FRENCH ELECTIONS: FOUR CANDIDATES BATTLE IT OUT TO THE END




Robert Harneis – TDO – (FRANCE) With less than a week to go before the crucial first round, the polls tell us little separates the leading four candidates. Theoretically, National Front Marine Le Pen and Centrist Emmanuel Macron lead the pack more or less level at 22%. They are followed by Former Republican Prime Minister François Fillon and hard left late surging Jean-Luc Mélénchonboth around 20%. Given the polling error margins, any two could win through to round two. Who does could have a considerable effect on the future of the European Union and NATO.

Le Pen is anti-Europe, anti-Euro, anti-NATO and anti-immigrant. Macron is a pro-European, pro-Euro, internationalist and immigrant friendly. He is the chosen one of the Euro-Atlantic political class and their attendant media. Fillon is pro-Europe, pro-Euro and NATO,if lukewarm. He is immigrant neutral. Mélenchon is anti-Europe, Euro, and NATO. He is also anti-capitalist but immigration friendly. It follows that in cutting down the rival candidates from eleven to two, French electors may give themselves a choice between two pro-Europeans and incidentally two status quo candidates in Macron and Fillon, who favor or at least tolerate heavy immigration. Or they may find themselves having to choose between two anti-European, Euro and NATO candidates separated only by the issue of immigration. If the latter happens watch out for rock and roll on the Euro exchange rate and interest rates for French and other southern EU nations’ debt. In a reasonable democratic world, voterswould, of course, put themselves in the position of choosing between a pro and anti-EU/NATO candidate. The voters, however, are not in a reasonable mood. They are exasperated with the political class as a whole for failing to solve the big issues despite many rosy promises over the last decades. Anything can happen.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the late comer to the top three or four. He has largely taken over the Socialist vote from the official Left/Socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, who is now scoring less than 10%. He has done this by the quality and consistency of his performance as a candidate and the absence of any of the ‘affairs’ that have complicated the campaigns of Fillon, Le Pen and to a lesser extent Macron. Of all the candidates, he is the best showman. He has toned down his previous ‘angry man’snarling style of campaigning to his great benefit. The lateness of his arrival in the forefront of the electoral battle explains the absence of criticism until now of the wilder left wing aspects of his campaign project such as the aim of joining the Bolivarian alliance comprising Venezuela and Cuba or restricting the maximum difference between the highest paid employee and the lowest in any business to a ratio of one to twenty. Laudable ideas in theory perhaps but unlikely to appeal to all but a few French voters once they start to pay serious attention to what he is actually saying, as opposed to how well he says it. His plan to increase taxation by 100 billion is also unlikely to appeal to the already highly taxed middle classes who know only too well who will be doing the paying.

Much will depend on the turnout and the how convincing the candidates are over the last few days because 30% to 40% of the electorate have yet to make up their minds on who to vote for or whether to vote at all. Until now the campaign has been swamped by themassive attention given to the carefully timed, politically manipulatedand largely trivial allegations of misuse of elected members allowances by Fillon and Le Pen. It is far from clear that either of them has committed any legal offence at all. That has not stopped the media blathering on about it for weeks to the detriment of the debate on the real issues – Europe, the Euro, and NATO, unemployment,immigration, and debt.