Eric Cantona enters French presidential race

The former Manchester United football player, part-time Hollywood actor and potential politician Eric Cantona has announced he is vying for the support of 500 elected officials in order to run in the French presidential election in April.

Cantona wrote in a letter to mayors, “as you know, aside from my professional activities which led me to a high level sporting career, I am an attentive citizen, an engaged citizen.”

The letter, which was subsequently published in French paper Libération, explained his main motivation was to bring justice to the “millions of families who are distanced from the public authorities and whose daily suffering is forgotten.”

According to the Libération, Cantona’s candidature is unhelpful for both the left- and right-wing parties as his proposition to tackle social injustice and appeal to “engaged citizens” transcends political divides – he could attract voters from both sides.

Cantona’s actions reflect those of French actor and comedian Coluche who, in 1980, announced his candidacy for the French presidential elections in 1981. Coluche eventually dropped out of the race.

Cantona’s foray into France’s political landscape is symptomatic of the problems facing the French electorate in the run up to April.

The main candidates, Eva Joly (Green Party), François Hollande (socialist party), Marine le Pen (front national) and (potentially) Nicolas Sarkozy (UMP), have already begun bickering over a range of policies, some more plausible than others.

Last week President Nicolas Sarkozy’s aides made it clear he wanted to implement a controversial financial transactions tax (FTT) sooner rather than later, regardless of backing from Germany and the rest of Europe. The European Commission is in the process of reviewing a potential FTT with a view to implementing it across the European Union in 2014.

When German chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured above with Sarkozy) affirmed in Paris on January 9 she would wait for the European Commission’s conclusions on the FTT, the French budget minister and spokesperson for the government Valérie Pécresse finally clarified France’s position: “the idea is that France drives the European directive forward…gives a boost of energy to motorise this tax,” Pécresse said on French television channel France 2.

“This tax only makes sense if it is implemented across Europe…If France puts it in place alone, it would clearly be sidestepped in the long term,” she added.

Sarkozy’s main political rival, Francois Hollande, criticised his timely push for a FTT. “I try to be coherent – I am not like Nicolas Sarkozy, I do not change my mind according to the circumstances,’ Hollande fumed. Sarkozy famously rejected the tax in a television debate in 1999 labelling it “an absurdity.”

“He has come up with this idea a few weeks before the presidential election…because he is clearly going to propose increasing value-added tax in a few days,” Hollande added during a television interview on Canal +.

With polls showing a tightening gap in voter preference for favourite Hollande and rival Sarkozy, everything is up for grabs in the upcoming elections. Perhaps another year dominated by political surprises and macro upheavals awaits Europe’s troubled fund managers.

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