Calais: understanding the ‘post-Jungle’ era

In October 2016, the refugee and migrant camp in Calais previously known as ‘the Jungle’ was destroyed and evacuated by French authorities. Despite being buried under layers of rubble, the Jungle has once again become a hotspot for people wanting to cross to the UK.

French riot police (CRS) look on as a tent burns in Calais, France.

Over the past year, trickles of refugees and migrants – primarily from Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea – have temporarily settled in and around Calais. As of today, there are roughly close to a thousand people in the area, and their situation has significantly worsened since the destruction of the camp.

Here’s what you need to know.

What’s changed?

  1. There are now 5 different distribution points for refugees.

Five relatively small clusters of refugee and migrant populations have emerged around Calais, loosely divided by ethnicity. Volunteers have called these sites ‘Old Lidl’, ‘Covoit’, ‘Jungle’, ‘L’hôpital’, ‘Norveige’.  After the demolition of the Jungle, it was easier for migrants to scatter given the constant police evictions breaking them up.

  1. Volunteers now have to provide drinking water.

There used to be several water points for the Jungle’s population of 12,000. These also doubled up as a place to wash. These no longer exist. Volunteers drive around with a water truck, providing water for everyone at the five distribution points.

  1. CRS burn and slash tents on a regular basis.

Officially, no structures of any form are permitted in Calais anymore. This includes tents. The CRS (French riot police) often forcefully evict people if they see any tents pitched. According to Human Rights Watch, police slash and burn tents, rendering them unusable .

A former Calais CRS officer of fifteen years openly discussed the allegations with Help Refugees, stating “I have destroyed many encampments, I have emptied canisters of tear gas to contaminate people’s sleeping bags…I [have] colleagues who set tents on fire so badly that the fire brigade had to be called.”

However, according to Help Refugees, French President Emmanuel Macron is threatening to take charities to court for “defamation” of the police force. Macron attributed the claims of police brutality to the “lies and manipulations” of these charities, according to The Guardian.

  1. Pepper spray, tear gas and excessive violence often interrupt migrants sleeping rough.

This includes children. The idea is to ‘evict’ people by any means and drive them away from Calais. There are countless reports of physical abuse every single day. Talking to the New York Times Michael Bochenek of Human RIghts Watch reported that CRS routinely confiscate and pepper spray donations so they are unusable, as well as disrupting food distributions.

  1. Women are so scared of sexual assault that they no longer sleep in tents.

For many women in the makeshift encampments, going to the toilet at night is too frightening. This is why in Dunkirk – where one of the camps has formed to the east of Calais – volunteers hand out nappies so women  don’t have to leave their beds.

In Calais, there is no such provision. It is actually safer to sleep rough, as very few people have the luxury of sleeping in a tent. According to long-term volunteer Sarah, tents are obvious targets for abuse, and women feel even more vulnerable in them for fear of attracting other migrant men or CRS officers. Sarah estimated that there are only between 5-10 women in Calais. Unlike in Dunkirk – where there is a large Kurdish population of women who have travelled with their families – the women of Calais are alone. They are primarily from Eritrea and Ethiopia – none are from Afghanistan – and usually have male friends from home who will ‘protect’ them, often pretending to be their husbands.

  1. Volunteers can’t distribute tents unless there’s enough for everyone.

Due to constant shortages, there are two effective distribution methods which are used to fairly determine who receives a tent:

1.) Individually according to vulnerability: This involves going to each community asking if people need a tent. This method is difficult to get right, though, according to long-term volunteer Beth*, as “you never really know if someone truly needs one”. For a migrant, a spare tent could be sold for money, or swapped for other valuable provisions.

2.) En masse: This involves a large distribution from a set point at a set time with a van full of tents. But there is never enough for everybody, which causes problems between and within communities that are exacerbated by criminal gangs and smugglers. Recent clashes in Calais leaving 22 in hospital and 2 fighting for their lives is a prime example of this, supposedly instigated by smuggler gangs as suggested by the French Interior Minister. People queue for hours and walk away empty-handed. When this inevitably happens, they are reduced to stealing from other communities, causing violence and an ‘alpha-male’ hierarchy. Volunteers are blamed for withholding tents.

Unpredictable police evictions makes this harder. Tents are sometimes distributed only to be destroyed the next day. Volunteers speak to communities every day, who alert them if there has been an eviction. Stock of tents and sleeping bags are counted for each of the five communities. The Help Refugees/L’Auberge des Migrants warehouse has emergency tents packed in case of an eviction.

…and what hasn’t changed

  1. There is still no government aid.

Not one of the numerous organisations based in Calais during the Jungle period was government funded. Today, most NGOs are gone, leaving few charities such as Help Refugees, Utopia 56, Refugee Community Kitchen and L’Auberge des Migrants as the only aid in Calais. Britain has put £100 million into Channel border security; funding CRS, building a 1km wall to prevent migrants getting close to the motorways and extensive barbed wire and CCTV around the port.

The Jungle Books building functioned as a classroom and library during the Jungle.
  1. Charities are still arguing over the best distribution methods.

As ever, there are ongoing tensions between charities. A number of volunteers from Help Refugees consider Care4Calais’ distribution methods “undignified”; blowing a whistle and handing out donations from the back of a van on a first come first serve basis. Meetings to re-evaluate the effectiveness of these methods and how to adapt to volatile situations are ongoing, new rules and regulations are introduced every day. Volunteers, on call around the clock, are still burnt out.

  1. Donations still aren’t enough

The lack of stock has forced charities to come up with distribution methods aimed at not making people feel undignified. There are ticketing systems, which seems like the fairest option; people don’t have to queue for hours only to be disappointed due to the inevitable lack of stock, instead their name is called and they come up and collect their item. But still, because there isn’t enough, it promotes a hierarchy where the youngest and weakest often end up with nothing unless they have a deal with someone to ‘protect’ them.

      4. There is still no guarantee that vulnerable children will be safe at night.

In the Jungle, ‘Salaam’ was a (relatively) safe place where unaccompanied children could go to sleep at night. It was built to keep vulnerable migrants – primarily women and children – safe at night, doubling up as a place for migrants to shower and receive legal information. However, space was limited, so Salaam tended to prioritise younger, more vulnerable children aged 14 and under.

‘There is temporary accommodation which opens subject to weather conditions, where there is space for 60 kids. There are well over 100 in Calais.’

This meant that unaccompanied minors between the ages of 15 and 18 were sleeping alone. Not only is this still the case, but children even younger are being forced to sleep rough. There is temporary accommodation which opens subject to weather conditions, where there is space for 60 kids. There are well over 100 in Calais.

  1. People are still risking their lives to get across the border.

Five children with a legal right to be in the UK have died attempting to cross the border over the past two years. Since December 2017, two people have been put in intensive care after accidents trying to get to the UK. One, hit by a train, has lost his legs. Three more people have died, including a 15-year-old boy trying to reach his sister in the UK. His 13-year-old friend had to call for an ambulance.


By Molly Whitmey

EU’s migration policy ‘hypocritical’ says Human Rights Watch

PARIS – Human Rights Watch called the European Union’s migration policy ‘hypocritical’ and raised concerns about France’s anti-terrorism laws on the launch day of its World Report 2018.

The European Commission in Brussels.

At the launch of the 28th edition of the charity’s global report, executive director Kenneth Roth said that by financing and training the Libyan coastguard, the EU was ‘directly or indirectly’ forcing people to stay in ‘hellish conditions.’

It would be wrong to suggest that there was ‘anything approaching a systematic improvement of conditions’ of migrants in Libya, he said.

‘Either they have the right to receive protection in Europe, or they are de facto sent back to their countries of origin,’ said director of advocacy Philippe Dam in a Facebook Live shortly after the press conference, ‘but pretending that training Libyan coast guards to send [migrants] back to Libya is the right thing to do is absolutely wrong.’

Roth said that the EU should ‘by all means’ endeavour to provide migrants with alternative ‘safe and legal avenues’ to Europe, but that authorities must still treat them humanely, using the correct asylum procedures for those arriving in Europe by boat.

In December, France took in a group of 25 migrants – from Eritrea, Sudan and Ethiopia – who were rescued from Libya and flown from Niger to Paris, avoiding the treacherous Mediterranean crossing.

In a press release published on the same day as the report, Benjamin Ward, HRW’s deputy Europe and Central Asia director, said that too often in 2017 the EU had treated human rights as an ‘optional extra.’

The communiqué also said responses to migration and terrorism ‘should reflect’ the institution’s ‘core values.’

Macron must do more

On the day that Emmanuel Macron visited British Prime Minister Theresa May at Sandhurst military academy to discuss, amongst other things, counter-terrorism and migration policy, Roth described the French President’s record on human rights issues as ‘mixed.’

Roth described Macron’s recent diplomatic visit to China as a notable ‘low point,’ saying that he heard ‘barely a peep about human rights’ from the French leader.

Emmanuel Macron pictured with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

He also expressed concerns that France’s anti-terrorism laws, adopted late last year, could lead to ‘discriminatory abuse, particularly against the Muslim population,’ and added that Interior Minister Gérard Collomb ‘continues to be in denial’ about ‘police abuse’ of migrants.

Last year Human Rights Watch published reports documenting and denouncing the police’s ‘excessive force’ when dealing with both adult and child refugees in Calais.

Roth congratulated Macron, however, for firmly opposing such mistreatment on his recent visit to Calais, and praised him for ‘reinforcing rather than running away from democratic values’ during his presidential campaign.

He described Macron’s rejection of the authoritarian populist tendencies adopted by some other European leaders as a ‘turning point’ of 2017.

The bigger picture

In a wide-ranging press conference, Roth described the United States as ‘a wall when it comes to human rights,’ and said that Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi was ‘not the leader the world should look to for guidance’ on how to combat ‘the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.’

Asked about the UK, he said he was ‘concerned’ about the rhetoric of certain Brexiteers, and criticised those who wanted to leave the European Convention on Human Rights for their ‘very short-sighted approach.’

However, the World Report also noted that there were ‘hints’ that European leaders were ‘beginning to recognize’ that the future of the EU ‘depends on a willingness to stand up for human rights’. This was particularly observable in the bloc’s response to the ongoing threats to the rule of law in Poland.  

‘The lesson of the last year,’ said Roth, ‘is that resistance matters.’


by Frank Andrews

Paris: 2020 World Cycling Capital? ‘It Won’t Happen.’

Last month, a record-breaking 546 km of gridlocked cars were recorded in the Paris region by the real-time traffic tracking website Sytadin

Paris trails behind other capital cities when it comes to cycling.

And this was supposed to be the ‘Year of the Bike.’

We are now halfway through Anne Hidalgo’s ambitious ‘Bike Plan‘, yet the Paris Mayor’s vision for the capital to become the world’s most cycle-friendly city by 2020 is drastically behind schedule. According to the Bike Plan Observatory, run by cycling charity Paris en Selle, only 5% of the planned infrastructural changes have been made.

‘Paris being number one in 2020? It won’t happen,’ says Clotilde Imbert, head of the French branch of bicycle urbanism specialists Copenhagenize. ‘This year they have tried to build bicycle infrastructure, but not in a coherent way. It needs to be intuitive and comprehensive, with separate cycle tracks. They have to make it more complicated for drivers, and prioritise cyclists.’

Despite Hidalgo’s best efforts, Paris is a lowly 13th in the rankings of cycle-friendly cities, according to Copenhagenize.

Even the changes that have been made, such as the cycle-lane skirting the right side of the Seine that opened on September 30th, have not been well received. Both cyclists and drivers feel the ‘Bike Plan’ has been badly mismanaged.

While Paris en Selle are ‘completely behind’ the Plan, according to spokesperson Simon Labouret, he says that they have been disappointed by the lack of progress: ‘Cyclists still don’t feel safe on the streets of Paris,’ he adds, ‘the infrastructure is wholly deficient.’

The development of the new cycle routes ‘has been sudden, brutal, and anarchic,’ says Yves Carra, spokesperson at the Automobile Club Association. He uses a car, a moped, a kick scooter, public transport, and a bike, he says, ‘but deciding everyone has to go by bike is dictatorial.’

‘Instead of giving you a tap on the shoulder to say, “let’s make some room for the cyclists,” they punch you right in the gut,’ he adds, ‘the ‘autophobia’ is completely uncalled for.’

‘If car drivers complain a lot,’ Ms Imbert says, ‘it’s probably a good sign.’

‘When they see cyclists having a pleasant daily trip along the river they will maybe think about the fact that it’s stupid to be stuck in a car, they may even reconsider cycling as an option.’

France: Mélenchon compares Macron’s government to the Nazi regime

Jean-Luc Mélenchon comes under fire for comparing Macron’s government to the Nazi regime, writes Lauren Joffrin in Libération.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon

Mélenchon – who is now French President’s main opponent – spoke at a protest march against Emmanuel Macron’s new labour reforms last Saturday. He stated to the audience that ‘it was the streets that beat the Nazis.’

In the face of ensuing criticism, he has since justified his comments as a direct response to Macron’s statement on CNN International: ‘democracy doesn’t take place in the streets.’ Joffrin argues this is an ambiguous phrase: ‘the right to protest… against elected representatives… is a fundamental one. The government can heed this or not, but history shows that… this type of expression has an effect.’

‘The streets’ in French history

Mélenchon is right to remind us that public protest has often contested the arbitrary within politics, or been the first indicator of forthcoming change, says Joffrin.

It was ‘the streets’ that forced the Juppé government of 1995 to back down on proposed reforms, and likewise the Mitterand administration on educational reform in 1984. From the barricades of the Fronde during the 17th century French Civil War to the uprising of the 1848 Revolution, French history is a record of the power of the public voice. Though it is not always the progressive voice, as was clear from the anti-Semitic protests during the Dreyfus Affair, or the far-right anti-parliamentary riot of 1934.

A clumsy comment

Nonetheless, Joffrin considers Mélenchon’s comment somewhat misjudged. It was the allied forces, he asserts, and not the people, that drove back the Nazis. It was not a question of protest by the streets, but of bloody combat in the streets.

Joffrin adds that the march on the Champs-Elysées during the Liberation of Paris had little to do with the insurrection. In what he terms ‘a little extra irony’, the uprising was initiated not by the masses but by the local police. ‘So Mélenchon was more or less right,’ concludes Joffrin, ‘but he will doubtless choose his examples with more care next time.’

France: hundreds of thousands unite in protest against reforms

Over 223,000 people united on Tuesday in protest against French Employment Law reforms. Philippe Martinez, of the French General Confederation of Labour, proclaimed the rally a success, wrote Le Monde.

Philippe Martinez, Secretary General of the French General Confederation of Labour

‘We are off to a promising start,’ declared Martinez, who spearheaded the rally alongside several other unions. Reported turnout figures across the country varied widely; in Marseille, 7,500 according to local authorities or 60,000 according to the organisers; in Nantes, 6,200 compared to 15,000; and in Havre, 3,400 compared to 10,000.

Minor clashes in Paris

The Parisian procession marched from La Place de la Bastille – accompanied by a fairground brass band – to La Place d’Italie. Despite the celebratory atmosphere, the rally was marred by several incidents. Protesters threw projectiles at police, who retaliated with tear gas and water cannons, as observed by a journalist from Le Monde.

Police stated that 300 people in balaclavas were present at the march and reported ‘several acts of vandalism’, including the damaging of windows and defacing of adverts. One person was taken to hospital.

Political personalities mobilised

Amongst the crowd were several political figures such as Benoît Hamon, Socialist Party candidate in the last election, Pierre Laurent, National Secretary of the French Communist Party.

In Marseille, leader of ‘La France Insoumise’ Jean-Luc Mélenchon promised to ‘make the President back down’. In Strasbourg, five European MPs participated in the protest.

‘La France Insoumise’ supporters

Placards bore messages targeting Macron for recent remarks in which he promised ‘to make no concessions to absconders, cynics or extremists’. One banner read, ‘You’re in trouble Macron, the slackers are marching on.’

Strikes and blockades

The day was also marked by strikes and deliberate travel disruptions. Several schools in Paris and surrounding areas were partially or momentarily blocked off by students, but without violence.

Tens of fairground lorries disrupted morning traffic in Paris and the rest of France, in response to a call to protest by the ‘Fairground King’ Marcel Campion. According to Campion, ‘around 10,000 trucks were mobilised throughout France, of which between 400 and 500 were in Paris.’

Divided trade unions

The proposed reforms go against many of Macron’s electoral promises: a cap on compensation awarded by industrial tribunals, the merging of independent staff representatives into companies, reform of the CPPP (safeguard against ‘difficult working conditions’) and greater power accorded to intra-company agreements.

Yet the unions are divided. The Worker’s Force did not publicly align itself with the movement, though some members decided independently to protest. The same was true for the Democratic Confederation of Labour, the Confederation of Management, the Confederation of Christian Workers and the National Union of Autonomous Unions.

The General Confederation of Labour has already called for another protest on the 21st September, the day before the reforms are presented at a Cabinet meeting.


France: is Macron’s government backsliding on gender equality?

Emmanuel Macron has yet to follow through on his promise to appoint a dedicated minister for women’s rights. Cécile Bouanchaud in Le Monde argues that, alongside drastic cuts to the gender equality budget, the proposed changes to employment law have led to further disenchantment with the new President. 

Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron

In an opinion piece published on Wednesday 6th September, various feminist groups laid out their concerns over the reforms. Around fifty associations have united to denounce ‘an apparently neutral text’ which, in reality, has ‘consequences specific to women’.

Professional equality no longer a concern

Those opposed to the legislation are critical of government back-pedalling on measures to safeguard professional equality. Once the reforms are approved, the dedicated body for identifying sources of workplace inequality (introduced in 2015) will be co-financed by company boards. Sophie Binet, head of gender equality at the General Confederation of Labour, anticipates that ‘Work councils with limited budgets will prefer to finance economic expertise…gender equality will fall off the radar.’

According to the societies and unions comprising the opposition to the reforms, ‘all tools for negotiating professional equality’ are damaged by the legislation. Employers will no longer face sanctions for flouting the Rudy law, which prevents discrimination against women, promotes gender parity in the workplace and enforces transparency for male and female salaries. An intra-company agreement, rather than a branch agreement as before, will allow employers to hold meetings every four years rather than annually, and the right to choose which figures, if any, to make public.

Skewed balance of power

Signatories of the document also assert that women will be in a weakened position to negotiate family rights, such as prolonged maternity leave or taking time off to care for an ill child – ‘these issues will once again be subject to an intra-company agreement where the power balance is less favourable to women.’

Another cause for concern is the disappearance of the CHSCT (Committee for Hygiene, Safety and Work Conditions) which helps to prevent sexual violence in the workplace. According to Sophie Binet, ‘20% of women claim to have suffered sexual harassment in their place of work. We were just starting to realise the psycho-social risks of this kind of abuse… Now that will go down the drain.’

Criticism of Secretary of State Schiappa

On Tuesday, in a meeting of the council for professional equality, all representatives of labour unions bar one voted against the reforms. Employers associations, however, were in favour.

Binet, who was present at the meeting, stated that Marlène Schiappa (Secretary of State for Equality between Women and Men), ‘did not see where the problem lay with the points we had raised…without really answering our questions.’

Marlène Schiappa

When contacted, Schiappa promised ‘vigilance’ on matters of professional equality affected by the new legislation, but failed to really address the issues called to light by signatories of the critique.

Feminist representatives unanimously doubt Schiappa’s ability to ‘carry weight in government’ and denounce the discrepancy between Macron’s electoral promises and the measures taken these last few months. ‘We feel that this subject is being used as a public relations tool,’ says Binet.

Gérard Collomb Calais

Refugee crisis: Emmanuel Macron’s Home Secretary Gérard Collomb backs Calais police

In a visit to Calais, French Home Secretary Gérard Collomb announced police reinforcements, poked fun at asylum seekers, and seemed to contradict President Emmanuel Macron.
French Home Secretary Gérard Collomb
French Home Secretary Gérard Collomb

CALAIS ­– Gérard Collomb, the newly appointed French Home Secretary, made a visit to Calais on Friday (23/06) and said he would be announcing a new national asylum strategy within two weeks.

Striking a far sterner tone than President Emmanuel Macron, Mr. Collomb praised the police for acting with “plenty of conscience and humanity” towards Calais migrants, who – he quipped – are not famed for their “gentleness.”

This despite years of accusations of police violence, which he described as “completely overblown.”

Nine refugees recently decided to lodge an official complaint about police violence to the IGPN – the body which supposedly monitors the French national police – and regular reports and videos of French police blocking food distributions have called  the French authorities’ tactics into question.

The Mayor of Calais Natalie Bouchart banned food distributions to refugees several months ago.

Eight months after the demolition of the Jungle, Mr. Collomb is keen to avoid building another camp and rehousing the 5,000 or so people living in the Calais area. He believes this would create a “pull factor.”

On the same day, Emmanuel Macron said that France “must welcome refugees” as a “duty” and an “honour” in a joint press conference with Angela Merkel in Brussels.

Perhaps, says Libération, this betrays a difference of opinion. Or maybe it is the result of a pre-planned good cop-bad cop arrangement.

Macron the humanitarian, Collomb the hard-nosed enforcer.


Jungle Books, an English and French school in the Calais Jungle Gérard Collomb Calais
Jungle Books, an English and French school in the Calais Jungle

Having said the region’s NGOs should “use their savoir-faire elsewhere,” Mr. Collomb announced that he would soon outline a plan to “deal with the asylum problem.”

François Guennoc, joint-head of the Auberge des Migrants charity, said that even “regarding the minimum expectations,” the Home Secretary had given them “no response.”

Jean-Claude Lenoir, President of the charity Salam, said he left his meeting with Mr. Collomb “demoralised.”

“All he said regarding Calais was that he wanted no more ‘fixation points.’”

Migrants had become “embedded” in Calais, said Mr. Collomb, which had become a “fixation abscess.”

He said that he didn’t want to build any more “centres” in the area to avoid “history repeating itself.

 “We start with a few hundred people and end up with several thousand that we can’t manage: every time we build a centre, we create another ‘pull factor.’”

Gérard Collomb Calais
A refugee arrives in Greece

‘All the same Calais is only 30 kilometres from the British coast, which – for thousands of forced migrants – remains their “El Dorado.”’

Last year, France received 85,000 asylum claims, far fewer than Germany or Sweden.

guy verhofstadt

Macron on Brexit: “Door remains open” to take a U-turn

French President Emmanuel Macron says the “door remains open” for Britain to make a U-turn on Brexit, said The Independent.

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PARIS – Mr. Macron offered an ‘olive branch’ to British Prime Minister Theresa May in a joint press conference in Paris yesterday (13/06), stating that while exit negotiations should be launched “as soon as possible, the door remains open, always open” to reverse Brexit “until the negotiations come to an end.”

Ms May sidestepped a question about a change of tack on Brexit and instead insisted there was a “unity of purpose” in the UK about the decision to leave the European Union.

“I can confirm to President Macron,” she said, “that the timetable for the Brexit negotiation remains on course and will begin next week.”

However, they will ‘almost certainly not get underway next Monday as Ms May had promised repeatedly during the election campaign’ said The Independent.

Tens of thousands joined the #marchforeurope protests on 2nd July 2016 reverse Brexit
Tens of thousands joined the #marchforeurope protest in London on 2nd July 2016

German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble made comments similar to Mr. Macron’s just hours before the French President’s declaration.

If Britain wanted to reverse Brexit he said, “they would find open doors.”

Ms May didn’t respond to former Conservative PM John Major’s recent warning that striking a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) could spell the return of ‘hard men’ to Northern Ireland and an escalation of violence.

An Ulster Volunteer Force mural in North Belfast reverse Brexit
An Ulster Volunteer Force mural in North Belfast

Ms May said her commitment to the peace process was “absolutely steadfast. We continue to work with all parties in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in ensuring that we can continue to put in place those measures necessary to fulfil those agreements.”

She added that talks with the DUP would “give the stability to the UK Government that I think is necessary at this time.”

As kingmakers, the DUP are in a strong position to dictate terms to the Tories.

Aside from their much-criticised social conservatism – they are anti-abortion and anti same-sex marriage – they hope to maintain a “seamless and frictionless” border with the Republic of Ireland, despite having campaigned for Brexit.

All this talk of ‘open doors’ and a softer Brexit may be leaving some Eurosceptic backbench Tory MPs feeling rather uneasy.

French President Emmanuel Macron

France: Macron’s LREM Party set for landslide in parliamentary elections

French President Emmanuel Macron’s ‘Republic Onwards’ (LREM) Party looks likely to win a crushing victory in the second round of the parliamentary elections, said RFI.
French President Emmanuel Macron LREM
French President Emmanuel Macron

Projections have LREM and their allies the Democratic Movement (Modem) winning 400-445 of 577 seats in the National Assembly, which would ‘give the new president one of the biggest parliamentary majorities for 60 years.’

‘France is back,’ said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, himself a former Républicain. ‘For the past month the president has shown confidence, willingness and daring in France and on the international stage.’

In total, LREM won over 32% of Sunday’s (11/06) vote, but ‘the victory was marred by a historically low turnout.’

51% of the electorate ‘did not make it to the polling booth, casting a shadow over celebrations.’

Like the presidential vote, the top two candidates in each parliamentary constituency will go through to a second, deciding round, and face off for a seat in the National Assembly.

If projections are correct, the right-wing Les Républicains will be the second biggest bloc, with Jéan-Luc Mélenchon’s ‘Unbowed France’ emerging with its communist allies as the ‘main force on the left, replacing a humiliated Socialist Party,’ who won just 9.51% of Sunday’s vote.

Jean Luc Mélenchon LREM
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the far-left ‘Unbowed France’ movement

Some of LREM’s deputies in the National Assembly will be political novices, after Emmanuel Macron promised that his MPs would be ‘half politicians, half new faces.’

Though it was actually closer a third of new faces, there will still be ‘a high number of political newcomers in LREM’s ranks.’

French President Emmanuel Macron

France: a third of Macron’s En Marche parliamentary candidates are political novices

34% of the candidates French President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche party is putting forward for France’s parliamentary elections are political rookies, said Le Monde.
French President Emmanuel Macron en marche
French President Emmanuel Macron

France goes to the polls again on Sunday for the first round of the legislative elections, and if newly elected President Emmanuel Macron and his movement En Marche have any hope of uniting and rebuilding France, he will need a majority in parliament. Recent polls show that may be exactly what he’s going to get.

‘The first election Emmanuel Macron ever fought – to become President of the 5th French Republic – was hardly minor.’ Like him, the party claim, 281 candidates from his movement-turned-party ‘La République en Marche’ – The Republic on the Move – hope to become elected without ever having previously held office.

‘Half politicians, half new faces’ was En Marche’s campaign promise regarding the party’s parliamentary candidates. Le Monde has gone through each of the 525 candidates records, and it seems that many of the new candidates aren’t as new to politics as first thought.

Not the first campaign.
In fact, 30 of the 281 supposed ‘new faces’ have already fought an election campaign. They just didn’t win.

And 20 of the new candidates have already held office as representatives of other – primarily left and centrist – parties.

As Emmanuel Macron knows, ‘elections aren’t the only way to step into the political universe.’ After all, he was able to rise to the rank of Minister of the Economy without ever having a popular mandate.

Emmanuel Macron as Minister of the Economy, Las Vegas, 2015. en marche Robyn Beck/AFP
Emmanuel Macron as Minister of the Economy, Las Vegas, 2015. Robyn Beck/AFP

‘At least 14 candidates have collaborated in ministerial cabinets (10 on the left, 4 on the right) and 8 others have worked in ministries.’

There are also 12 parliamentary assistants – of MPs or senators – up for election, and 15 candidates who have worked with elected regional officials.

In total, at least 70 of La République en Marche’s ‘new faces’ have ‘held parapolitical positions during their careers; they are unlikely to get lost in the corridors of power.’

Politics. A family affair.
Several of the candidates running for office for the first time have family in politics.

Barbara Bessot Ballot – up for election in Haute-Sâone – is married to the mayor of Marnay in the same region, and Hugues Renson – running in Paris’ 13th arrondissement – can count on advice form his mother, who is on the capital’s city council.

One third of real novices.
‘Taking onto account those that have participated in electoral campaigns, worked in ministerial offices, or have close family members already working in politics,’ 178 of the 525 La République en Marche candidates are complete political novices.