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U.S. Presidential Election Turns France's Attention To Their Own Establishment


In the days since his election, Donald Trump met with President Obama. He started assembling choices for his cabinet and has called foreign leaders - among them, France's president, Francois Hollande. Sylvie Kauffmann is editorial director and columnist for Le Monde, the French newspaper. And she joins us from Paris. Thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: What has been the range of reaction to Donald Trump's election throughout France?

KAUFFMANN: Of course, the first reaction was surprise and shock because, as most people, the French had also bet on Hillary Clinton's victory. Since then, the polls have shown that most people are concerned.

You know, people don't know much about Donald Trump. They are worried about the statements that have made him famous. And there's also a lot of concerns about the impact on domestic elections in France, for instance.

SIMON: Now, your newspaper has written that, faced with Trump's America-first foreign policy, Europe needs to embrace a Europe-first foreign policy. What would that be?

KAUFFMANN: Well, yes. The meaning, basically, is that there's a transition period now. There are 10 weeks. Instead of waiting for the president-elect to say what he wants to do with Europe, since, when he has been showing interest, it's been mostly disdain, Europe should seize the initiative and say what it wants to do, what kind of relationship it wants with the United States and how this relationship should be organized.

SIMON: According to the polls, President Hollande has an approval rating of only 4 percent. And I wonder if Marine Le Pen, the National Front and her supporters think that there is some kind of encouragement in Donald Trump's victory in the United States.

KAUFFMANN: Yes. This is another reason for concern (laughter) in France in particular because we have this presidential election in not even six months from now. And Marine Le Pen is already on top of the polls for the first round.

The election result in the U.S. has really, I think, emboldened her. And she's - she was one of the first European politicians to congratulate Donald Trump on Wednesday morning. She sent her congratulations on Twitter.

This wave of populism and of discontent, which has started with the Brexit vote in June - now in the U.S. And she hopes that the third stage will be France.

SIMON: I wonder if you and your colleagues at Le Monde have wondered if journalists in France might be underestimating the strength of the National Front in a way that journalists and pundits in the United States underestimated Donald Trump's electoral strength.

KAUFFMANN: It's a discussion we're having, absolutely. But the National Front has been around for more than 20 years now. We have seen the rise of this movement in the polls election after election. What our discussion is more focused on now is whether we understand the deep roots of this phenomenon.

Why are these people angry? Why are blue-collar workers deserting the Communist Party and Socialist Party to join the National Front?

SIMON: Sylvie Kauffmann, who is editorial director of Le Monde, thanks very much for being with us.

KAUFFMANN: Good to be with you. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.