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NewsletterFebruary 2017

Winter in the French Alps

The Mont Blanc from the village of Cordon.

Le Môle from the village of Mont Saxonnex.

The Alps and clouds covering the Arve Villey from Mont Saxonnex.

The Alps and the Arve Villey from Cordon.

Burgundy in Winter

Frost covered vineyard.

Trees covered in frost.

Forest road.

French Presidential Election

The 2017 French presidential election is in full swing. With first round voting scheduled for April 23rd and a second round May 7th. The main candidates are, François Fillon (Les Républicains, center-right), Marine Le Pen (Front national, right-wing populist), Emmanuel Macron (En Marche!, center) and Benoît Hamon (Parti socialiste, left). With outsiders as Jean-Luc Mélenchon (La France insoumise, left), Yannick Jadot (Europe Ècologie - Les Verts, center-left), Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout la France, right), Philippe Poutou (Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste, far-left), Nathalie Arthaud (Lutte Ouvrière, far-left) and Jacques Cheminade (Solidarité et progrès).
This election marks the first time in France's Fifth Republic, that a president - François Hollande will not seek reelection after a first term. According to opinion polls Hollande is the most unpopular president in modern French history.
Initially it was thought this election was François Fillon's to lose. Fillon's come from behind win in Les Républicains primary in November seemed all he needed to be victorious in May. Hollande's record discredited his Parti socialiste in the eyes of many voters to the point where its candidate, Hamon could come in fourth or even fifth in first round voting. All that changed for Fillon, when in late January it was discovered that he paid (with public money) his Welsh wife - Penelope up to €10,000 a month as a parliamentary assistant when Fillon was a deputy in France's National Assembly. Penelope was also paid large sums to work for a literary publication owned by a friend of Fillon. This 'affair' is now know as 'Penelopegate' in France.
It's not illegal for French MPs to hire family members, they have a staff budget. Fillon also hired two of his children but for someone who wants to cut down on government spending and downsize the French civil service, it sure looks hypocritical. Fillon has said he'll step aside if indicted, it's not clear what work Penelope did but there is now a police investigation and if it's found she was being paid for doing nothing, then an indictment could be in the works.
Where does this leave the election? Well Le Pen must be loving it, as she spins Penelopegate to show an out of touch political establishment and how France is ready to elect her à la Donald Trump. That begs the question, could Le Pen be elected? Anything is possible but one big difference between France and the US is that France elects its president by popular vote. Le Pen would need to get a majority, something her Front national hasn't had an easy time doing outside of a few municipalities. Also Le Pen is running with the support of her Front national and not the support of one of France's more traditional political parties.
The real wildcard in this election is Macron. He was Hollande's aide and then Finance Minister but left in August 2016 to start En Marche! He's doing better than many thought and could make it into the second round in the wake of Penelopegate. Macron's running from the center, as neither left or right. In recent history that hasn't been a great recipe for winning a presidential election but maybe times have changed. The fact that Hamon, aka, France's Bernie Sanders received the Parti socialiste nomination opens up some room for Macron and the support from those in the Parti socialiste who are more social democrats than socialists. Hamon's main policy proposal is universal income of €700 per month for all, regardless of income.

Getting Close

With taxes that is. If you want to get the jump on your tax filing. I work with American accountants, Barron Harper and Taxes for Expats LLP.

Web Resources

Fluent French: You're just an email away from improving your French! Sign up for Fluent French's free newsletter today and get a free sample lesson.
French Country Adventures: Embrace the magic of the French countryside on convivial market adventures in the heart of Gascony, the Pays Basque and Provence, offered from early spring to late fall.
Moneytis & Neomy: Moneytis is a platform that compares all money transfer operators between 2 countries and helps you find the cheapest one. Neomy is a robot that send alerts when exchange rates fluctuate significantly, hence indicating that there might be an opportunity for a money transfer.

Winter Reading

The Dud Avocado: Follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s. Edith Wharton and Henry James wrote about the American girl abroad, but it was Elaine Dundy's Sally Jay Gorce who told us what she was really thinking.
The Paris Wife: Chicago, 1920: Hadley Richardson is a quiet twenty-eight-year-old who has all but given up on love and happiness-until she meets Ernest Hemingway. Following a whirlwind courtship and wedding, the pair set sail for Paris, where they become the golden couple in a lively and volatile group-the fabled 'Lost Generation'-that includes Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Suite Française: Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart.
Fanny in France: Fanny is a girl who knows a lot about food and cooking since she's grown up in and around the famous restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California. When Fanny's mother, Alice Waters, the chef and owner of Chez Panisse, starts to watch her favorite old French movies, Fanny knows soon they'll be packing their bags and traveling to France for a visit.

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