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European Elections 2017, next stop: France

by Bernard Mon Mar 27th, 2017 at 08:14:30 PM EST

After the Netherlands, France is next in line in the EU 2017 elections cycle. It'll start in about four weeks from now with the first round of presidential elections on Sunday 23 April.

There are 11 contenders for this first round and only the first two will face each other in a run off two weeks later, on Sunday 7 May.
But French voters won't be done with visiting their polling stations this spring yet: Sunday 11 June will be the first round of "legislative" elections to renew the 577 members of the National Assembly, with a second round scheduled the following Sunday, on 18 June.

To some extent, the parliamentary elections may be even more important to determine the direction of French policies, as I argued in my diary, five years ago.
But let's start with the Presidential contest.

Front-paged Frank Schnittger


The first hurdle for running is to get "sponsorship" from at least 500 elected officials: mayors, regional councilors, senators... This being France, the country with 36,000 communes and as many mayors (there are even Wiki pages for communes under 10 people and even some with no population), it leaves quite a number of options. Some candidates couldn't enough signatures and won't be running.

For this election, both "traditional" parties, the PS and LR (formerly UMP) have nominated their candidates by running primaries: the results were not quite what the pundits were expecting, because François Fillon won for LR in November and Benoit Hamon, a opponent to F.Hollande, won the PS primaries in January.
Fillon, one of the most conservative politicians on the rigth wing side, and a so-called "Thatcherite", has been plagued by the Penelopegate and other financial scandals and is now under formal criminal investigation. Yet he refused to pull out of the race, paying the price by sinking in the polls.

Hamon, decidely on the left of Hollande and Valls, is also sliding in the polls: one of the reasons is that many of his fellow PS members are more or less openly supporting E.Macron.

Speaking of polls, it looks like, for the first time since the advent of the Fifth Republic, the second round won't feature  any candidate from the PS nor the main right wing party LR (or UMP or RPR or whatever...): instead, it is expected that Marine Le Pen, the extreme right FN leader will "win" the first round. Of course, being ahead in the first round doesn't win you jack all, except a spot for the second round.

The second front-runner in the polls is Emmanuel Macron: Adviser to Hollande at the Elysée palace, then Minister of Economy  in the Manuel Valls cabinet, Macron has founded his own party "En Marche"  (On the move) a year ago after leaving the government. His program is mostly centrist neo-lib (he received the support of François Bayrou). A relative newcomer, outside of the traditional political party system, Macron quickly became the darling of the French media. For a couple of weeks now, the polls put him at the same level as Le Pen for the first round and a decisive winner in the second round.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the fifth "major" candidate (by "major", I mean: "polling above 10%"). A former Minister of Education in the early aughties, in the Lionel Jospin cabinet, and a former member of the PS which he left in 2008 to create the Parti de Gauche, he is currently polling ahead of Hamon.

To round up the list, we have six "little" candidates who are polling less than 5% (and for most, under a single percent): Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (Debout la France ), Nathalie Artaud (Lutte Ouvrière, a trotskyst party), Philippe Poutou (New Anticapitalist Party, another trotskyst party), François Asselineau, Jean Lassalle and Jacques Cheminade.

Again, all polls today do predict a second round with Macron facing Le Pen (and the former trouncing the latter); then again, polls have been shown to fail to predict the actual results quite a number of times over the past year, so we'll see.

In any case, it is most likely that the next president won't be from neither the PS not the LR party. This is unusual, since they form the two main blocks at the French National Assembly. As I wrote five years ago, the parliamentary elections follow the presidential ones since 2002 and the trend has always been for the voters to give the newly elected president a majority in parliament.

This will create a challenge for either Macron or Le Pen: what will the new majority look like? Who will support the new president?

In the case of Macron, most of the PS plus the MoDeM and other centrists would probably support him. For Le Pen, if is still not very likely that the FN would single handedly win a majority of the seats: they would probably have to seek an alliance with the most conservative elements of the right wing LR.

In any case, these two elections won't be anything like France has known for a half century. Interesting times...

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Don't be fooled by the Gaullian mystique: the most important election will be the National Assembly in June. Even under the presidential regime of the Fifth Republic, there's precious little a president can do without a majority at the Assembly.

Should Fillon or Hamon win, this would be a known tune:  a LR or PS majority would probably emerge. One could argue that Macron is a kind of PS/MoDem in disguise, so a PS majority might do the trick for him (or not). In the case of Le Pen, we are truly in uncharted territory.

by Bernard on Mon Mar 27th, 2017 at 08:35:03 PM EST
These Are the Elections That Will Decide Europe's Fate - FPIF
Most polls indicate a Le Pen vs. Macron runoff, with Macron coming out on top, but that may be dangerous thinking. Macron's support is soft. Only about 50 percent of those who say they intend to vote for him are "certain" of their vote. In comparison, 80 percent of Le Pen's voters are "certain" they will vote for her.

There are, as well, some disturbing polling indications for the second round. According to the IFOP poll, some 38 percent of Fillon's supporters say they'll jump to Le Pen -- that's 2 million voters -- along with 7 percent of Hamon voters and 11 percent of Melenchon backers.

What may be the most disturbing number, however, is that 45 percent of Melenchon voters say they won't vote at all if Macron is the anti-Le Pen candidate in the second round. Some 26 percent of Fillon's voters and 21 percent of Hamon's voters would similarly abstain.

Le Pen will need at least 15 million votes to win, and the Front has never won more than 6 million nationally. But if turnout is low, Le Pen's strongly motivated voters could put her into the Elysee Palace. In this way, France most resembles Britain prior to the Brexit vote.

by Bernard on Tue Mar 28th, 2017 at 08:12:11 PM EST

That is new. Hamon seems to crash and burn.

by generic on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 08:54:31 AM EST
Valls has switched his support to Macron.  

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 09:46:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While claiming to remain a Socialist. The PS is reacting to Benoît Hamon as Labour to Corbyn.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 11:05:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except that Corbyn is still leader of a party with considerable support, whereas Hamon is at 10% ...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 11:39:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Franck: whereas Hamon is at 10%

Whereas Hamon runs under the PS banner, a party that has been terminally weakened by five years of Hollande government with alignment to the EPP austerity policies, decreasing worker protections, more power to the police (and more police brutality) and generally doing the opposite of what he promised in 2012.

Hollande has managed to destroy the PS. Not only has he and the PS leadership shown no interest in supporting Hamon, but several prominent PS figures are publicly supporting Macron , wrecking the PS (and Hamon's) chances. Hollande himself is said to be covertly supporting Macron.

by Bernard on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 06:16:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well Macron was his personal advisor and then Economics minister.  It is one of the miracles of modern marketing (and media complicity) that Macron has managed to distance himself so successfully from Hollande. He has probably asked Hollande not to endorse him publicly  - at least not until the second round - so as to help maintain that distance.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 06:28:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is why - if the rumors about Hollande not only supporting Macron, but having suggested him to run in the first place, are any true - he is keeping away from it all: his position as a lame duck president gives him the perfect cover and Hollande may be a so-so president, but he is no fool.
by Bernard on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 08:15:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When the right wins it is time for unity. When it loses it is time to destroy the party to save the party.
by generic on Thu Mar 30th, 2017 at 12:29:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for the summary Bernard. This reminds me that we met five years ago in a ET meetup, with posters of Hollande and Sarkozy covering every available wall in Paris. What a disappointment Hollande turned out to be! The sinking of the Socialists and Republicans can not possibly be surprising.

You might find me At The Edge Of Time.
by Luis de Sousa (luis[dot]a[dot]de[dot]sousa[at]gmail[dot]com) on Tue Apr 4th, 2017 at 12:15:10 PM EST
Checking the polls today, Melenchon is increasing and closing in on Fillon. But I guess, even if he overcomes Fillon, that will just make the media drop Fillon when they are talking about the frontrunners.

I see that there is even some second round polling for Melenchon. He beats LePen (68-32) and Fillon (63-37), but loses against Macron (43-57).

How is the campaigns looking in France?

by fjallstrom on Fri Apr 7th, 2017 at 10:58:48 AM EST
This is an interesting case of a non-transitive choice. Melenchon trouces Le Pen by a much higher margin than Macron does, but then he is easily beaten by Macron...

So (except if the samples are different, but even then that would be so far above the margin of error that you could infer the phenomenon holds in the population) quite a lot of people would prefer Melenchon to LePen, prefer LePen to Macron but still prefer Macron to Melenchon...

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Apr 7th, 2017 at 01:36:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In this - Scan-resesarch 23-27 march - that I quoted for Melenchon-LePen and Melenchon-Macron, they had Macron-LePen at 70-30. And slightly different numbers of respondents. So I think essentially you have the left+middle voting against LePen and middle+right voting for Macron over Melenchon.

Pretty small poll, with 600 something respondents.

A new and larger poll is up on Wikipedia now, Kantar Sofres 5-7 april, with 1515 respondents. They have:
Macron-LePen 61-39
Melenchon-LePen 57-43
Macron-Melenchon 53-47

So same winners, but tighter races.

by fjallstrom on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 02:06:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"I call them Baby Losers" - Youth in France - Zeit
... in the public debate, it's just old people talking to old people about problems facing old people.... On the other side is the only party pledging political renewal: Front National.

Marine Le Pen, has completely rejuvenated the party ...

Last October, I said that Trump would never get elected. And last May I said the British would never vote for Brexit. That's why now all I'll say is: I don't know. But I am extremely worried. In the televised debate before last, Emmanuel Macron spoke optimistically about the country's economic situation for seven minutes. When he was done, Marine Le Pen told viewers: "You hear that? It's like pleasant music, it's nice to listen to. But what did Mr. Macron really say in the last seven minutes? Almost nothing." That is indeed a problem for Mr. Macron, that he is extremely ambiguous and optimistic and doesn't speak about the significant problems facing France. Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Macron will likely face off against each other in the second round of voting and Le Pen has a significant amount of ammunition to use against Mr. Macron. We cannot leave it to the pessimists to paint a realistic image of French society.



Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Sun Apr 9th, 2017 at 09:11:38 PM EST
A perfect setup of the opponent field and the presumptive opponent again?
by das monde on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 02:44:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Melenchon seems to be doing rather well and Hamon continues his collapse. On the first glance it looks like Hamon should drop out. Can he even do that? And how many of his voters would go over to Macron instead of voting for the commie?
And would that make a right wing restoration in the PS more or less likely?
by generic on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 07:37:12 AM EST
Considering how Hamons fall and Melenchons rise seems to mirror each other (not perfectly, though), I think part of it is the voters who could go for either are shifting to Melenchon and will probably continue to do so if he looks like the more probable left candidate to get to the second round. So at this rate, it may not matter if Hamon drops out, the voters who could vote for a commie does so either way.

Right now, Melenchon and Fillon are at 18-19 percent and LePen and Macron at 23-24 percent. Not an unbridgeable gap with two weeks left.

What will happen to the PS is an interesting question. Who will be the party leader for PS in the legislative elections if Hamon does this poorly?

by fjallstrom on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 02:14:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why I'm no longer sure that Hamon dropping out in favour of left unity would achieve anything. I read the Schulz surge in Germany as people still hoping that there is a happy end without drastic change. I suppose you can vote for the PS if want everything to stay the same but better. But you probably wouldn't vote for the far left.
by generic on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 02:25:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the perfect transferability of votes between Hamon and Mélenchon -- while trading places, for a total of around 25-27%, illustrates the discipline of the core of left-wing electors.  I believe that if Hamon formally dropped out, the transfer would be close to perfect.

However, I also believe that Mélenchon's dynamic is starting to widen. A lot of centre-left "soft supporters" of Macron are starting to get very queasy about him cosying up to the right, and I think many will transfer directly to Mélenchon. I think we have probably passed Peak Macron, but don't quote me.

It's now a four-way horse race, and it's clear that Méluche has by far the biggest "reservoir" of potential voters...


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 05:02:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Two more thoughts :
  • Fillon is profoundly unfashionable, in an impressive number of different ways, and will probably do considerably better than his polling on election day. Anecdotal evidence from right-wing voters suggest that they will hold their noses and vote for him for want of a viable alternative. Dupont-Aignan, the pseudo-neo-gaullist, will get close to zero votes, and a lot will come home from Macron.
  • This might lead to my preferred second-round scenario : Fillon vs Mélenchon. A shoo-in, and a victory for the Losers against the Winners, sociologically speaking.


It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 05:06:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This might lead to my preferred second-round scenario : Fillon vs Mélenchon.
That would assume quite a number of voters dropping Le Pen in favor of either Fillon or Mélenchon, to push her back to third place; difficult to believe at this point.
by Bernard on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 06:12:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mélenchon seemed to be the only one with lots of campaign posters up in Paris yesterday.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 05:12:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For sure, he and Le Pen have got the best ground game. Paris is definitely not Le Pen territory. But I see the same thing in Lyon, I'm not seeing a big Le Pen presence.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 06:55:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is hardly surprising: the FN vote is stronger in the small cities and suburbs rather than in metropolitan centers. The maps presented by Hervé le Bras, a demographer, are quite interesting.
by Bernard on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 07:57:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not close to French electorate sentiment, but with numbers this close - four candidates in the 18-24% range - it seems that all bets are off and any combination of the four is still possible: it all depends on which candidates are better at getting out their vote and attracting support from the minor candidates.

Looking at it from the outside, it seems likely that Le Pen and Melenchon will be better at getting out their vote and Melenchon still has a reservoir of Hamon voters to draw on. If Trump/Brexit has taught us anything, it is that the "extreme centre" excites no one except the media, so Macron could be in trouble even if he seems like the lowest common denominator choice.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 05:59:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But the "extreme centre" got 3 million more votes in the US. They may not have been particularly enthusiastic votes (mine certainly wasn't) but they still voted.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 06:11:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Same in The Netherlands, to a certain extent. Continentals do not always favor the extremes...
by Bernard on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 06:15:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That was in what was effectively a two horse run off election. No one is denying that Macron would win in the second round if he gets there.  The problem is will he make the top two if voters still have 10 other candidates to choose from, and specifically if Le Pen, Fillon and Melenchon are all better at mobilising their core support. Macron doesn't appear to have much of a "core" either in organisational, sociological or ideological terms...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Apr 10th, 2017 at 06:27:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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