Ideas on Europe

French elections

France 2022: Echoes of 2002

Albrecht Sonntag |

Like many French citizens, I vividly remember the 8 o’clock news on the evening of the 21st of April, 2002. Half an hour before, our son called us from Paris, somewhat disturbed by the exit poll rumours. When television confirmed the accession of Jean-Marie Le Pen to the second tour of the presidential election, we […]

France 2022: Stumbling blocks in collective memory

Albrecht Sonntag |

The first and so far only international football match between France and Algeria took place twenty years ago, on 6 October 2001. The starting point had been the sustained euphoria around the multiethnic character of Les Bleus, the French national team, winners of the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship, and their emblematic leader […]

France 2022: And then there was war.

Albrecht Sonntag |

French election campaigns are usually desperately navel-gazing. Foreign policy issues are all but absent from the debate. And even in ‘ordinary’ times, all mainstream evening news programmes consider international news a toxic audience killer. But the war in Ukraine has swept everything else in the background and changed the campaign dynamic. It has also put […]

France 2022: The credibility gap

Albrecht Sonntag |

There is no doubt that French politics have been ever strongly tilting to the right for months now. It’s not even exaggerated to claim that the political discourse is dominated, if not polluted, by far-right vocabulary and semantics. Want to study first-hand the mechanisms of the Overton window? This is the place. Paradoxically, at the […]

France 2022: Why June is more important than April

Albrecht Sonntag |

In France, the presidential election monopolises all the attention. Of candidates and non-candidates, activists and voters, media and pollsters, domestic and foreign observers. That’s understandable. The playbook is irresistible: rhetorically overblown visions of society collide in a dramaturgy replete with plot twists and cliffhangers, the absence of any post-election compromise allows for a merciless showdown, […]

France 2022: Back on the couch

Albrecht Sonntag |

How fitting: this spring, ARTE, the brainy French-German TV channel, will broadcast a second season of ‘En thérapie’, the French version of ‘In Treatment’ (itself based on the Israeli TV hit “Be Tipul”). 35 new episodes of people on the psychiatrist’s couch, composing what Le Monde called ‘an immobile travel across French society in the […]

France 2017: La grande coalition

Albrecht Sonntag |

Ever since I started to talk to the French about their political system and listened to their perceptions of what was going wrong in the Fifth Republic – a little more than three decades now – I had this impression, unbacked by any robust statistical evidence, of a quite large majority at the centre of […]

France 2017: The Charisma Bonus

Albrecht Sonntag |

It’s time to take your good old Max Weber out of the shelf again. His definitions of sources of authority are as pertinent as they have ever been. What did he write about ‘charisma’ again? ‘The exemplary character of an individual person’, ‘endowed with specifically exceptional qualities’, and by whom ‘new normative patterns are revealed’ […]

France 2017: It's the semantics, stupid!

Albrecht Sonntag |

Emmanuel Macron’s entry on the diplomatic scene – from the NATO and G7 summits last week to the meeting with Vladimir Putin on Monday – may already be regarded as a positive and very encouraging achievement, but everybody, in France and elsewhere, agrees that the new President’s real and primordial challenge is the capacity to […]

France 2017: The end of ridicule?

Albrecht Sonntag |

For over forty years, since Maurice Duverger coined the expression in 1974, ‘The Republican monarchy’ has no doubt been the most frequently used metaphor for the Fifth Republic. In countless books, essays and articles, the presidential system and all its corollaries –power, pomp and protocol – have been portrayed as a legacy of pre-Revolutionary, absolute […]

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