Paris, May 3: As a newspaper devoted to focusing on issues of interest to local citizens this week we turn our eyes on that one event over which Chennaiites have been exchanging a lot of WhatsApp messages: French elections.
Probably you too would have got that WhatsApp forward that talks of the ‘love life’ of presidential election frontrunner Emmanuel Macron, who is being described by journos as the ‘French Kennedy’ because we in the media have a thing for naming one leader after another leader from totally another era. Kennedy, for instance, is, well, Justin Trudeau of America.
But this is about the French elections, and here we at Crank’s News have prepared a quick Q and A on France, its politics, politicians and the impending French Presidential poll, which the French papers have described as ‘battle royale‘, which when translated into English is ‘battle royal’.
Q: What sort of government France has, Prime Ministerial or Presidential?
Ans: France has a government which, in the words of the great French thinker Descartes, “is a great confusion”.
The best metaphor for the French government is the Mona Lisa painting at the Louvre museum: You wouldn’t know from the painting whether she is smiling or not. Likewise, you wouldn’t know whether the French government is Presidential or Prime Ministerial from wherever you see it.
The President is the one that gets directly elected by the people, and his prime work, as seems evident from the last two decades, is to get caught in plenty of scandals.
The President is only a titular head of the State while the Prime Minister, who is appointed by the President, calls all the shots and is vested with tremendous powers including that of dismissing the President.
But if you think, the French governmental system is confusing, you sure haven’t got to their election system.
Q: Okay, tell me about France’s election process
Ans: France has an election process that is described as ‘two-round system’, or also known as ‘second ballot’ or ‘ballotage‘ or ‘runoff voting’ or, as we say here in these parts, the Indian Idol contest system.
First there is an election, in which people cast their ballots, and after counting the votes… the winner is announced? No, the losers are announced and they are immediately eliminated. After the first round, only two candidates make it to the final round where they take on wild-card entrants. Not really, but you get the idea.
Q: Why does France have such a complicated election process?
Ans: It is inevitable when the major national activity is to sit in cafes and drink champagne and wine all day along.
Q: Well, how does France’s economy work then?
Ans: Whenever it runs into trouble, France gets by by selling some of its properties. It shored up a huge amount by selling the Statue of Liberty to America. It is out of that money that France has been able to spend of much of its time wining and dining. Now negotiations are on to palm off Arc de Triomphe to the Qatari royal family. This should see France through till at least 2040.
Also, France has a lot of historical art museums, which have some of the costliest and most well-known parking spots in the world.
France has a great tradition too for wine and a greater tradition for coming up with pretentious names for the same.
Q: Coming to these polls, who are the frontrunners?
Ans: The two leaders who are battling it out in the second round of polls is Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, the latter seems to be the odds on favourite to win based on his domestic policy, by which we mean the real domestic policy — that of marrying a woman, 24 years elder to him and his classmate’s mom.
The French people seem totally sold out on this story that Macron’s popularity is zooming. Finally, France looks to have found a political leader who is actually devoted to the woman he is in love with, even though she happened to be his school teacher.
Q: Well, what is with other leaders and their ‘love stories’?
Ans: One of the former Presidents, Nicolas Sarkozy, has been reported to have spoken ‘ecstatically’, at a cabinet meeting, about his wife Carla Bruni’s — you know how these Cabinet meetings tend to get lost in official jargon — ‘breasts’. Sarkozy, of course, is also well known for marrying second time (a Cabinet colleague) even before he annulled his first marriage. Bruni, though, was his third wife.
The incumbent President Francois Hollande has never been in a formal marriage, and to be fair to him, he has never allowed this small detail to come in the way of falling into several salacious controversies.
Hollande parted with his first woman companion, who mothered four of his children, after he hooked up with a woman reporter he came in contact with, only to break from her because he fell to the charms of the hot actress, Julie Gayet. Hollande, however, never really forgot the woman who was the mother to his children, and in a fuzzy, cute show of love, he made her — ordinary lovers at best make lunch for their women — a Minister in the Cabinet.
But the late-night secretive meeting of the President with the actress in a Parisian apartment was the talk of the nation not long ago as the President stealthily arrived at his rendezvous in a scooter under a helmet that was not fully strapped. This picture of Hollande was scooped and splashed in a gossipy rag, and you wouldn’t imagine the stink it created among the French people. Yes, they were mighty outraged — this is pretty understandable — that they had a President who doesn’t strap his helmet properly.
As they say in France, c ‘est la vie, which in English means, Hollande is one lucky bloke.