France’s Taubira hopes to rally divided left against Macron

France's well-liked former justice minister on Saturday launched her bid to unify the floundering French left and challenge President Emmanuel Macron at April presidential elections, but faces a slew of competing candidates reluctant to cede the limelight.

France's former Justice Minister Christiane Taubira delivers a speech in front of supporters in the Croix-Rousse district of Lyon, eastern France, on January 15, 2022.
France's former Justice Minister Christiane Taubira delivers a speech in front of supporters in the Croix-Rousse district of Lyon, eastern France, on January 15, 2022. Photo: JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP

“I’m committing myself here before you because I share your aspiration for another kind of government,” the former minister under Socialist President Francois Hollande (2012-17) told supporters in Lyon at the official launch of her campaign.

Taubira blasted “top-down power and absence of social dialogue” under Macron, promising to fight for higher wages, better conditions for school pupils and students, the health service and environmental protection.

The 69-year-old, born in the French South American territory of Guyana where she served as an MP, is admired on the left after fighting for a law recognising the slave trade as a crime against humanity, and for piloting same sex marriage onto the statute books in 2013 as justice minister.

“We will do all of this together, because that’s what we’re capable of,” she told a cheering crowd brandishing signs reading “With Taubira”.

But she risks becoming just one among six candidates scrambling for votes among the roughly 30 percent of the electorate that leans left.

They range from firebrand Jean-Luc Melenchon — the best-rated in polls compiled by the JDD weekly at close to 10 percent — to Greens candidate Yannick Jadot and Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo at 6.5 and 3.5 percent.

A January poll credited Taubira with around 4.5 percent support.

On the right, three challengers — conservative Valerie Pecresse, traditional far-right leader Marine Le Pen and insurgent TV pundit Eric
Zemmour — have some prospect of taking on incumbent Macron in the election’s second round.

Although yet to declare his candidacy, the president himself enjoys the highest first-round poll ratings at around one in four voters.

Taubira’s backers argue that she has the power to stoke “ardour” among left-wingers, who have been the biggest losers from the collapse of the traditional left-right political divide since Macron’s shock 2017 presidential win.

The former minister “wants to be the antidote to the weariness among left voters, who can’t stand any more fragmentation,” said Christian Paul, a Taubira supporter and mayor of the small town of Lormes in central France.

One tool Taubira has bet on is a so-called “People’s Primary” that will crown the favoured left-wing candidate of around 120,000 registered voters.

But while she has pledged to respect the result, the other candidates have refused to sign up to the process.

READ MORE: Christiane Taubira ‘envisages’ entering French presidential race

Member comments

  1. Could someone explain to me French politics ?

    The President seems to be all powerful, somewhat dictatorial, whilst the Prime Minister seems to have zero power and just does what he is told, but I could be completely wrong !

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France proposes getting rid of penalties for ‘minor’ speeding offences

The French government is considering changing speeding laws so that drivers will not lose points on their licence if they are caught going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

France proposes getting rid of penalties for 'minor' speeding offences

France’s Interior Ministry is considering changing its current rules for minor speeding violations – proposing getting rid of the penalty for drivers who only violate the rule by going just a few kilometres over the speed limit.

The Ministry has not laid out a timeline for when this could come into effect, but they said they are currently in the preliminary stages of studying how the change could be carried out.

“The fine of course remains,” said the Interior Ministry to French daily Le Parisien.

That is to say you can still be fined for going five kilometres over the speed limit, but there might not be any more lost points for driving a couple kilometres over the posted limit. 

READ ALSO These are the offences that can cost you points on your driving licence

Of the 13 million speeding tickets issued each year in France, 58 percent are for speeding violations of less than 5 km per hour over the limit, with many coming from automated radar machines.

How does the current rule work?

The rule itself is already a bit flexible, depending on where the speeding violation occurs.

If the violation happens in an urban area or low-speed zone (under 50 km per hour limit), then it is considered a 4th class offence, which involves a fixed fine of €135. Drivers can also lose a point on their licences as a penalty for this offence. 

Whereas, on highways and high-speed roads, the consequences of speeding by 5 km per hour are less severe. The offence is only considered 3rd class, which means the fixed fine is €68. There is still the possibility of losing a point on your licence, however. 

How do people feel about this?

Pierre Chasseray, a representative from the organisation “40 Millions d’Automobilistes,” thinks the government should do away with all penalties for minor speeding offences, including fines. He told French daily Le Parisien that this is only a “first step.”

Meanwhile, others are concerned that the move to get rid of points-deductions could end up encouraging people to speed, as they’ll think there is no longer any consequence.

To avoid being accused of carelessness, France’s Interior Ministry is also promising to become “firmer” with regards to people who use other people’s licences in order to get out of losing points – say by sending their spouse’s or grandmother’s instead of their own after being caught speeding. The Interior Ministry plans to digitalise license and registration in an effort to combat this. 

Ultimately, if you are worried about running out of points on your licence, there are still ways to recover them.

You can recover your points after six months of driving without committing any other offences, and there are also awareness training courses that allow you to gain your points back. It should be noted, however, that these trainings typically cost between €150 and €250, and they do not allow you to regain more than four points.