Sat Apr 2nd, 2022 at 08:47:16 PM EST
The title of this diary is, of course, totally stolen from a well known Colombian novelist, Nobel prize in literature.
This April, there will be elections in several European countries, starting Sunday, April 3, with general elections in both Serbia and Hungary. Also, parliamentary elections in Slovenia will take place on April 24 - Polls often take place on Sundays on the European continent.
Since I don't know much about the Hungarian, Serbian or Slovenian politics, I will focus on the upcoming French presidential elections instead:
- First round is scheduled for Sunday April 10: there are twelve candidates, including the incumbent, Emmanuel Macron.
- Second round is scheduled for Sunday April 24: the two candidates with the most votes at the end of the first round, will enter a run-off second round.
Five candidates on the left, well, six with Yannick Jadot, the Green (Europe-Ecologie-Les-Verts).
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who left the Socialist party in 2008 has been leading his own party, now named "La France Insoumise" (France Unbowed). He's the candidate with the best polling numbers on the left: about 14-15% on average. Despite his past support to Putin (no longer since the invasion of Ukraine) and Chavez/Maduro, his polling has actually improved since the beginning of the year: his voters are from the working class to a large part, and care more about employment, salaries and price increases than international issues.
Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, is running for the Socialist party (PS). Shockingly for a party that has held the Elysée palace for a large part of the 80's, the 90's and more recently during the François Hollande term (2012-2017), she is polling between 2 and 3%, actually behind Fabien Roussel, the Communist party candidate (3-4%), and barely above the two Trotskyist candidates, P.Poutou and N.Artaud. A Communist candidate getting more vote than the PS one would be a first, since the beginning of the Fifth Republic in 1958.
The Socialist party has been slowly disintegrating for the past five years, when Macron, who worked for F.Hollande and served in the Cabinet, successfully ran for president and founded his own party, La République En Marche (LREM). Internal infighting within the PS and the desertion of several figures for Macron's LREM has precipitated the decline.
Despite the good numbers of the Greens during the EP elections and the municipal elections two years ago, where several big cities, like Bordeaux, Poitiers, Strasbourg, Lyon and Grenoble elected a Green mayor, the presidential candidate, Yannick Jadot, is barely polling above 5%. Environment and climate change issues are very much on the mind of many voters, but not to the point of bringing a Green politician to the Elysée palace.
Fifty Shades of Fascist
There are three extreme right candidates, presenting a large and varied menu of racist, xenophobic, revisionist and plain authoritarian themes.
N.Dupont-Aignan is running again on a Euroskeptic platform with more than a whiff of xenophobia; his poll numbers are under 2% and he'll do no better than the previous elections in 2012 and 2017.
Firebrand Eric Zemmour, who started as the French Tucker Carlson on the news channel Cnews, supported by French billionaire Vincent Bolloré, is now trying to be the French Donald Trump - lies and damn lies very much included. He's been polling up to 16% back in December, but the Russian invasion has reminded a part of his electorate, mostly urban and middle class, than he's actually been branding himself as the French Putin ("France needs a Putin" he said); his numbers have dipped to about 11%.
Just like in 2017, Marine Le Pen (National Rally - RN) is expected to move to the second round on April 24, facing Macron: she's presently polling about 18-20%. She's been trying to present herself as a "moderate nationalistic right", especially compared to Zemmour, but she's still putting themes like immigration and crime at the forefront of her campaign.
The Schrödinger Candidate
Macron has waited until the last moment (the day before the legal limit - early March) before announcing he's running for a second term. But this was becoming the worst kept secret of the Republic: everybody knew he was campaigning without "campaigning". The war in Ukraine has boosted his poll numbers (25-30%), but has also taken a good part of his time and he's been doing relatively little campaigning, leaving his supporters doing most of the legwork. Luckily for him, he has managed to gather support from former members of the PS and also members of the mainstream right-wing party: Les Républicains - LR (for some reason, the Englis language MSM calls this party "centre-right"),
Speaking of Les Républicains, the candidate was selected following a primary last fall (same for the PS), and as Anne Hidalgo won the Socialist primary, Valérie Pécresse, president of the Île-de-France region (the Paris region), won the LR primary. Despite having been selected by her party, Pécresse is trailing badly in the polls: barely above 10% after peaking at 16% earlier this year.
Just like for the socialists, this is quite a surprise for the party of De Gaulle, Chirac and, more recently, Sarkozy. The reason may be similar to the one affecting the socialist campaign: Macron's LREM party has been vacuuming many party cadres; some of the party's most conservative wing have also moved to support Zemmour or other extreme-right candidates. Speaking of Sarkozy, the ex-president has conspicuously refrained from expressing any support for Pécresse (his own party's candidate), and is said to be negotiating with Macron. Part of the success of LREM party with the right is ideological: Macron presented himself as a "centrist" but has been pushing right-wing policies. There is also the bank robber argument: that's where the money is.
A Foretold Election?
Just like five years ago in 2017, it looks quite certain that Macro and Le Pen will face off again for the second round on April 24. Then, Macron had trounced Le Pen 66% to 34%. This time, while Macron is still overwhelmingly favorite, the spread between him and Le Pen seems to be narrowing. Some in the Macronia have even started to ring the alarm bell. Macron has been pushing some rather unpopular policies, especially with the working class (remember the gilets jaunes). And there is a worry that many voters from the first round may not be bothered to go to the polls again on the 24th to oppose Le Pen. Then again, working class voters tend to have a lower turnout than middle class and upper middle class.
Still, an extreme right president in France is a possibility, however remote.
A "Third Round"?
The fifth Republic is said to be a "presidential system"; but a president still needs a majority at the parliament to be able to form a cabinet. Parliamentary elections are scheduled for June 12 (first round) and 19 (second round). Will Macron and his LREM party keep a majority of seats like during the previous legislature, this looks more open than the presidential election. To be continued...