Albrecht SONNTAG
Professeur d'études européennes - ESSCA

In the autumn of 2016 France engaged in an election marathon, starting with the primaries of the right and leading through a particularly eventful election campaign up to the two rounds of the presidential election in April and May 2017, and ending with the two rounds of the legislative elections in June.

Between the 1st of November 2016 and 22 June 2017, I was following this marathon in a series of 25 blog posts on the "Ideas on Europe" multi-blog run by UACES, the University Association for Contemporary European Studies. The principle of this series of political analyses was to draw on French political culture and history with the aim of sharing some keys for the understanding of the functioning of the Fifth Republic and the change it was undergoing.

All posts, listed below in chronological order, are still available on the original platform for which they were written - just click on the title to access the post:

  1. "Ref: France (2017), Campaigns, Elections, Hangover (forthcoming).", 1 November 2016.
    The entrée to the seven-month election marathon, seasoned with unpleasant premonitions of hypocrisy, hyperbole, and hysteria.
  2. "The primaries and the secondaries", 8 November 2016.
    How open presidential primaries made their entry into French political life, and how in 2016 they seem to pave the way to the Elysée.
  3. "How the padlock was shut", 15 November 2016.
    A closer look at the circumstances under which Charles de Gaulle managed to change the constitution and impose the presidential election on the Fifth Republic.
  4. "Just do it!", 22 November 2016.
    On how the primaries were conducted, how a surprise candidate emerged in the centre, and how an extreme right-wing candidate came to use a logo with a rose!
  5. "The unexpected rehabilitation of an adjective", 29 November 2016.
    How "liberalism" is given a new meaning in this presidential campaign, beyond its traditional association with neo-liberalist, anti-social austerity policies.
  6. "The Undertakers", 7 December 2016.
    How the Sarkozy-Hollande decade damaged the presidential function, and why "embodiment" is so important for the credibility of candidates..
  7. "Jerrycans for Christmas!", 15 December 2016.
    If Doctor Fillon, who just won the primaries, is going to administer only half of his bitter medicine, you might want to be prepared for strikes and road blockades.
  8. "Happy New Year? You must be joking!", 22 December 2016.
    On the persistence of "declinism", and the unbearable discrepancy between the normative ideals of republican democracy and what society and politics deliver in real life.
  9. "Two years on, how Charlie can be you be", 5 January 2017.
    On the French understanding of liberty of expression, the limits of satire, and the historical shaping of anti-clericalism.
  10. "The party formerly known as Socialist", 12 January 2017.
    On the slow decline of the French Socialist Party. There is a price to pay for always refusing to reconsider basic assumptions and binding doctrines.
  11. "Protestant protests", 30 January 2017.
    How "Penelopegate" reveals the almost touching stubbornness with which the French political class simply does not get the point.
  12. "Could she possibly win?", 17 February 2017.
    On the "scarecrow effect" and the real chances of the much-hyped Marine Le Pen in the presidential election, and the graphic novel that portrays her at the Elysée.
  13. "Polling paradoxes", 4 March 2017.
    On opinion polls, their remarkable reliability and the French public's simultaneous distrust and addiction towards them, based on an interview with one of France's leading pollsters.
  14. "And then there were eleven", 20 March 2017.
    On the causes and consequences of the significant number of fringe candidates at the French presidential election.
  15. "Where have all the flowers gone?", 29 March 2017.
    Taking stock, with the friendly help of Viviane Gravey, of the greening of French politics, despite the absence of a Green presidential candidate.
  16. "Old fault lines, new salience", 25 April 2017.
    As the dust settles on the first round of the presidential election, an analysis of persistent fault lines that divide French society.
  17. On the stranglehold in which the presidential election keeps French political life, and the inevitable disappointment for some of the contenders at the end of the marathon.
  18. "Ready for the Fake Presidency?", 14 April 2017.
    On the institutional balances of this strange bi-cephal Republic, provided by a constitution that simply does not fit reality.
  19. "Disappointed, disillusioned, disgusted. A geography lesson", 5 April 2017.
    Introducing the "prafistes" according to Brice Teinturier, and applying Christophe Guilluy's concepts of "La France périphérique" vs. "metropolisation" to the situation of 2017.
  20. "The bridges of May", 1 May 2017.
    Why the "bridges" metaphor, generally used for the numerous holidays offered by the French calendar each May, is particularly fitting in the election context.
  21. "Disruptive" , 8 May 2017.
    On a handful of rules of French political life that seemed graved in stone but that will now need to be erased from the textbooks.
  22. "The end of ridicule?", 15 May 2017.
    Why the Fifth Republic is hostage to a persistent court ‘habitus’ that characterises the "republican monarchy" deplored since the 1960s, and how difficult it will be to eradicate it.
  23. "It’s the semantics, stupid!", 31 May 2017.
    On how stony the road to reforming the French social model will be, and how French trade unionism has followed since 1906 an ideological road-map on the semantics of distrust and perceived contempt.
  24. "The Charisma Bonus", 12 June 2017.
    Following the first round of the legislative election, some questions, raised by Max Weber's famous definition of "charisma".
  25. "La grande coalition", 22 June 2017.
    A final post about overcoming the entrenched left-right divide through a wave of new faces and a new diversity of profiles in the Assemblée Nationale. And: apologies to the Fifth Republic.
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