Archive for the 'elections' Category

And the Winner Is…

May 8, 2012
The final round of voting in the May 6th French presidential election inspired a number of humorous ads around the city, including this clever little “jeu de mots” from Gleeden, “The #1 site for extra-marital affairs, thought up by women”. The ad says “Because it’s important not to make a mistake on May 6th, our website will be shut down temporarily”. However, the ad plays on the similarity between the verb “se tromper”, which means “to make a mistake”, and “tromper”, which means “to cheat on”.  In French, adding the word “se” in front of a verb can also mean that the action is “reflexive”, or being done to “each other”, so read differently, the message can also mean: “Because it’s important not to cheat on each other on May 6th, our site will be closed temporarily.” (It’s a lot funnier if it doesn’t require an explanation first!)

The French adore their jeux de mots and they figure quite frequently in ad campaigns, much to the delight of someone like me, who loves with the art of manipulating words and playing with language.

jeu de mots – play on words
ça y est ! – that’s it !
guignols – shenanigans
Liberté, égalité, fraternité – Liberty, equality, fraternity (or brotherhood)
avoir honte – to be ashamed
J’ai honte – I’m ashamed
Bisounours – Care Bears
Il vit au monde des Bisounours – Literally, “He lives in the land of Care Bears”, an expression that is used surprisingly often in France to indicate that somebody lives in an idealistic fantasyland
voter blanc – to indicate on your ballot that you don’t support any of the proposed candidates

******

Well, ça y est !  For better or for worse, France’s fate for the next five years has officially been decided. In case you haven’t been following along, last Sunday marked the second and final round of voting in the 2012 French presidential election, a bitter showdown between right-wing incumbent President Nicolas Sarkozy, and left-wing socialist contender François Hollande. It was a nail-biter down to the finish, despite various polls that declared Hollande the favourite to win, because nobody really knew how the extreme right was going to vote, or if Sarkozy’s unpopular policies would be enough to spur otherwise right-voting citizens to choose Hollande. Not one of my friends (who were almost equally divided between the two candidates) felt confident enough to make a call on who would take home the title of president. For a while there, it felt like it was anybody’s game.

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Do You Hear the People Sing?

May 5, 2012

“Foreigners, don’t leave us alone with the French!” © 2010 Anne Petitfils
A strong opposition to immigration is one of the defining tenets of the Front National, the French far right,
a position which is met with much criticism from French socialists. Marine Le Pen, the party’s leader, sent shockwaves through the nation two weeks ago when she walked away with an unprecedented 17.9% of the national vote in the first round of this year’s presidential elections, although in the end it was
Nicolas Sarkozy (27.18%) and François Hollande (28.63%) who moved on to the second round.


une fête – a festival, a celebration, a party
un jour ferié – statutory holiday, civic holiday, public holiday, bank holiday
muguet – Lily of the Valley
faire le pont – literally “to make a bridge” (bridge a gap); an idiomatic expression used to describe the common French practice of taking a vacation day in between a statutory holiday and the weekend, thereby creating an extra-long weekend
le premier mai – the first of May
le syndicat – (trade) union
un ouvrier – a worker (historically, this term was used to refer to tradespeople or factory workers)
la classe ouvrière – the working class
une manifestation – a protest, a rally
le Palais d’Élysée – Élysée Palace, the official residence of the French president
Monsieur le Président – the proper way to address the French president, in the same way that English-speakers say “Mr. President”
le vrai travail – real work
la gauche – the left
un defilé – a parade, a march
le defilé syndical – the union parade
la crise – French shorthand for the current economic crisis or the recession
“travail, famille, patrie” – work, family, fatherland
l’extrême droite – the far right
le Front National – The National Front, the far-right political party in France. Their current leader is Marine Le Pen.
l’UMP – Union for a Popular Movement, the French political right. Nicolas Sarkozy, the current French president, is their leader.
le Parti Socialist – The Socialist Party, the French political left. François Hollande, current presidential contender, is their leader.

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“Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again.”
                      – “Les Misérables”, The Musical, Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg


This past Tuesday was May 1, otherwise known as La Fête du Travail (better known in English-speaking countries as “Labour Day” but literally translated as “The Festival of Work[ers]”). It’s hard to believe that it’s been two whole years since I first learned all about this nationwide jour ferié and its various traditions, like offering friends and family a small bouquet of muguet or taking an extra day off work to faire le pont. The last time I wrote about le premier mai, it seemed to me like just one of many random holidays that made the month of May in France seem like one long drawn-out vacation. What with it falling smack dab in between the two rounds of this year’s French presidential elections, however, the day took on a far more serious and political tone than many have seen in recent memory.

You see, in addition to being a great opportunity to take a long weekend trip somewhere, I’ve recently learned that, at its core, la Fête du Travail is meant to celebrate workers and workers’ rights. In Paris, the various big syndicats have a long-standing tradition of getting together to organize a big rally every year on this day, with the intention of uniting les ouvriers and reminding them of the importance of the holiday’s origins, of what their predecessors fought for, and of the fact that there are still battles that need to be fought today. It’s something of a sacred day to the unions, a day that has always traditionally belonged to la classe ouvrière. This year, as usual, the syndicats were on track to organize a giant manifestation at Denfert-Rochereau in the south of Paris, culminating in a grand march to La Bastille.

As a teenager, a high school field trip to watch the musical “Les Misérables” was my first introduction to French history, so it feels vaguely surreal to now be in Paris and witnessing strikes and marches happening along the very same city streets, carrying on the tradition of Victor Hugo’s famous unwashed poor.


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Impasse Sarkozy

April 22, 2012
“Sarkozy Impasse, Former President of the French Republic, 2007 – 2012”
This clever mock street sign/political commentary blended in so well with the mise-en-scene
on a Saint-Germain street that we almost walked right by it without even noticing.


une impasse
– dead-end, cul-de-sac; also, a deadlock
le premier tour
 – the first round
la Présidentielle – short for “l’élection présidentielle”, the presidential election
les infos
– the news
un sondage – poll
le/la candidat(e) 
le deuxième tour – the second round
les élections – elections

le Front National – the name of the far-right political party in France
un étranger (une étrangère) – a foreigner
un pays
region (can also mean “country”); in France, people will refer to the region where they were born, grew up, or where their family comes from as their “pays”
un bulletin de vote – ballot
une soirée d’élection – election party
le mode de scrutin – electoral system 

******

Today is the premier tour* of la Présidentielle and all over France, people are heading to the ballot boxes to decide who will be the two main candidates battling it out for the presidency in the second (and final) round of voting on May 6th. For weeks now, les infos have been full of nothing but election talk and sondages, all trying to predict which candidat will come out on top. Political debates rage hotly over tables in cafés and brasseries around the city, and the streets are papered with paraphernalia, the unnerving eyes of far-right leader Marine Le Pen staring eerily out from campaign posters (when they haven’t been gouged out or defaced by those who take exception to her extreme anti-immigration stance, that is).  Not all the political posters come from “official” sources. Some politically-minded citizens have found creative ways to share their views, like this clever mock “street sign” I spotted in the Saint-Germain neighbourhood while walking one day with my friend Jean-Laurent.

For an expat, it’s a really interesting time to be in the city, watching all the various goings-on. At the moment, it looks as if current president Nicolas Sarkozy and left-wing candidate François Hollande are the favourites to move on to the deuxième tour of les élections, although some would say that it’s too early to discount Le Pen and the Front National, who have made somewhat worrying gains in popularity in the wake of the economic crisis. As an étrangère on French soil, I can only hope that this isn’t actually the case.

Paris itself feels strangely quiet and deserted this weekend. A large portion of my circle of friends has left the city, hopping on trains and heading back to their pays to do their civic duty and cast their bulletin de vote.**  Others are taking advantage of the occasion to throw a soirée d’élection, getting together with friends over a bottle of wine to watch the results come in.

What will be the final decision?  All of France waits with bated breath to find out.

* The Frenchmode de scrutin”, or electoral system, involves two rounds of voting to determine who will be president. In the first round, people choose from among several candidates. The two forerunners then move on to a second round of voting, where the people then vote on which of the two will be elected to presidential office.

** It’s not uncommon for people from other regions in France to move to Paris without officially changing their residence, as this involves a certain amount of paperwork and administrative red tape. As a result, when election time rolls around, they have to return to their “area of residence” in order to vote.

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