bought right away, Drouot will hold it for you for a fee. There are some real treasures down there!

-Eleanor Beardsley

 

 


French presidential elections unprecedented, researcher says

The run-up to France’s 2017 presidential elections is unlike any in the past, with an

electorate confused by waning confidence in politicians, worried about security and distressed by chronic unemployment, a respected political researcher told the AAPA on March 28.

It’s the first presidential election to be held under a state of emergency, Sciences Po professor Pascal Perrineau told a well-attended event at the Falstaff Café on Place de la Bastille. Not only are people preoccupied with economic issues and unemployment, but terrorism and immigration are also weighing on voters’ minds, he said.

But, Perrineau says, people have no confidence in the ability of politicians to help them.
“Never has the mistrust in politics been as high as today,” Perrineau said. “At the same time they are passionate about the spectacle.”

As for France casting out all of its establishment politicians – Francois Hollande, Alain Juppé, Francois Fillon, and Manuel Valls – Perrineau said, “The French are satisfied with sweeping everyone away. We are revolutionaries. We are people who cut off heads!”
He added, “But, oh, then we feel anguish because we say: “Who is going to do the job now? We are surrounded by amateurs!” For example, Hamon, Macron and Le Pen.”
Perrineau noted if it’s a runoff between Macron and Le Pen, neither has majority representation in parliament or even the beginnings of legislative means needed to successfully govern.

-Jake Cigainero

 

Link to article by Kim Willshire:

http://www.latimes.com/world/europe/la-fg-france-election-2017-story.html

 

 


French Elections Could Spring Some Surprises, Pollsters Say

France’s presidential election could spring some surprises even if the lineup for the second round currently seems fairly clear-cut today, a panel of polling experts told the AAPA on April 7.

Once they got into the voting booths, many voters confounded polling agencies in recent crucial votes in the U.S. and the U.K. by making choices that they hadn’t previously shared with canvassers, and there’s a possibility this last-minute effect could repeat itself in France on April 23 and May 7, they said.

Over 30 AAPA members and three senior pollsters -- Frédéric Micheau of OpinionWay, Edouard Lecerf of Kantar Public and Jérome Fourquet of Ifop -- gleaned useful background information for news hounds covering the elections.

Former Prime Minister Francois Fillon has lost a broad swathe of the conservatives’ normal backing because he has been tainted by accusations of misusing public funds and influence trafficking, as well as his harsh economic program that is turning off many center-right voters.

The question is, when people get into the voting booth, will they opt for a tainted candidate or will they say, “He may not be very clean, but the interest of the country comes first,” said Jerome Fourquet.

“Some might feel that it’s better to go with the devil you know” than an untested but popular candidate like Emmanuel Macron or the National Front’s Marine Le Pen, added Edouard Lecerf.

Fourquet said Fillon could benefit from an “army of reserves who will reveal themselves at the last minute,” having been too embarrassed or rattled by negative media coverage to admit their preference.

If Fillon is eliminated in the first round and his electorate flock to Le Pen two weeks later, she would stand a bigger chance of winning, but only if a big chunk of left-leaning voters abstain,the pollsters said. “Accidents can happen, but absolutely everything would need to be in line for her,” Fourquet said.

Frédéric Micheau of OpinionWay noted that French voters demand honesty from their politicians before competence. Fillon is bottom of the list when they are asked to rank the candidates for their trustworthiness, he said.

Resisting pressure from members, the speakers declined to predict the winner in the May 7 runoff, saying today’s poll results reflect only today’s opinions, and opinions can change dramatically on the home straight.

Fourquet commented that French society is no longer divided along traditional left-right leanings but between nationalists and globalists. And 80% of Le Pen’s followers are overwhelmingly pessimistic, while Macron’s are optimistic in the same proportion.

-David Pearson

 

(With special thanks to Sara Llana for setting up this event and to Bloomberg News Paris bureau chief Geraldine Amiel for agreeing to host it in the Bloomberg auditorium).

Link to Irish Times article by Lara Marlowe:

http://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/optimists-backing-macron-in-french-presidential-election-1.3043612

Link to article in Forbes.com by Shellie Karabell:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/shelliekarabell/2017/04/09/french-elections-europe-cannot-survive-if-le-pen-wins/2/#3e45ffee83b5

Link to The Local article by Ben McPartland:

https://www.thelocal.fr/20170407/does-the-french-election-hold-one-last-shock

 


The EU Couldn’t Survive Le Pen Presidency - INSEAD professor

FullSizeRender Webber 2“It would be almost impossible for the EU to survive if Marine Le Pen should win the up-coming French Presidential elections and withdraw France from it,”  INSEAD Political Science Professor Douglas Webber told 17 AAPA members on March 21.

“Europe can survive without the UK, but not without France. It would be a political earthquake,” he continued, referring to Le Pen’s vow to negotiate new EU membership terms if she wins the election and then put them to a referendum.

Prof. Webber spoke to us at an evening event at Café Falstaff on the Place de la Bastille.

Ms. Le Pen  would almost certainly have to try to take France out of the EU, as she would have no chance of implementing her program while France is in the EU:  ‘Between 1/5 and 1/4 of the measures she’s proposing (leaving the single-currency Eurozone for example) is contrary to EU law,” he stated.

On balance, however, Webber thought it unlikely that Le Pen would become president  - or, if she did, that she would win a majority in favor of leaving the EU in a referendum.

Webber discussed the evolution of the EU, the general political trend within Europe towards increasing nationalism, and the impact of the election of Donald Trump as 45th US President.

The current state of affairs, opined Webber, has evolved out of three phases spanning the last 25 years: The Post-Cold War period, from the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of Communism in 1989 to the Iraq civil war beginning around 2004 and  the financial crisis of 2008; a transition period, from 2008 until 2015, including growing contestation of globalization and Europeanization and a growing number of terrorist groups and attacks, and finally an emerging post-liberal period, including terror attacks in France and elsewhere in Europe in 2015-2016, the Brexit referendum and the election of Donald Trump marked by growing nationalist, isolationist and protectionist sentiments.

 Brexit and Trump Strengthen EU

 Contrary to popular opinion, Webber believes the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump have galvanized European voters to support the European Union rather than reject it, and foresees the election of the strongly pro-European Emmanuel Macron as French President, barring any “black swan” events between now and the second round of voting – such as an astonishing revelation or another terrorist attack.

In Germany, Webber thinks the re-election of Angela Merkel as Chancellor is not a “given” and suggests the SPD candidate Martin Schulz could challenge and defeat the incumbent.  “Schulz in Germany and Macron in France could revive the important Franco-German relationship which is central to the European Union,” he continued. “They could create closer integration on internal and border security and on defense.  Together, they pull the north and south of Europe together.”

But he was less optimistic about the EU’s long-term prospects, as he was doubtful whether it could resolve the challenges posed by economic divergence within the Eurozone and a prospective rise in the number of people trying to migrate to Europe from Africa and the Middle East.

-Shellie Karabell

Link to Irish times article by Lara Marlowe:

www.irishtimes.com/news/world/europe/french-election-europe-s-fate-may-hang-on-outcome-1.3022520

 

 

 

 

 


Pompidou Center’s Attraction Still Rising After 40 Years

Terror attacks scared off visitors to the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay last year, but the numbers kept on rising for the Pompidou Centre, its president Serge Lasvignes told AAPA members over lunch on Jan. 11 as the centre marks its 40th anniversary.

The nine percent rise at the Pompidou - 3.33 million people turned up in 2016 - was because the bulk of its visitors are French and they see the modern art museum as their own local cultural centre to which they return again and again, Mr. Lasvignes explained.

The Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay are more popular with foreign visitors - many of whom were scared by the recent spate of terror attacks - and that explains why they both reported a decline in visitor numbers last year, he said.

He spoke of the raft of celebration events that are scheduled throughout the year to mark the 40th birthday of the building that scandalised many French when it opened back in 1977, when Le Figaro newspaper dubbed it a "Loch Ness monster."

Mr. Lasvignes also shared his thoughts on the "dilemma" he would face if Marine Le Pen wins the presidential election this spring.

"Unless it was impossible, I would stay in a spirit of resistance,” he said. "We would have to be in opposition to any government whose programme was about closing minds or about cultural conservatism. In that case, the Pompidou Centre and French culture would have to rediscover its militant role.”

-Rory Mulholland

IMG_3932 panoramique 2


Marine Le Pen Asserts Controversial Positions on EU, Russia

img_3918-seconda-paginaThe AAPA kicked off 2017 with a news-making event on Jan. 6 when nearly 60 members met with one of France's top political personalities - National Front party leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.

The timing was ideal, with the French presidential elections just four months away and Ms. Le Pen increasingly tipped to secure a place in the runoff round of voting on May 7.

After Brexit and Donald Trump, the world's eyes are now on Le Pen. Will a populist wave also carry France's far right leader to the top?

During a full hour of questioning at her party’s campaign headquarters, Le Pen covered a broad range of topics, from Frexit (French exit from the EU) to relations with Russia to the financing of her campaign. She was quick and incisive, with a sharp answer for everything.

When asked if she thought Russia might tamper with the French election as it allegedly did with the U.S. vote, Le Pen chuckled, remarking that "when something goes wrong everyone loves to blame Russia." In the next breath she reminded the room that it was actually the U.S. that had listened in on the personal phone calls of its closest European allies.

img_3914-le-pen-finaleLe Pen has worked to "de-diabolise" her party over the last years and make it more mainstream. In that regard, her personal manner also seemed less tough. She was smooth and measured, and her stances appeared more moderate. This prompted several members to ask if she had not backtracked on some issues. Le Pen vehemently denied this, saying journalists were always looking to stir up controversy!

Le Pen said Islam is compatible with French values. She said practicing Muslims, like Catholics and Jews, have every right to their religion and pose no threat to French society. It's a second type of Islam, she said, the totalitarian, sharia-espousing brand, that she'll fight without mercy.

The AAPA's meeting with Le Pen held something for everyone, as the multifaceted press coverage can attest.

-Eleanor Beardsley

Links to a selection of articles by AAPA members who covered the event:

http://www.npr.org/2017/01/06/508587559/frances-marine-le-pen-contends-populism-is-the-future"http://www.npr.org/2017/01/06/508587559/frances-marine-le-pen-contends-populism-is-the-future

 

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/06/france-s-far-right-is-wary-of-trump-but-head-over-heels-for-putin.html?via=desktop&source=twitter"http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/01/06/france-s-far-right-is-wary-of-trump-but-head-over-heels-for-putin.html?via=desktop&source=twitter

 

http://time.com/4627780/russia-national-front-marine-le-pen-putin/?xid=fbshare"http://time.com/4627780/russia-national-front-marine-le-pen-putin/?xid=fbshare

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/07/marine-le-pen-front-national-revamp-french-presidential-election"https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/07/marine-le-pen-front-national-revamp-french-presidential-election

http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/01/06/world/europe/ap-eu-france-far-right-woes.html?_r=0"http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/01/06/world/europe/ap-eu-france-far-right-woes.html?_r=0

 

http://www.france24.com/en/20170106-france-marine-le-pen-defends-trump-putin-policies-russian-cyber-attacks"http://www.france24.com/en/20170106-france-marine-le-pen-defends-trump-putin-policies-russian-cyber-attackshttp://www.france24.com/en/20170106-france-marine-le-pen-defends-trump-putin-policies-russian-cyber-attacks"http://www.france24.com/en/20170106-france-marine-le-pen-defends-trump-putin-policies-russian-cyber-attacks

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/06/marine-le-pen-can-win-presidency-opponents-inept/?WT.mc_id=tmg_share_tw"http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/06/marine-le-pen-can-win-presidency-opponents-inept/?WT.mc_id=tmg_share_tw

 

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/06/marine-le-pen-front-national-cameron-eu-referendum?CMP=share_btn_tw"https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jan/06/marine-le-pen-front-national-cameron-eu-referendum?CMP=share_btn_tw

 

http://www.thelocal.fr/20170106/trumps-foreign-policy-will-be-good-for-france-says-le-pen"http://www.thelocal.fr/20170106/trumps-foreign-policy-will-be-good-for-france-says-le-pen

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/06/brussels-punishing-britain-brexit-will-play-right-hands-says/"http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/06/brussels-punishing-britain-brexit-will-play-right-hands-says/



Here's to a Memorable 2017

Dear Member,

As we turn the page on what has been a very eventful year, I want to take a minute of your time to wish you all a positive year on the personal and professional levels. The past 12 months have kept you busy chasing news, and much of it was bad. The coming year will be interesting politically on both sides of the Atlantic, and your workload won't diminish. Au contraire...

One of the clear messages from the membership survey was that you want to meet more high-profile guests. We're starting the year with one of the main presidential hopefuls, Marine Le Pen, and we'll be working on other speakers to help you explain the election issues to your audiences. Naturally, we will continue to provide a varied menu of events outside the political sphere. There will be more social events so you can unwind and catch up with your fellow scribblers, and hopefully another training workshop to give us a firmer grip on social media skills.

I wish you and your families sound health and high spirits in what promises to be a memorable 2017.

David Pearson
AAPA President


Report on the AAPA’s Annual General Meeting Dec. 16

img_3782-agm-2016-2
Twenty-five members attended our AGM on Friday, Dec. 16, at the Brasserie de l'Assemblée in the 7th, which started at 7 pm, lasted one hour and was followed by some socializing over drinks and hors-d’oeuvres.
1. President’s report

President David Pearson opened the meeting by looking back at 2016, which with 18 events equaled 2015’s record number. Membership increased and finances remained robust.
There was a broad variety of events, although our guests didn’t include any high-profile ministers or politicians. Looking to 2017, one priority is to get high-value figures ahead of the presidential election in April/May.
The best attended event, with more than 80 guests, was the gala, held this year at the residence of U.S. Ambassador Jane Hartley. The Embassy gave us very attractive deal, and the overall cost of subsidizing the annual event was substantially less than at the U.K. ambassador’s residence in 2015.
A freelance seminar in October (kudos to Barbara Casassus) in association with the NUJ’s Paris branch was success. We’re looking at ideas for other workshop/seminars to help members improve their skills in what has become a very tough employment environment.
Monthly happy hours (applause for social affairs officer Linda Hervieux) have proved popular apart from the thinly attended one over U.S. Thanksgiving weekend. Suggestions for alternative venues to the Bonne Bière should go to Linda (lindahervieux@yahoo.com).
AAPA’s Facebook account is thriving with 60 members signed up, 12 more than last year.
The web site is looking good, with 239 visits, 951 page views in November.
The Twitter account, on the other hand, has been mostly moribund due to a lack of volunteers among committee members to keep it alive, even though the U.S. ambassador is following us.
Special thanks to:
• • Barbara Casassus, who receives the "gold star" this year for her tireless efforts on the Opera, the freelance seminar, the Canard Enchainé event and one she has already lined up for next year.

• • Maria-Vincenza Aloisi for keeping the organization professional and moving forward, and for her hospitality in hosting our committee meetings.

2. Secretary General’s report

Sara Miller-Llana listed the Association’s 20 new members in 2016. We lost 18, putting current total membership at 119.
Sara listed each event held this year. (For details, consult the website.)
img_3783-agm-2016-3
3. Treasurer’s report

David read out John Keating’s report, which underscored the Association’s healthy finances.
At the date of the meeting, the current account balances stood at €1,114.75. With accounts payable of €1,375.70, there is a small deficit which will be erased with the renewal of memberships and the inflow of 2017 dues.
The Association’s reserve fund (Livret A) has a balance of €18,000, unchanged from 2015.
4. Proposal of new board

David proposed a slate that reflected a minor cabinet reshuffle due to the departure of John Keating and Scott Sayare.
The following committee was approved by unanimous vote:
President : David Pearson
Vice-President : Sara Miller Llana (Christian Science Monitor)
Vice-President : Barbara Casassus (The Lancet)
Secretary General : Nelson Graves (News-Decoder)
Treasurer : Rory Mulholland (The Telegraph)
Syndic : Eleanor Beardsley (National Public Radio)
Committee members :
Lisa Bryant (Voice of America)
Clare Byrne (Agence France Presse)
Jake Ciganeiro (freelance)
Elaine Cobbe (CBS)
Linda Hervieux (Freelance)
Shellie Karabell (Forbes.com)
Ben McPartland (The Local)
Harriet Welty Rochefort (Freelance)

5. Presentation of new statutes

David ran through the proposed changes to the statutes, which hadn't been substantially modified since after World War Two, when women were first admitted to the organization. The main proposed change is to make AAPA membership more accessible to Anglophone professionals in the journalistic sphere and to bring the statutes into line with current situation.
The proposed statutes were adopted unanimously.
6. Survey

Nelson Graves presented the results of the first survey of members in 14 years. A total of 69 members (58%) responded to the survey, and the results will be circulated to members.
Respondents expressed general satisfaction with the AAPA, especially the mix of types of events and the introduction of social activities, although several members called for more high-profile French politicians and business leaders, even if there were fewer total events.
Several news themes and workshops for the coming year were proposed by respondents.
The results of the survey will guide the committee in 2017 in terms of guests, recruitment and proposed events.
7. Discussion

There was widespread support for trying to attract more high-profile guests while offering a broad mix of corporate and cultural topics.
8. The meeting adjourned at 8 PM.
Nelson Graves
19 December 2016