Moi, président de la République


France was all aflutter this week, and it was not with snow. Word came down the wire that President Hollande would address the nation on Thursday evening at 8:00 pm. An unscheduled presidential address? This was breaking news!

Given our president’s historically unparalleled unpopularity, and the fact that the centre-right has now chosen François Fillon as its candidate for next spring’s presidential election, we did have a wee hint that it might have something to do with politics. That we might finally get an answer to the question: Would he or wouldn’t he?

Hollande hemmed and he hawed and took several long minutes to reflect upon the many successes of his administration, from same-sex marriage to lower unemployment, as viewers across the nation cried: “Accouche!” Quite literally to give birth, in this context it means – spit it out!

Then he finally uttered the words we had all been waiting for: “J’ai décidé de ne pas être candidat à l’élection présidentielle.” He would not stand for re-election.

Enfin! We all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

FlanbyFlanby, as the Guignols de l’info fondly baptized Hollande years ago, has lived up to his name. The popular brand of crème caramel always seemed to fit the man: wet, wobbly, bland. If only his politics had not lived up so well to his image. If only during his campaign in 2012 he had not uttered those famous first words:

“Moi, président de la République…”

He would be the people’s president, he promised, and his behaviour would be exemplary at all times. This just months before his not-so-secret dalliance with actress Julie Gayet was revealed on the cover of Closer, followed by a painfully public breakup with journalist Valérie Trierveiler, for whom he had previously left his long-time companion and the mother of his four children, fellow politician Ségolène Royal. Et oui, French politics are not for the faint of heart.

By choosing not to run, Hollande has demonstrated the dignity to acknowledge his failures and, in doing so, possibly save his party from total ruin. Will a worthy candidate emerge from the rubble? I doubt it. Prime Minister Manuel Valls is looking like the most likely contender, and if ever there was an unlikeable politician, it is he. The last thing we need is another petit nerveux, his deep-voice and close-set eyes sternly reminding us of how wrongly we have all behaved.

It’s easy to criticize, I hear you say. What would you do if you were president?

Moi, présidente…

I would get rid of party politics. Emmanuel Macron, who resigned from his position as an economy minister in Hollande’s government in August to run as an independent candidate in the presidential election, has taken a step in this direction. While I don’t think he is quite ready for the presidency, at the tender age of thirty-six years or practically in his infancy in French politics, I do think he has the right idea.

I would advocate for a 6th Republic. While I’m not for the Marxist revolution sought by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and those on the far left, there are just too many institutions to change in France without starting afresh. We need to rewrite the constitution to redistribute power in a more democratic way.

Last but surely not least, I would conduct my own personal French revolution by making public toilets clean, free and readily available on every corner.

What would you do if you were president?




  1. zipfslaw1 · December 3, 2016

    Oh, Lordy, really? Macron?? I have so much to say on that particular subject–way too long for a comment…

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      Wow, I can’t imagine what lengthy diatribe or praise he can inspire….unless you sit on a far end of the political spectrum or are a Parisian bobo. 😉

  2. zipfslaw1 · December 3, 2016
    • zipfslaw1 · December 3, 2016

      Oh, that didn’t work! What I was trying to say: START ANIMATED FRENCH DISCUSSION HERE

  3. francetaste · December 3, 2016

    I have to say that Fillon’s program, while unpleasant, may make the difficult changes needed for France. I remember all the moaning about Germany as the “sick man of Europe,” until it took unpopular reforms. Retirement in France is too early, benefits are too generous, it’s so hard to fire an employee who doesn’t work out that companies prefer not to hire, the government has too many fonctionaires. I live in the sticks and most jobs are at the SMIC, mainly in retail and restos. But in France, minimum wage is a living wage, mostly thanks to all the benefits on the side. That seems right. You SHOULD be able to live on a minimum wage, and people whose jobs require more training, more responsibility, etc. SHOULD be paid more. I’m not for communism. And the fact that a doctor makes about €150K makes them more than 10x better paid than a store clerk–seems about right. In the U.S. the difference is a lot more. But people who don’t work seem as well off as people who do. I think they should get help for food and shelter, but there’s an outcry every time the government wants to crack down on “unemployed” who are also working undeclared (and undercutting the legit artisans who pay taxes). And even though I myself am getting up there in years, I have to admit that retirement is a big unemployment program for older people–it costs a ton, takes knowledge out of the workplace and it simply isn’t true that it frees up jobs for the young (can send you studies on that). The more people work, the more work there is.

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      Agree 100% with every single one of your points – a rarity for me! We would make a strong political team! 😉

  4. Carolyn Bois · December 3, 2016

    I’ll vote for you in the 6th Republic! Political parties don’t mean anything anyway as their programmes are similar and politicians change their “convictions” depending on where the wind is blowing. Clean public toilets? We’re in France you know ..

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      Right. Reality check! 😉 I have many convictions but sadly little patience for politics….appreciate the vote of confidence!

    • francetaste · December 4, 2016

      The public toilets at Collioure (on the beach no less) are spotless. Self-cleaning things.

  5. Carolyn Bois · December 3, 2016

    Just read my previous comment and I’ll correct – party programmes are similar except for the exceptions (FN etc.)

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      Except for exceptions, how very French! Let’s hope the FN stay that way!

  6. Mél@nie · December 3, 2016

    SUPER-Mel a encore frappé fort!!! 🙂

    eh oui, not’ hollandais volant(not THE flying Duchman!) aka “l’homme-à-3 femmes” aura eu son moment de lucidité pour une fois – “poussé” par tous ses proches qui étaient déjà au courant de sa décision depuis qqs semaines… 😉 meanwhile, he did look sad, bitter, “limite pathétique”… you may recall he was NOT supposed to be “candidat” or Prez, he just replaced(sic!) DSK, “en cata” – after l’affaire du Sofitel-NYC… well, he’s now free to ride his scooter and to go out with his Julie – openly and everywhere… 🙂
    * * *
    as for the ‘barking J-L Mélenchon’, eternal admirer and ‘buddy’ of some dictators like Castro or Chavez, he could run for prez in Cuba, Venezuela or North Korea… 😉
    * * *
    @What would you do if you were president?… – avec des “si conditionnels”, on peut faire des plans sur la comète, mais on n’arrivera pas loin… 🙂 thus, can’t answer this subjective question for I see(and take!) people, things, situations and “stuff” they way they are, in the present tense, not conditionnel présent ou passé… 🙂 c’est mon côté réaliste, pratique et pragmatique – signe de terre “oblige”… 😉

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      1) It’s funny, when I heard that story about how he was ‘poussé par ses proches’ it rang like something invented by the famous Spin Doctor. So much more sympathetic to have one’s family making these tough decisions on our behalf…. 2) Lol, let’s send him there, then! 😀 and 3) You are a refreshing, realistic earth sign, I am all fire. As long as we don’t have a ‘scorched earth’ policy, we can keep each other balanced! 😉

  7. phildange · December 3, 2016

    Our vision of politics comes from different galaxies, so I’ll offer you this old sketch instead, by a stand up comic named Smaïn, French from Algerian parents . Only good French speakers can get it for he uses for fun his Maghreb accent, and some knowledge about France is needed too . Ex.: The intro is “Enfin un beur président:” followed by “why not, there is a Camembert Président” . There is a well known brand of camembert called Président, and “un beur” is slang for a young French born from North-African parents . (In verlan Arabe gives bera then beur) .
    BTW there was a famous band from Toulouse composed of “Beurs” whose name was “Zebda” . This was a pun I guess few people noticed : in Arabic “zebda” means butter, beurre . I loved their name .

    • Mél@nie · December 3, 2016

      LOL of the LOL!!! 😀 phildange, you rule and rock… 🙂 amitiés toulousaines et bonne soirée!

      • phildange · December 3, 2016

        Ah Toulouse ! Ma ville préférée depuis l’époque de Charlemagne … Je me suis tellement éclaté là-bas dans les nuits des années 80, bouducon ça fait toujours partie de moi . A plus, jolie Toulousaine .

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      Love Smaïn! Consider it a huge milestone that I understand (almost) everything he says, along with the cultural references. As for Zebda, I didn’t think I knew the group until I googled it and discovered they are the ones behind ‘Tomber la chemise’ – great song! Thanks for the insight on their name – would not have known the Arabic meaning and indeed, it is a clever word play.

      • phildange · December 4, 2016

        Zebda also created the ubiquitous slogan “Motivés” we’ve heard since in all youth protests . If you like here is a live session in Toulouse where they mixed “motivés” with the anthem of the Resistance, written and composed during the occupation by two Russian origined French . An exalting and thrilling song called “Le chant des partisans” .
        Here is Zebda with Toulouse people : ( for the atmosphere, and here is a more musical version of the great song 😦 .
        PS I humbly apologize for the huge photo above, I only pasted the link and this was the unexpected result . To avoid it I put both new links between brackets but I can’t know what it will give before I post this comment, so too late .

      • phildange · December 4, 2016

        Oh, congratulations for your language skill ! It is rather difficult to dig the meaning of his words . Same for cultural references , bravo . (Even why he insisted on “balayé, balayé” ?)

      • MELewis · December 4, 2016

        That made me laugh. Was it a reference to the joe jobs performed by so many ‘beurs’ in France?

      • phildange · December 4, 2016

        “Was it a reference to the joe jobs performed by so many ‘beurs’ in France?” Exactly spot on . I’m impressed .

  8. awtytravels · December 3, 2016

    I’ve never really followed French politics, at least not in recent times, and the only time I took an interest in monsieur Hollande was when I was mocking my centre-right French flatmate by playing the Internationale early in the morning after his victory to piss her off (worked wonders). However, it didn’t seem as bad as the band of utter muppets that are governing, or pretending to, the UK over here!

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      Brit (and American) politics always seem to bring out the worst in people, but that said I must admit to not really understanding much of what goes on ‘outre-Manche’. That said, my all-time favourite TV sitcom was ‘Yes, Minister’ and, of course, ‘Yes, Prime Minister’. Having worked briefly in a government PR communications department back in Canada, I recognized all too well how things work. The puppets we call politicians are just performing the antics – the really interesting ones are like Humphrey, pulling the strings behind the scenes. 😉

  9. Susanne · December 3, 2016

    I’m afraid I’m woefully unfamiliar with French politics to comment however, if I were Prime Minister I would insist that every Canadian be required to take a walk in the woods and pick up the litter they find including and not limited to cigarette butts, spent condoms, diapers, styrofoam food containers, plastic bottles, old socks, tin cans, rubber tires, booze bottles, ad infinitum. Maybe this would stop the dimwitted trolls from pitching their garbage in the first place if they knew they’d be responsible for picking it up.

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      That is doubly true here in France! It’s funny, my memories of Canada’s outdoors are much cleaner….always thought we Canucks were more environmentally respectful, law-abiding types? Around here we get jerks who drive up with a load of junk and dump it into a field (‘dépôts sauvages’). That said, you have to have a card to access the local dump and that means providing proof of residence. So it’s a vicious circle and another example of too many rules that end up backfiring.

  10. Osyth · December 3, 2016

    Having only just flown out of the USA where I maintained (mostly) my dignified silence vis a vis their Presidential Election for reasons of being a guest at the table, I will of course be thrown straight into the French Elections as we arrive back later this month. I was therefore heartened that M. Hollande had started the ball rolling in an equally dignified manner in honour of my impending return and that the ducks are getting into line in good time for me to be able to angelically view proceedings from a centre front seat. Until I get back, I’ll hold my tongue and not express an opinion but I am sure that won’t last …. 😉

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      Agree it is best to be polite when one is a guest – at least until dessert is served. 😉 I look forward to hearing you back in full voice. The ducks are quaking in their clay!

      • Osyth · December 4, 2016

        It’s been far too long and I feel the urge to return not with a whimper, but a bang!!!

  11. Colin Bisset · December 3, 2016

    What’s the French for opening Pandora’s Box? 🙂

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      Ha, ha….believe it is a quite literal translation (la boite de Pandore) and hope I have not opened it!

  12. Lisa @ cheergerm · December 4, 2016

    Whilst I cannot really comment on French politics, clean and free ‘dunnies’ sounds like a darned good place to start!

    • MELewis · December 4, 2016

      Dunnies? That’s a new one for me! I am completely unqualified to comment on Aussie politics, yet I feel we could create a solid platform on that basis.

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