France. At the beginning of the year, a newspaper published pictures of President François Hollande when he was pushed on a wasp to meet his mistress. Shortly thereafter, his partner Valérie Trierweiler was hospitalized after a breakdown, after which Hollande announced that the relationship was over. The president was criticized for his lack of security routines and for his diligence in handling the disclosure. In September, Trierweiler published a book in which Hollande was painted as a hypocrite. The book became a sales success.
The president was beaten throughout the year for his political survival. In January, he presented a “responsibility pact” with major cuts and tax cuts for companies to create jobs and accelerate the sluggish economy. A couple of large unions threatened with countermeasures and a loud left flank in the socialist government was also critical.
The municipal elections held in March became a stinging defeat for the socialists who lost power in over 150 cities. In the aftermath of the election defeat, Hollande reformed his government. Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault resigned and was replaced by former Interior Minister Manuel Valls.
According to Countryaah.com, France population in 2020 is estimated at 65,273,522. The EU elections at the end of May became a new setback for the Socialist Party. The big bang, however, was the success of the National Front; the right-wing party became the largest for the first time with 25% of the vote.
The contradictions surrounding austerity continued to create tensions within the government. When Finance Minister Arnaud Montebourg said in August that the cuts were stunting growth and driving people in the arms of extremist parties, he got fired, and the entire government was reformed. In September, Prime Minister Valls survived a vote of confidence, but some 30 socialist MPs cast their votes in yet another sign of disagreement within the ruling party. Hollande’s poll figures were at the bottom, with only 13% of voters voicing support for the president. Growth was basically stagnant, unemployment stubbornly hit above 10% and the government was forced to admit that the goal of reducing the budget deficit below 3% would not be achieved until 2017 at the earliest, two years later than previously stated.
In September, France became the first country to participate in US-led air strikes against the extremist group Islamic State (IS). Islamic terrorist terrorism was defined as an acute threat to France; around 1,000 French Islamists are believed to have joined the fighting in Iraq and Syria. Concern was high that returning jihadists would carry out terrorist acts at home.
The largest opposition party, the bourgeois UMP (Union for a People’s Movement), also had internal difficulties. Party leader Jean-François Copé resigned in June due to a weak result in the EU elections and a funding scandal within the party. This involved information that an event company, Bygmalion, during the 2012 election campaign was ordered to forge invoices to hide illegal campaign contributions.
The construction malady scandal hit former President Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost the 2012 election. But he was also charged with abuse of power and in July was taken to a 15-hour interrogation. Sarkozy is suspected of trying to get inside information about an ongoing investigation by a judge by offering him a high post. Despite the suspicions of crime, Sarkozy waged a political comeback, winning by close to 65% of the vote when the UMP held party leadership elections at the end of the year.
Macron promises support for opposition in Belarus
President Macron promises to assist the opposition in Belarus in mediating the conflict with the country’s President Alexander Lukashenko. He says this in a conversation with opposition candidate Svetlana Tichanovskaya, who has taken refuge in Lithuania after the presidential election in August. According to Tikhanovskaya, Macron wants to do his utmost to secure the release of all political prisoners in Belarus.
Amnesty criticizes police action against protesters
In a report, Amnesty International criticizes how the authorities have acted against the yellow vests’ demonstrations from 2018 and other protests in the country. Thousands of protesters who took part in peaceful and legal protests have been fined, arrested and detained and many have been prosecuted. The protesters have been accused of violating “vague laws” such as insulting government officials or participating in a movement that “intends to commit violent acts”.
Republicans are advancing in the Senate election
Preliminary results show that the Republicans, who were already the largest party in the Senate, are strengthening their position in the election, as almost half of the 348 seats are at stake. The members are appointed indirectly by representatives of regional assemblies, the municipal council and other political bodies. The Socialist Party comes in second place in the election, while Macron’s party Republic is on its way to becoming the third largest party. The green party EELV is also doing well and is now gathering enough seats to be able to form its own group.
France receives migrants from Greek refugee camps
The government announces that the country will receive 500 unaccompanied migrants, children and young people, from the Greek refugee camp Moria, which was recently destroyed in a fire. According to European Minister Clement Beaune, the country will receive a total of 1,000 migrants from the camp.
The spread of covid-19 is increasing
Just over a quarter of the country’s departments are now counted as “red zones” where the authorities can impose restrictions to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Paris and the department of Rhône, with the city of Lyon, were classified as high-infection zones as early as mid-August. After that, it became mandatory to wear mouth guards in all public places. The number of new cases in the last two days has been around 8,000 to 9,000.