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U.S. Republican Hopefuls Set For Last Debate of 2015; Jedi School in Manhattan Gives Fans Workout; A Flurry of Diplomatic Activity to Solve Middle East Crises; Oil Prices Continue Slide; Surge in Second Round Voting Prevents National Front Takeover in France. Aired 11:00a-12:00p ET

Aired December 14, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:12] BECKY ANDERSON, HOST: Diplomatic overdrive: as the year comes to a close, international heavyweights are trying to find solutions

to the world's conflicts. We will have live reports on the efforts afoot in Syria, in Libya and in Yemen.

Also ahead tonight, the stage is set as the U.S. Republican presidential hopefuls get ready to debate for the last time this year where

the campaigns are gearing up.

Plus, in Las Vegas this hour where the campaigns are gearing up.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There were stories about what happened.


ANDERSON; The force also awakens here in Abu Dhabi. Ahead of the Star Wars premiere in Los Angeles, some special guests join us here on the

set. That is coming up a little later in the show.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World with Becky Anderson.

A very good evening. At just after 8:00 here in the UAE.

We begin with new diplomatic efforts to bring peace to three countries in this region: Syria,

Libya and Yemen.

Right now, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is in Paris for talks on the Syrian civil war. On Tuesday, he heads to Moscow for more talks on the


Four years of relentless war has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions. And in Libya, two major warring factions now look

poised to sign a unity agreement in more Morocco this Wednesday. It will be a huge step in a country plagued by chaos ever since Moammar Gadhafi was

driven from power in 2011 and killed in a violent uprising.

Finally, Yemen, a seven day truce set to take effect in just under five hours. That as fresh talks start in Switzerland on Tuesday.

All out war broke out at the start of this year when Houthi rebels backed by Iran seized the presidential palace. Saudi Arabia has been

leading a coalition against them.

Well, three stories with a familiar cast of faces between them. And we are tracking all of these stories for you as they develop.

Our former bureau chief Jill Dougherty is in Moscow for us this hour. CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is standing by in Beirut. And CNN's Nic Robertson,

who has reported extensively from inside Libya, is in Geneva.

Jill, I want to come to you first. I want to talk Syria. Has any progress been made in the attempts to reconcile the U.S. and Russian

positions on Syria ahead of this meeting in Moscow between John Kerry and his counterpart and the Russian president?

JILL DOUGHERTY, FRM. CNN MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF: You know, Becky, I think you would have to say that's precisely what they're going to try to

do here. It's not only Secretary Kerry meeting with his counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister, but it's

also this very important meeting with President Putin, because after all, President Putin is the

person who makes the decisions in this country, and it's very important for Secretary Kerry to sit down with him, hear his positions and try to work

something out.

They're pushing toward that meeting that would be taking place at the United Nations on Friday.

But I have to tell you, just a few minutes ago, there was a statement that was issued by the

Russian foreign ministry, and it was pretty tough, specifically talking about the visit by Secretary Kerry. It started out by saying the U.S. says

that Russia is isolated. It called that statement absurd, that's a quote. It said they can try -- the Americans can try -- to convince themselves

that sanctions are working and that they're effective, but, of course, the Russians would argue they aren't.

And then finally they were talking about Syria and they said, why aren't you cooperating, United States, with Russia on Syria?

And then finally a broadside against Turkey, and that's been the theme for several days now. They said, you know, the United States signed an

agreement with Russia on safety in the skies, that military agreement to avoid accidents in sky with airstrikes that they've been carrying out. And

they said, and for some reason they can't even assure that their own ally Turkey is on board with that.

So, this is quite a surprisingly harsh statement coming from the foreign ministry. We'll have to see what Secretary Kerry meets when he

sits down with both Secretary Lavrov, Minister Lavrov, and President Putin.

ANDERSON: And, of course, Russia in lockstep with the Syrian regime when it comes to the Syrian civil war.

All right, Jill, thank you. Busy week, then, for John Kerry.

Paris today, in Moscow Tuesday where he is likely to try to move forward the results of what are known as the Riyadh talks on Syria. And

the focus: ISIS. And that, it seems, the new focus in Libya, too.

Nick Paton Walsh, John Kerry and global powers in Rome on Sunday to endorse a UN-backed deal for a unity government. But will this deal get

the backing of rival governments in Libya and warring factions on the ground? That is the big question.

[11:05:35] NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And it seems at this stage that it probably has the best chance we've seen so far

in the past four years since Moammar Gadhafi was thrown from power.

Now, just to wind it back, why do we need this agreement? Well, at this stage Libya is effectively split two, maybe three ways. There is one

predominantly islamist group in the capital Tripoli called Libya Dawn, who run their own government there, and to the east is the more internationally

recognized government in a city called Tobruk.

Now, they've been in a civil conflict that's been throwing the country in such turmoil that it's given a third faction, ISIS in the coastal city

mostly of Sirte, a foothold in that country. They've been able to exploit the chaos there.

What we are potentially seeing after Sunday's announcement, and maybe if the meeting in Morocco on Wednesday goes well, is what people refer to

as a government of national accord. Now that would be both those two separate rival governments agreeing to share to some degree a parliament.

Most of their MPs seem to be on board, some are not, because frankly Libya's militia after the civil war are all over the place in many ways in

terms of their allegiances.

But that could see in the next month a presidential council and maybe a prime minister designate taking his seat there.

Now the issue, of course, being that that could finally bring an end to the division that has allowed ISIS to get a foothold in that country,

and then those two groups could unite to push ISIS out of Libya itself.

That's a tough prospect, but it's one the west has long had in its sights because of the proximity of Libya to the Italian coastline, the EU,

Italian government, very much involved in pushing this deal through.

Frankly, I think many also see the fall in oil revenue for both those sides in Libya as playing into this as well. They're running out of cash

to some degree.

But, with all the chaos swirling in the Middle East, some potential here for political unity, maybe albeit short-lived, maybe albeit chaotic,

but enough maybe that may put ISIS on its back foot in what people are referring to its full back position in Libya. If things go wrong, there's

the argument in Syria or Iraq, they have a place to run back to inside of Libya -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson with us tonight as well. Nick Paton Walsh, thank you.

With alarm about the rise of ISIS in Yemen, too, a big push, Nic, for peace and talks starting on Tuesday this week. How will these talks

differ from those that have come before? And who, if anybody, is prepared to concede ground, at this point, to make them work?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a very sort of tough situation that both sides, the internationally recognized

government of President Hadi is sending representatives here and the Houthis as well.

It's a troubling situation that they're walking into, the talks at the moment. The cease fire is supposed to come into effect in the middle of

the night tonight. But early this morning, I see an important Saudi special forces commander and UAE, and Emirati, special forces commander were both killed by a Houthi missile. They were trying,

these commanders, these special forces commanders, trying to push the Houthis back from shelling what we're told were civilian areas in the

city of Tai'iz.

Now, the fact that these special forces commanders were targeted tends to give some people the

belief that there was some special knowledge, some perhaps informant that gave away to the Houthis where these commanders were and that's why they

were targeted.

So, in that kind of environment, you can see that trust is at a deficit, but that's what will be needed in the days ahead for these talks.

The talks will be held way outside of Geneva in a secluded location, we understand, to keep

outside pressure, if you will, off these parties. Why would they want to try to make peace now? Because the country is in a desperate situation.

The economy, this was always one of the poorest countries in the Middle East. The economy is in absolute tatters. Civilians are suffering in

large numbers.

Saudi Arabia itself has no sort of interest in making the conflict go on longer than necessary, but

the fact is the parties are still fighting, and that's the problem. And of course ISIS and al Qaeda profiting in the meantime, Becky.

ANDERSON: Let me keep you then, Nic, very briefly.

Let's step back. This is an incredibly busy week, a massive diplomatic push, serious alarm about the rise of ISIS all over the place.

Is it any coincidence that we are now seeing these meetings on these countries all over the place? And are the right people at the table

talking at this point in order to carve some sort of success out of this diplomatic push this week?

[11:10:25] ROBERTSON: Well, certainly having Secretary Kerry and his opposite number in Russia Sergey Lavrov talking is the key sort of point of

any potential compromise to inch Syria forward at all. But part of that will be dependent on the talks held in Riyadh recently with all the

Syrian factions, and that may not have gone well to everyone's tastes.

So, I think the bit picture reason why we can see these concerted efforts right now is the absolute realization that in the chaos in the

Middle East that has grown over the past few years that ISIS, which is a threat to the west, is prospering and making hay, if you will. And this,

of course, is a concern.

But to many people, these talks right now are shaky at best. Even if you can get the two sort

of separate governments in Libya speaking together and working together, you still have the problem that they don't have the wherewithal to enforce

a peace in the country, even if you can get a peace between the government and President Hadi and the Houthis right now.

al Qaeda has profited massively in Yemen. They've taken control of towns, of ammunition, of part of Yemen's navy. In Syria as well, we see

the complexities there that ISIS continues to profit from.

So even these talks, they're coming for many people at a late stage and they don't offer all

the solutions. So I think there is a long, long way ahead on these three particular countries we're talking about here, Becky.

ANDERSON: Nic Robertson for you tonight with Nick Paton Walsh and Jill Dougherty in Moscow. To all of you, thank you.

Still to come, chilling new details about the deadly terror attacks in Paris. We're now learning that the gunmen inside the Bataclan Theater may

have received orders as the massacre was happening.

Plus, this evening, the stage is set for the next Republican U.S. presidential debate as Donald Trump loses his lead in one key state.

Taking a very short break. Back after this.


[11:15:45] ANDERSON: You're watching CNN. and Connect the World with me Becky Anderson. 15 minutes past 8:00 here in the UAE.

We are learning some heard disturbing news, new details about last month's coordinated terror attacks in Paris. A French terrorism expert now

says the ringleader of those attacks may have given direct orders to the gunman inside the Bataclan Theater as the massacre unfolded. He says based

on a witness account, it appears Abdehamid Abaaoud was instructing the attackers by cell phone from a few blocks away.

Let's bring in Paul Cruickshank for details. He's following developments from London.

What more do we know at this point, Paul?

PAUL CRUICKSHANK, CNN CORREPSONDENT: Well, Becky, stunning new revelations. This was actually published in the academic journal I edit,

CTC by this French terrorism expert Jean Charles Broussard (ph).

Startling details that Abdelhamid Abaaoud that night was outside the Bataclan, was speaking into a cell phone. He had a hands free kit. And

for about an hour appeared to be giving orders, was very, very animated, and the supposition is he was giving those orders to the three attackers

inside the Bataclan even as the attack was under way.

Also, that earlier in the evening that he had been in cell phone contact with the stadium attackers right until the point where they started

blowing themselves up, even a minute past the moment when the first of the stadium attackers blew himself up.

So this all suggests a large degree of command and control over the plot from the field commander on the ground that night Abdelhamid Abaaoud.

Why is this significant, Becky? Well, it just shows that the sheer complexity of this, the fact that ISIS ringleader on the ground can stage-

manage a rolling multi-hour attack in real-time. And this raises what ISIS could be capable of, I think in the future from a counter-terrorism point

of view.

Very disturbing new details we're learning today.

ANDERSON: Yeah. And this -- one assumes, at least, will help inform the ongoing investigation. And you make a very good point, why is this

significant? Well, we could see this sort of thing again.

How is that investigation going in France? And clearly, it's across border investigation at this point. Where are they?

CRUICKSHANK: Well, this is a gigantic, multi-national investigation. The epicenter clearly in France also important elements to the

investigation, in Belgium right now where many of the -- well, several of the plotters lived. They're trying to piece it all together, they're

trying to figure out who in the top leadership of ISIS orchestrated this. There are several persons of interest that they now have when it comes to

the overseas footprint in this plot.

And of course, they're still trying to find several of those who they suspect participated in one way, shape, form or another in the attack, and

that includes Salah Abdesalam, the so-called eighth attacker. The trail went cold for him the day after the attack.

But also the bomb maker in the plot still believed to be at large, and others with association such as Mohammad Abrini (ph) still at large.

So this is a huge ongoing investigation. The concern is that ISIS is plotting a rolling series of

terrorist attacks against Europe. That's why we've had all this concern in Geneva in the past few days. Counter-terrorism services across the

continent on the lookout. More than 1,500 at least many believe to have come back from Syria and Iraq, and that's just the ones they know about,


ANDERSON: Paul Cruickshank is in London for you tonight. Your analysis always appreciated. Paul, thank you.

Live from Abu Dhabi, you're watching Connect the World with me Becky Anderson.

Coming up, the Republicans vying to be U.S. president are gearing up for their next debate. We're live in Vegas for you with a look at what we

can expect.

First up, though, tonight, find out how a bad experience with a taxi driver turned into a

business opportunity. That's next in African Start-up.



[11:23:18] UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When Shawn Manuel (ph) needs to order a taxi to get around

Lagos, he uses an app called Tranzit. The woman behind the app, Ugochi Obuman (ph) (ph).

UGOCHI OBUMAN (ph), CREATOR, TRANSIT: It was an idea that I had based on a very bad experience about three years ago. I tried to book a cab.

And the driver had already given me a price before I got to my destination, he had changed the price. And I said, we need to build something to solve

the transportation problem in Nigeria, because it's frustrating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ugochi Obuman (ph) and two partners started the business in 2012, two

years before the popular car ordering service Uber launched in the country. They wanted to capitalize on the multi-million taxi industry there.

OBUMAN (ph): At the beginning, we had a challenge with the drivers, because they were new to the system. I mean, most of these drivers are

older, so they don't understand, you know, the smartphones, how they work. So there was like an educational process.

Then you also had the aspect of getting the customers to understand that it's not the same kind of service as when you get a cab on the road

and then you're negotiating with the driver. There are no negotiations here. You know what you're going to pay. And then you just pay at the end

of the day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In 2013, she expanded the business from taxi bookings to being able to schedule pickup and delivery of goods.

OBUMAN (ph): The delivery side of the business -- so we have some merchants who hire delivery drivers daily, and they pay us a certain fee

for that. And then we also hire some weekly, and then you have regular people who just want someone delivered from point a to b.

On the taxi side of things, we pretty much make money from the commissions on the rides.

2013, there was a time when we did at least 20 or 50 jobs in a week. I was extremely happy that we had done that. Now you're talking over 200

jobs or 300 jobs in a week. So you can see the growth.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And with business in Lagos going well, Obuman (ph) is looking forward.

OBUMAN (ph): We currently have expansion plans to go into other cities in Nigeria before the end of the year. In fact, a significant chunk

of my time has been spent on just the expansion plan.

I want to make sure we have saturated the market in Nigeria before we go into other countries.



[11:30:35] ANDERSON: Well, this hour we have been looking at what are, it seems, at least, some of the last-ditch efforts to solve several

conflicts in this region. The war in Syria is one such struggle, the civil war that as you know has drawing every major world power and regional actor

over the past four years. Now with civilians caught as ever in the middle.

More than 40 people reported killed in a recent air strike on a rebel- held town near Damascus.

Nick Paton Walsh has the story. and we warn you, his report does contain disturbing images.


WALSH: This may be the sound of the new normal over rebel hell Douma, but pause and imagine looking up to see the bombs themselves.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar.

Allahu Akbar.

Allabhu Akbar.

WALSH; ISIS is not here, but barely a week passes without the regime slaughter of rebels, this time activists said, it was Russian jets using

cluster bombs.

Russia denies targeting civilians, and CNN can't verify the claims.

A few moments of life here stand out in the dust and death.

The fight against ISIS takes the headlines in Syria. but it is the brutality of the regime that takes by far the most lives.

"I want mother," he's saying.

He stops and pauses. I think he's hurt, but he's just thanking god he's alive.

And here this man says, "leave me be. I'm calm. My daughter has just been martyred."

One of the places hit: a school. It's unclear how many children died here or how the bombs came to fall upon it. In fact, after four years of

this, what's almost more shocking is that school was even open.

Asked where Syria's extremism came from, many activists point to this carnage, the crucible of Syria's humanity.

Nick Paton Walsh, CNN, Beirut.


ANDERSON: We'll switch for a moment and do some economic news.

Investors' eyes are on the U.S. Federal Reserve this week. Their jitters not helped by the fact that oil prices fell against this Monday.

The benchmark oil contract dipping under $36 or dollars on the barrel seeing a seven-year low.

Now, should we expect any of the major producers then to start cutting production to protect the price? That is the question I put to John

Defterios, my colleague and CNN's emerging markets editor.


JOHN DEFTERIOS, EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR; Becky, when it comes to the state of oil companies, they are in a fight for market share that's going

to carry through 2016. It's the two largest exporters in the world that are driving this, Saudi Arabia and Russia. King Salman is going to have

his first budget come out after taking the throne in January of last year, likely to cut spending and even subsidies on petrol, which has been

untouched so far, only 14 cents a liter.

At the same time, Vladimir Putin is having his finance minister saying we're preparing for $30 oil in 2016. And his deputies suggesting $40 to $60

for seven years, basically going to fight to the end here, both producing around 10.5 million barrels a year, both at a record.

So, what does this mean? We have 3 billion barrels in reserve right now. That's a record. We've never seen so much in storage. And they're

suggesting, the IAEA at least out of Paris, said that we could see another 10 percent added on in the first six months of 2016, another 300 million

barrels. It's extraordinary.

ANDERSON: And this with many people predicting a worsening economic global climate next year, which is obviously difficult for the oil

producers as well.

What about Iran in all of this? Becuase here we see the irony. They are looking to boost production at the moment.

DEFTERIOS: Yeah, in fact we have a very big meeting of the IAEA on Tuesday. We should get indications that Iran could have the sanctions

lifted as early as January 7.

Now, Saudi Arabia and Russia have been pushing the U.S. shale producers out of the market. We could see destruction of a million to a

million-and-a-half barrels of production by the end of 2016. What's the plan by Iran? They want to fill that void almost immediately. They're

suggesting once the sanctions are lifted, they'll add half a million barrels a day immediately, and then between March and December of next

year, they'll take up another million barrels.

So basically we're going to have this glut carry on with the major producers Saudi Arabia, Russia, Iran, as you suggested, and then Iraq still

producing well over 4 million barrels a day.

Again, they want to hold onto the customers, not so worried about the prices, but OPEC revenues, it's an interesting number, at the peak back in

2012, they were earning at $1.2 trillion a year from exports. That number is now at $400 billion. That would go below $400 billion in 2016 if we saw

oil around $30 to $50 a barrel. No, new gleaming buildings here in the Gulf. A cutback on spending. But right now everybody wants to fight for

the market share, not for the price to be higher.


[11:36:10] ANDERSON: John Defterios on the oil markets for you.

Well, we are just one day away from the final U.S. Republican presidential debate of the year hosted right there on CNN.

You are looking at live pictures out of Las Vegas where nine candidates will take the stage for the main debate.

Donald Trump will again be front and center based on his polling numbers. Ted Cruz will be right next to him. A new poll showing Cruz now

leading Trump in the first state to hold a contest for the presidential nomination, that is the state of Iowa.

Well, CNN's Athena Jones joining me now from Vegas. And Athena, neither of the leader contenders is short of something to say. Trump's

remarks, particularly those recently on banning Muslims from the U.S., clearly creating more than just headlines, particularly in this region.

So, what can we expect from him and the rest of this line-up in what is this latest, and last showdown of the year?


Well, I would suspect that Trump will continue to press his case on that proposed ban. He certainly hasn't backed down so far.

But as you mentioned, Cruz is emerging as one of Trump's top rivals now. That poll you mentioned is the third poll in recent days to show Cruz

surging ahead in the key early state of Iowa. That's a very first state, as you mentioned, to hold a contest next year, it's just under about seven

weeks away.

But of course on the stage behind me, Trump is still center stage. He's still the frontrunner nationally, but because of Cruz's surge, we know

that Trump won't be the only target tomorrow night as these candidates try to stand out on that debate stage.


JONES (voice-over): Only one day away from the last GOP debate of the year in Las Vegas. And for these 13 candidates, one last chance to make an

impression, heading into the holiday season.

The main debate lineup: seeing most of the same players as last time. And no surprise here: frontrunner Donald Trump again taking center stage.

Chris Christie moving up to the main stage. Trump will be flanked by Dr. Ben Carson and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who's now surging in Iowa, according

to this FOX News poll released Sunday.

On Saturday, "The Des Moines Register" and Bloomberg Politics releasing their own poll, showing Cruz ahead of Trump by 10 percentage

points in the state.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'm very glad Donald Trump is in this election.

TRUMP: That is a little bit of a romance. I like him.

JONES: Their bromance beginning to wane after audio from a private fundraiser captured Cruz questioning Trump's judgment.

TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you what: my judgment's great. I built a multi, multi, multibillion dollar company. Some of the greatest assets in the

world. I have good judgment. I have great judgment. I would say I have far better judgment than Ted.

JONES: Trump later tweeting, "I was disappointed that Ted Cruz would speak behind my back, get caught and then deny it."

And after Trump said this about Cruz's temperament.

TRUMP: You look at the way he's dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a -- frankly, like a little bit of a maniac, you're never

going to get things done that way.

JONES: Cruz tweeting, "In honor of my friend, Donald Trump," with a link to "Flashdance's" popular song, "Maniac."

JONES: Carson, once Trump's nearest rival, now dropping in the polls.

DR. BEN CARSON (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Poll numbers go up and down. I wasn't excited when they were up. I'm not excited when they're

down. People will make the correct choice.

JONES: Heightened fears of terrorism around the world and right here at home could make for fireworks on stage tomorrow night.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This is a new environment inside the campaign right now. And so that -- this will be the first time

that the candidates take the stage in that new landscape.


JONES: Now several candidates are going to be hoping to have a breakthrough performance tomorrow night in order to give their campaigns a

boost. And for anyone wondering whether Trump is ready to attack his now top rival Ted Cruz on that debate stage, he all but assured us those hits

will be coming telling Jake Tapper on State of the Union, "I expect to get it on" -- Becky.

[11:40:23] ANDERSON: Athena is in Vegas for you. And a reminder, CNN will host that

final Republican debate of the year -- thank you Athena. Wolf Blitzer moderating. Coverage starts Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. Eastern time in the U.S.,

that is 3:00 a.m. Wednesday in Abu Dhabi. You can work that out wherever you are watching in the world.

Or, do watch the replay, 8:00 p.m. Wednesday in London, if it would suit you better. Midnight in Abu Dhabi right here on CNN.

We are taking a very short break. Back after this with a little more tonight. A blow for France's far right National Front, but what was behind

their defeat in regional polls? We've got the very latest from Paris for you. That is after this short break. Stay with us.

Plus, millions of Star Wars fans are gearing up for the latest edition from the franchise. But just about anyone can get in Jedi shape. We join

a Jedi fitness club, after this.


[11:45:24] ANDERSON: We are back here with CNN -- well, you are with CNN. You're back with Connect the World.

An update on a story you may have heard about, a reported stabbing in Paris earlier today. Now, prosecutors telling CNN a kindergarten teacher

made up the attack. He had claimed that a masked man shouting support for ISIS stabbed him in the throat then ran away. Paris still on edge after

last month's terror attacks killed 130 people.

Well, France's far right National Front Party vowing a comeback in presidential elections in two years time. After failing to win control of

a single region in Sunday's second round of voting.

It was a huge turnaround from last week, it has to be said.

For more of what was behind this defeat, CNN's Jim Bittermann is in Paris for us.

And it was a huge turnaround given Marine Le Pen's party was ahead in six regions in the first round. What happened, Jim?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, basically everyone else in the mainstream parties ganged up on Marie Le Pen and her

National Front, or her extreme right party. It -- first there was a huge turnout, difference in turnout between the first round

of elections and the second. The percentage went up by 10 percent in terms of the turnout figures.

Secondly, the mainstream parties, especially the Socialist Party, worked against Marine Le Pen. In fact, the socialists ordered that two of

their leaders who had lists in the northern region and the southern region pull out their candidates because they weren't going to do any good, they

were probably just going to divide the vote so that the socialist voters -- and they were told to do this -- the

socialist voters were told to vote for the mainstream right republicans against Marine Le


So, that strategy worked and the National Front did not win in a single one of the 13 regions in


Having said that, they have won a higher vote score than they've ever had in the past. They've

won a number of seats in the region. In fact, they've tripled the number of seats they have in the regional governments over the past five years,


ANDERSON: And how significant, then, is all of this as we look towards a presidential election a couple years down the road?

BITTERMANN: Well, it's 18 months away, and looking down the road, in fact, I think a lot of people today, a lot of the political -- members of

the political classes, were doing a lot of introspection and a lot of self-examination, because the thing that's happened is that there's been a

steady progression of the national front here over the last five to 10 years upwards. And the mainstream parties have I think now are running a

little bit frightened about what they have to do to attract the voters that are being attracted by the National Front.

And they're thinking about that more and more.

And today, instead of a lot of celebration, in fact, there was a lot of introspection going on. There wasn't a lot of real cause for

celebration. One of the left wing politicians here said night that it's a victory for the left. They didn't do as badly as they thought. But it's

a victory without joy -- Becky.

ANDERSON: Briefly, just a month on from the Paris attacks with a socialist government and a president in charge who is polling was pretty

dismal before that attack. How do things stand now?

BITTERMANN: Well, I think we haven't seen a real presidential poll very recently, but Hollande's approval ratings jumped up more than 20

percent after the way he handled the aftermath of the Paris attacks. I suspect that after the climate conference this weekend, that's going to go even higher.

But there is a lot of movement here as far as President Hollande is concerned. His score has gone up and down and up and down and up and down

over the last few years, going mainly down. But the fact is he was granted a little bit of a reprieve because of the various ways he handled the

attacks and the climate conference.

So he's probably a little bit more popular than he was before, but there's still 18 months to go before the elections, and the big issues have

not been addressed. The big issues for the French people are things like terrorism, are things like unemployment, which is still stagnant. It's

about the same point where it was when Hollande came to power.

ANDERSON: Jim Bittermann out of Paris. Jim, thank you. And you can find all the latest on what was that the political earthquake in France.

Let's call it that. And many other stories on our website at for up to the minute reports and videos. I'm sure you know that.

I'm sure you already use the site.

Live from Abu Dhabi, this is Connect the World. Coming up, we'll take you to an exercise class. What a difference these people are making. The

force and getting fit at the same time. Taking a break. Back after this.


[11:53:42] ANDERSON: All right. Tonight's Parting Shots, we take you to a galaxy far, far away. Well, actually New York where fans of the Star

Wars franchise haven't just been watching their favorite characters, they are impersonating them and keeping fit doing it.

My colleague Clare Sebasitan went along to find out what was going on.


CLARE SEBASTIAN, JOURNALIST: The first rule of Jedi school, know how to handle your weapon.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why do you think I have my strike at an angle like this?

SEBASTIAN: Every Thursday at this lightsabre fitness class in Manhattan, Star Wars fans get to sweat it out in character, practicing

moves just like the lightsabre battles from the movies.

They're perhaps not quite to that level yet. Today's instructor, Daniel Reiser, a special education teacher, has been doing this for eight


DANIEL REISER, INSTRUCTOR, NEW YORK JEDI: Where is the fun of just simply watching something? I mean, you look at, say, a football fan.

They're going to go in the backyard and throw that football around.

It's the same kind of thing. Instead of a football, we have lightsabres.

It's a way of becoming part of something that we truly love.

SEBASTIAN: By day, these Jedis in training can be anything from a legal assistant to a kitchen designer.

By night they are united by one thing.

[11:55:02] RUSS BRIGGENAN, STUDENT, NEW YORK JEDI: It's a visceral gut thing. It just feels satisfying to pick up one of these and all of a

sudden you are a Jedi knight. You are a Sith lord.

SEBASTIAN: Star Wars has inspired a type of fandom that goes way beyond a love of watching the movies. Fans like this have to experience

it. And to really understand why, so do I.

Luckily, I've been practicing my in jokes.

You know, I have a bad feeling about this.

MARK HAMILL, ACTOR: I have a very bad feeling about this.

REISER: I always have a bad feeling about this. That still doesn't stop me.

SEBASTIAN: Whatever your skill level, this group has one core philosophy.

REISER: Once a Jedi, always a Jedi.

SEBASTIAN: So, I think I finally see the light as to what it takes to be a true Star Wars fan. There's only one thing left to say.

REISER: Jedis.

CROWD: May the force be with you

Clare Sebastian, CNN, in a Galaxy somewhere in Manhattan.


ANDERSON: Ridiculous. Well, actually not, because Clare's story inspired me to brush up on my own lightsabre skills. After all, the force

is strong here in Abu Dhabi, home to Jakku (ph). So I have brought in some professional help. Darth Vader joins me here. Pass me my lightsabre, Mr.

Stormtrooper, because you and I are going to go.

Hey, any good? You can feel the force and check out our stories about Monday night's premiere by logging onto

And as always you can go follow the stories the team is working on throughout the day by going to our Facebook page -- CNN -- what is it? Got that right as well.

And you can tweet me @BeckyCNN. I'm am Becky. That was Connect the World. Thank you for watching. Guys, thank you.