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28 Apr, 2017 07:35

Macron’s victory product of good marketing, not his policies – French presidential candidate

Two diametrically opposed candidates have made it into the second round of the French presidential elections for a runoff – pro-European Emmanuel Macron came out in front, while Euroskeptic Marine le Pen was on his heels just a couple of points behind. How can France move forward in the face of such a severe split in its electorate? Meanwhile, as disillusioned voters take to the streets to protest, should France brace for more violence? We ask one of the candidates that took part in the first round of the French presidential elections, leader of the Popular Republican Union Francois Asselineau.

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Sophie Shevardnadze:Monsieur Asselineau, The results are now in - I know you didn’t get as many votes as you’d hoped. Now you’re not a fan of either winner - be it Le Pen or Macron. With the second round of voting ahead - what will you do, who will you vote for? What should your supporters do now?

Francois Asselineau:  I didn’t get the results I expected, it’s true. In any case, we did not have a level playing field in this election. A massive promotional campaign for Mr. Macron was conducted over the last year on all radio stations and TV channels, in newspapers and magazines. So Mr. Macron had a huge, disproportionate advantage from the start. This is a person who had never taken part in any elections before. He’s the official candidate of the financial and industrial oligarchy and a supporter of the Euro-Atlantic cooperation. Mr. Macron’s result, 23 percent, is astonishing. That’s because part of the population was swayed by mass media outlets working for him. As for Mr. Fillon, the former Prime Minister, he stood a good chance of winning, but he finished third, not least because of all those cases against him spread by the media. I’d like to urge everyone who trusts me to vote in the second round for the candidate they believe worthy, they are completely free to do so. Of course, everyone knows who the winner will be, it is Mr. Macron, almost certainly. Stock markets all over the world – Paris, London, New York – are happy. They have seen a rally because Francois Hollande’s successor is coming, and he is completely Washington-oriented.

SS:  Before we continue with that, I want to ask you this. We’re already seeing violent protests calling for a boycott of the second round, can that happen and how will that influence the vote?

FA: I believe fewer people are going to vote in the second round, because the French don’t like the option they’re being pushed towards. Ms. Le Pen would never be able to secure 70-75 percent of votes because the people see her as a far-right candidate. But not everyone wants to support Mr. Macron, either. He got 21, no, 23 percent of the votes with a 77 percent turnout, which means only about 20 percent of all voters support him. So 80 percent of French people don’t like him. So if Mr. Macron is elected, his policy won’t sit well with the majority of the population. Taking all this into consideration, I believe there will be a lot of people who will choose not to vote in the second round. It won’t change the outcome, of course. I believe Mr. Macron will be elected, and I think for a few months France will be left with no-one in control, because Mr. Macron has no experience.

SS: What’s your opinion - did Macron earn his first place with his policies or is he just the least hated among the batch this year?

FA: His policies have nothing to do with it. Macron is just a product of good marketing. As I explained just now, all the mass media outlets, all the TV channels and radio stations showered Macron with praise and did it for hundreds of hours. In 2016, newspapers published 17,000 articles about Mr. Macron. He appeared on 75 magazine covers. Major TV channels and radio stations spent dozens of hours talking about him. Journalists kept covering his campaign in a positive light. That’s why he secured top spot, not because people like his policies. His policies, by the way, are a nightmare. His ideas are very ill-defined, no one really understands his political platform. That’s because his platform is simply a continuation of the previous policy, that is, following Europe’s orders. All in all, this election is just fraudulent in moral and political respects. Mass media have misled the French people. Now Mr. Macron will be elected. So already this autumn he’s going to toe the European Commission’s line. I can say for sure that step by step France will lose its own political leadership and eventually face huge political problems. That’s what I think.

SS: Why did traditional parties fail in this round of elections? Marine Le Pen is Europe’s top anti-establishment voice, while Macron created his own party right before the election.  What happened to the traditional political forces?

FA: Because the policies of traditional parties are not in the interests of France. They have become puppets of EU officials, they do what Brussels tells them to do. They fully implement the directives of the European Commission. And the same thing happens every time. Whoever you vote for, be it a left or a right candidate, the result is the same. We have a policy that destroys state institutions, imposes continuous austerity measures and social benefit cuts. All of this is to save the euro, which is about to plummet. By and large, protest sentiment is now on the rise in France. Not to mention migration and other issues. And the Socialist and Republican Parties are now regarded by the French as also responsible for the disaster. That’s the reason why people were looking for a different candidate. But these politicians are very canny – Emmanuel Macron is set to continue Francois Hollande’s policies. Francois Hollande supports Mr. Macron, and Manuel Valls also stands by his side as he was Deputy General Secretary at the Élysée Palace. I should say the political movement he organized – En Marche! – is also a kind of fraud because in reality its goal is to transform the members of the Socialist party, the centrists. The illusion of creating something new while in fact it is only the continuation of previous policies. Therefore the situation in France is becoming more and more unstable. The real opposition and Marine Le Pen who can represent the real opposition is, unfortunately, a successor of a political party with a very bad reputation because of its far-right views. And, just as I said, it is absolutely clear that she won’t be elected…the National Front…took part in elections for the 7th time, you know…

SS: Both winning candidates claim to be the candidate of the people. Both appeal to ‘real patriots’ to come and support them. With the two of them so different, why are they using the same rhetoric?

FA: Frankly speaking, Ms. Le Pen looks like a better representative of the people, because Macron is more like a representative of financial oligarchy. He is supported by the more well-off social groups as well as many of those who are of afraid of change. That’s how matters stand. It is true that many farmers and workers and many other people of various unsophisticated professions vote for the National Front – for Ms. Le Pen. That’s how it is.  

SS: Judging by the strong support for right wing Le Pen, and left-wing Melenchon - the French are eager for dramatic change. Can voters support Le Pen just to shake up the status quo? Can we see a repeat of the American scenario, where voters chose Trump, because they wanted to wreck the system?

FA: As long as France is part of the European Union, part of the euro zone and NATO, we shouldn’t hope to see any major changes. That’s what I think. I suggested to the French that we quit the EU, NATO and stop using the euro. Mass media ignored my candidacy. When I officially became a candidate, they had to give me some exposure in accordance with the law. Yet they were constantly criticizing me, they oppressed me, and mocked me – as if I was suggesting some nonsense. As a result, we have Mr. Macron, who is going to carry out the policies dictated by the European Commission and the European Central Bank, and France will be obeying NATO. Remember that Mr. Macron congratulated Donald Trump on carrying out a strike on Syria. Ms. Le Pen has a bit of a different point of view as she is critical of the European Union and the euro. But her platform is quite ambiguous in that regard and it is not clear how she would act if elected.  However, she will not be elected, I said it before and I will say it now. She is seen as a far-right politician, and that is the reason why the majority of people will be set against her. Mass media have been conducting a campaign against the National Front policies to this very end – to allow its rivals to win.

SS:  If the French detest Francois Hollande, he’s the most unpopular President in French history - and he couldn’t breathe new life into the French economy. So why are people supporting Monsieur Macron, who was in charge of the economy all this time?

FA: As I said, it is all a manipulation by the mass media. The French media have been doing their best to make the public forget that Mr. Macron was Deputy General Secretary at the Élysée Palace and then Minister of Economy and Finance. He was portrayed as an absolutely new man with fresh ideas. Mr. Macron was close to president Hollande for five years. And Macron’s policies, namely as the Minister of Economy and Finance, are absolutely terrible. However, the mass media keep silent about it.  It should be clear that people are being deceived because the media in France are not independent, they are not democratic. For example, I suggested leaving the EU, NATO and abandoning the euro, and 100% of TV and radio stations rose against me.  In those few cases when I was interviewed, I always faced journalists who would talk to me ironically and with a sneer or would criticize me heavily as if my point of view was absurd and I was a madman. That’s the true face of the French media community.

SS: But if we take a look at Macron’s domestic policy program, I can’t help but wonder - do people who are voting for him really get what’s going on? His program is full of cuts - cuts to maternity leave, employment insurance, retirement, public sector jobs - are the French tired of left-wing politics and that’s why they voted Macron? I don’t really get that...  

FA: Let me remind you: 23% of the French voted for Mr. Macron. Yes, it is a lot and he is now the leader in the race, but at the same time that is a testimony that an overwhelming majority of people did not vote for him, and do not like him. The problem is that only two leading candidates can pass into the second round. And the second one is Ms. Le Pen.  I’ve said multiple times that Ms. Le Pen will never be elected. That’s why the mass media are promoting her – people won’t vote for her and this way her rival will come to power.

Such a situation will plunge France into chaos for the upcoming months and years. It is because Mr. Macron and his policies are not going to enjoy public support. I believe, eventually there will be disaffection, just as the mood changed on Hollande, but this time it will happen even sooner. He is very young – 39 years old, I’d say too young for that position and he lacks experience as he hasn’t been in an elected position before. I am sure it is all manipulation and nothing else. Six or twelve months later France will slide into political chaos.

SS:  If you count all votes for all candidates, you see that half the country voted for the Eurosceptics and half voted for the Europhiles. Whoever becomes president - be it Macron or Le Pen - how’s that person going to lead the country that’s so divided?

FA: Honestly speaking, it’s a great question. It’s difficult to predict anything. I have a pessimistic outlook for our country for the months and years to come. Unfortunately, there’s not a single big media source that would be critical of the EU. That’s not the case in the UK or in the northern countries. Part of the population is, of course, for the EU. The politicians promise the world to them, they say that the EU will change, it’ll get better. But that can’t happen. To change Europe you have to bring 27 countries to an agreement, make them sign some kind of a pact that would give France privileges at their expense - of course, they won’t do that. It’s because France is truly very much split. However, people do not agree with the current state of affairs.  It is difficult to govern France, often at times you find it quite divided. There are real grounds to believe that the situation can get worse. Political and economic and social spheres of our life are under a lot of pressure. Unemployment is constantly rising. The euro exchange rate is set too high and that is undermining the competitive edge of the French economy. That’s what causes unemployment. Industrial centers are being relocated under instruction from the EU. None of the aforementioned problems will be solved. Unfortunately, the French are a bit inconsistent.  

SS: Should the Eurosceptic voices prevail in the eventual final vote, can France actually pull out of the Eurozone? It will most likely collapse if France leaves it - creating an economic crisis that is bound to affect the French as well, is that really worth it?

FA: In fact, no one during the election campaign, except me, talked about the euro. The status of the euro is chronically deteriorating because Germany is developing its trade partnership with southern euro countries. And the explanation is that the euro is too cheap in terms of German competitiveness but too expensive for southern countries. Today, Germany is actively building up trade momentum with countries in the EU’s south and that causes an imbalance in current payments inside the Eurozone. Now it is not clear what will happen in the end. Economic analysts say that such a situation cannot last for years. And, like it or not, this issue will have to be tackled one day. Yet no one wants to be responsible for destroying the euro zone, that way we heading into uncharted waters. The only policy they want carried out, the one they are imposing on the southern EU members, is to endlessly take new austerity measures, eliminate social benefits and whatnot, trying to become closer to Germany in terms of competitiveness. This breeds economic and social problems everywhere, not only in France - in Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

SS:But with the anti-Euro sentiment so high in France, you agree with that, can Marine Le Pen actually pull enough support from it for the second round? Can those who voted against the euro with the left now vote against the euro with the right-wing Front?

FA: It’s unlikely. Maybe some will do it. Some of Mr. Dupont-Aignan’s supporters are sure to vote for Ms. Le Pen, some of Mr. Fillon’s adherents will decide to vote for Ms. Le Pen, and, perhaps, just a small fraction of Mr. Mélenchon’s fans will vote for her, too. Ms. Le Pen got 21.7% of votes, but the votes she will get from supporters of the ex-candidates will not be enough to claim victory. That’s what I think. Maybe I am wrong, who knows. It would be something out of this world for her to win.I believe she will get like 35% of votes. Already a big figure. Yet she won’t get any more than that. You saw for yourself that Mr. Fillon encouraged voters to vote for Emmanuel Macron, and Xavier Bertrand, a traditionally right candidate, and Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet – key figures among the republicans –all called upon the people to vote for Mr. Macron. Benoît Hamon, head of the Socialist party, encouraged to vote for Mr. Macron, and Pierre Laurent, a communist party candidate, did just the same. And Mr. Mélenchon didn’t express his views explicitly, but many from his circle back Mr. Macron. So, we will see a repetition of what happened in 2002. The whole republican front calls upon each and every one to vote for Emmanuel Macron.

SS: Why do those who oppose all things EU so divided in France? Why can’t they come together and have a single anti-EU candidate?

FA: Again, it’s the same problem – this specific trait of the French, who still resemble the Gauls in a way – it’s very difficult for them to reach a consensus with others. As for me, I created a political movement to take France out of the European Union, out of the Eurozone and NATO. For ten years, I’ve been saying the same thing over and over again: we need to invoke Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, like the British did. For me, the problem is that Ms. Le Pen, Mr. Dupont-Aignan and Mr. Mélenchon refuse to include one item on their agenda. All of them, including Ms. Le Pen, unanimously propose to renegotiate the EU Treaty.This is why we always have these vague statements, and no one wants to join me. That is why we cannot break out of the EU.

SS: The EU has been a Franco-German creation, France always played a big role in it, along with Germany. How come half the French hate it so much now?

FA: First of all, yes, the Franco-German agreement was real, but there was also strong pressure coming from the US. The EU project was ultimately an American creation. It was all preceded by the agreements between the USSR and the US held in Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam. The Eastern part of Europe came under Russian protection, under Moscow rule. And the Western part was ruled by Washington. The European project was planned and conceived by Washington, by the US. It was to serve as an icon for Eastern Europe and their common market. I believe that the Franco-German agreement, which is so frequently brought up as a talking point, is a purely formal arrangement – because in fact, it was the United States that orchestrated everything. The problem is that we wanted to create a ‘continent-state’ that would unite 28 countries – something no one in history had ever tried to do – but the results are simply pathetic: in all the 28 countries that make up the European Union, people still speak in different languages – there are 24 official languages within the EU. Each country has its own geopolitical and economic interests, its own level of social and economic development. And to find common ground in this case is just mission impossible. For example, France has achieved a lot in terms of social rights and social progress. The minimum wage in France today is about one thousand one hundred and fifty euros a month, after tax. For comparison, in Bulgaria, the minimum wage is two hundred euros net a month. The French will have to gradually come to terms with the fact that their minimum wage will go down – in order for someone else to get more money. We are going to get poorer – that is what we should expect. In Western Europe, the problem is that the French, for example, were promised that a united Europe would provide growth, prosperity, new jobs, freedom and democracy – but what they see today is a completely different picture – people are getting poorer, businesses move their factories to the east to spend less on salaries and social security. They also see that no matter how they vote – right or left – this doesn’t change the politics, which is ultimately determined by European regulations. So this is what motivates the French euro-sceptics. But there are still not enough people who think like that, and all major media outlets keep saying that if we leave the European Union, it would be the ‘end of the world’, that we’d be doomed.

SS: Neither Macron nor Le Pen will get a clear majority in parliament after the presidentials - will the actual governing then fall to a Prime Minister instead?

FA: Correct. But this is a completely different story. During the election campaign, no one spoke about that. But I did. I was the only one who stressed that the presidential election is not the same as the parliamentary election. The latter is still ahead. Even if Ms. Le Pen somehow gets elected, she will never have a majority in in parliament – it is very unlikely that the National Front will get a majority. In any case, I’m positive that Ms. Le Pen will not be elected and that Mr. Macron will win – although we cannot say right now exactly how many votes he will receive. In any case, the people who are going to vote for Macron are all very different, they are far from being a homogenous group. There are people on the far-right, like Alain Madeleine, with extreme pro-American views, there is the former President of the Communist Party, Mr. Robert Hue. There are also the socialists whom the people hate. I have absolutely no idea how far ahead Mr. Macron will be in terms of votes. Mr. Macron is only 39 years old, he is very young, he has no experience, very little experience in international affairs – at the same time, his political and economic performance has been rather pitiful. He is, effectively, a puppet, as I’ve already said. If he wins, as the head of our state we will have a man who has never held elected office, an extremely incompetent individual – we’ve seen him make one mistake after another, and yesterday he did it again: he celebrated his victory in the first round as if he’d already won the election. He set many French people against himself. This is a man who – over the past several months – has been constantly making mistakes. If he is elected president, he will continue making mistakes, he will be forced to implement a policy determined by EU agreements and by the European Commission – which the French hate. He will not receive a stable majority in the National Assembly. I think that France is going to face great political difficulties in the upcoming months – the country will sink into a political, economic and social crisis.

SS: This election was tainted by scandals, leaks, dirty tricks - that’s not typical for a French presidential campaign, is that the new reality - American-style politics in France?

FA: Unfortunately, yes. French society, at least the French media, is becoming more and more like in the US. That is, it is becoming difficult to get to the bottom of things, to talk about complicated matters – instead, we only talk about scandals; Mr. Fillon did that, Ms. Le Pen or Mr. Macron said that, etc… But the media did not cover the scandals associated with Mr. Macron, they focused on Mr. Fillon and on Ms. Le Pen. Indeed, our society is changing and becoming more American-like. It's hard to imagine anything worse than that. I hope that my campaign looked decent and reasonable – after all, I didn’t make any personal remarks and didn’t attack anyone. I tried to get to the essence of issues. Talking to those who came to my rallies or watched me on TV, I explained that the euro would collapse, I explained that being part of the European Union today means bowing down to Washington. I said that if they elected me, the first thing I would do is restore friendly relations with Russia and with China. More and more French people are becoming interested in what I’m talking about. But unfortunately, we are under pressure from state propaganda – as well as private propaganda, because a lot of major media outlets are privately owned, and they are used as tools by financial moguls who promote Mr. Macron and who are not interested in actually solving real issues or getting to the bottom of things.

SS: Monsier Asselineau, thank you very much for this interview. Good luck with everything.