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POLITICS

Le Pen shrugs off yet another defection in battle for French far-right

Veteran French far-right politician Marine Le Pen shrugged off another defection from her party to rival Eric Zemmour on Sunday amid an increasingly bitter battle ahead of presidential elections in April.

Le Pen shrugs off yet another defection in battle for French far-right
French presidential candidate Eric Zemmour (R) next to French lawyer Gilbert Collard following his defection from National Assembly. Photo: Bertrand Guar/AFP

One-time Le Pen ally and confidant Gilbert Collard formally announced Saturday that he was joining Zemmour’s team and appeared at a rally alongside the anti-Islam writer and pundit in the south of France.

The European MP follows two other anti-immigration hardliners from Le Pen’s National Rally party to join Zemmour in the last week: fellow MEP Jerome Riviere and senior party official Damien Rieu.

“I don’t pay much attention to all these little manoeuvres between politicians because all of my energies are directed towards the issues of French people,” Le Pen told France 3 television on Sunday.

A new poll published on Saturday showed President Emmanuel Macron winning the first round of the election on April 10 with 25 percent, followed by Le Pen and right-winger Valerie Pecresse from the Republicans party on 15.5 percent each.

The poll by the Ipsos-Sopra Steria group, with a large sample size of 12,500 people, showed Zemmour trailing in fourth place on 13 percent.

The top two candidates in the first round go through to a run-off, where Macron was seen winning against Le Pen by 57-43 percent and against Pecresse by a narrower 54-46 percent, the poll showed.

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‘Kebab shop’

Zemmour is hoping that a string of defections this month, including by the former number two of the Republicans party, Guillaume Peltier, can help him reinvigorate a campaign that is seen by analysts as stagnating.

Speaking in Cannes on Saturday night in front of a crowd of around 4,000 people, he focused on his core issues of crime, Islam and what he sees as out-of-control immigration.

“I don’t want a kebab shop in every village,” he declared.

Le Pen said it was “coherent” that the defectors from her party had turned against her as she seeks to present a more moderate image to the electorate.

“Since the start of the campaign they have criticised my decision to make purchasing power my priority,” she said, contrasting it with Zemmour’s relentless campaigning on immigration and Islam.

“They criticise me for not wanting to get involved in the mad idea of a religious war (in France), or a civil war which they almost seem to want for the country,” Le Pen added.

In a statement last week announcing his decision to join Zemmour, Rieu claimed that Le Pen’s party was “no longer able to motivate our voters” and “lots of senior figures and grassroots campaigners don’t believe in it any more.”

But Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told the Journal du Dimanche newspaper on Sunday that Le Pen remained “the most dangerous person for the country” as Macron’s biggest rival.

“If she ever wins powers that it will lead to national division, then civil war,” he warned.

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POLICE

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.

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