Saturday, 19 May 2012

politics in France

Yesterday, 18th May, was the deadline for candidates' names to go forward for the parliamentary elections.  The Left has been trying to form an accord in 55 constituencies where the Front National (which was in third place with 18% of the vote in the presidential election) has a chance of winning, by standing one candidate, from the party of the left with the best chance.  The Front de Gauche, consisting of the Parti de Gauche and the Parti Communiste, has not been able to  reach agreement with the Parti Socialiste.  The Greens, the other party in this "coalition", have less say, because their vote in the presidential was so small at 2.3%.  But the head of their party, Cecile Duflot, has got ministerial post. Anyway, agreement has mostly not been reached.  Pity.  The Front National may well elect one or more deputies next month.  Marine Le Pen is certainly cock-a-hoop, especially at the apparent disunity of the Left.  As well she might be.

In other news, a Francois Hollande election pledge was to return to a five-day week for schools.  At the moment there is no school on Wednesdays or Saturdays.  From now they will have the choice - Wednesday mornings or Saturday mornings.  The teachers are against a return to five days, and the tourism industry is against a return to Saturdays, as it says people won't go away for the weekend so much.  The school day is long, from about 8 a.m. to as late as 6 p.m. in secondary schools, though there is a two-hour lunch break for most.  It is quite hard to get a response from many offices which deal with administration of various kinds on Wednesdays, as they are mostly staffed by women of an age to have children at school, and very many of these women work a four-day week so as to be able to take care of their children on Wednesdays.  Women's participation in the workforce is high, largely because of the amount of state-funded childcare which is available.  There is free full-day care available for children from as young as two, so long as they are toilet trained.

So you see, it's all a bit different on this side of the Channel.  Fabulous health system, lots of tedious bureaucracy, bakeries to die for, everything closed on Sundays.  No car tax.  VAT at 19% on lots of things.  Everyone goes on holiday at the same time.  Concept of customer service non-existent. No school uniforms.

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