From Notre Dame’s Flames, a United France?

Helene Fouquet and Anne Swardson
From Notre Dame’s Flames, a United France?

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Emmanuel Macron had planned to speak to the French people last night, but not like this.

Barely an hour before he was to lay out his response to the concerns behind 22 weeks of Yellow Vests demonstrations, flames shot up from Notre Dame Cathedral. The president raced to the scene of the disaster after delaying his speech and vowed live on television to rebuild the 850-year-old landmark with public donations.

It’s his chance to unite a bitterly divided country. But will French citizens beset by high taxes and high unemployment equate rebuilding a cathedral with supporting Macron’s agenda?

Less than a third of French people say he’s doing a good job. His program has been hamstrung by protests by the Yellow Vests — a grass-roots movement protesting inequality, with occasional racist and violent overtones — and every side of the opposition. He has few political allies, and his monarchical leadership style offends even his supporters.

The hope is that the Notre Dame disaster will help him rebuild support. Already, France’s two leading luxury billionaires have pledged 300 million euros for the effort.

“He can’t be seen as using this moment of widespread grief,’’ says political analyst Bruno Cautres, a Sciences Po teacher who cycles to work every morning past the cathedral. “But at the same time, people will expect all politicians to start working together, first for Notre Dame and hopefully, beyond Notre Dame.”

Global Headlines

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War chest edge | Fundraising totals for 2020 candidates show the advantage of being an incumbent president — and the challenge for Democrats, who are raising less money and still have to compete among themselves before taking on Trump. The Trump campaign and joint committees ended the first quarter with $48.9 million in the bank, more than three times as much as any of the potential challengers in a crowded Democratic field.

Speed voting | Indonesia moves fast for a young democracy. It will deploy about 7.2 million poll workers to help 191 million citizens vote for a new president and several thousand lawmakers — in just six hours. The world’s largest single-day democratic election will see President Joko Widodo — who’s leading in official polls — pitted against former general Prabowo Subianto, who’ve both sought to focus on bread-and-butter issues like the price of staples, jobs and the economy. 

Democratic demands | Congressional Democrats issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and other financial institutions to obtain long-sought documents indicating whether foreign nations tried to influence U.S. politics. The move signals an escalation of their probes into Trump’s finances and any dealings with Russians, with Attorney General William Barr now expected to send Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Congress and make it public on Thursday.

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Trump has announced plans to send some migrants caught crossing the southern border into the U.S. to so-called sanctuary cities — local governments that enact policies protecting undocumented immigrants — touching off criticism from House Democrats.

Billionaire Foxconn founder Terry Gou said he’s considering a run for Taiwan’s presidency, adding to the field of potential challengers against the island’s leader.

And finally ... India’s marathon election is being fought in the skies with private jets and helicopters. Problem is, there’s not enough to go around. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cash-rich BJP booked most of the nation’s available private air fleet, leaving few options for the main opposition Congress party, Anurag Kotoky and Shruti Srivastava report. Indian elections are famous for using almost any means to disrupt opponents’ campaigns. But this kind of rivalry hasn't extended to the sky before now.

 

--With assistance from Jon Herskovitz, Kathleen Hunter and Daniel Ten Kate.

To contact the authors of this story: Helene Fouquet in Paris at hfouquet1@bloomberg.netAnne Swardson in Paris at aswardson@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ruth Pollard at rpollard2@bloomberg.net, Karl Maier

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