Robert Harneis – TDO – France’s electors are far from having made up their minds who they are likely to make President in May and still less which party will dominate the National Assembly in the following June.

The latest to break from the pack is39-year-old former Socialist Economy Minister and boy wonder of French politics, Emmanuel Macron. In his 12-yearcareer, he has been a top civil servant, a successful investment banker and a minister. He has refused to take part in the Socialist primaries and is running as a centrist independent. The latest polls show him with the best popularity rating of all French politicians at 35%. Whilst it would be unprecedented for an independent without party support to win the presidency, it is bad news for Fillon who has dropped12% since November, largely because of his draconian,and not easily understoodplans to balance the books of the health service.

On the far left the truculent Jean-Luc Mélenchon continues his campaign to represent the anti-capitalist voters who feel betrayed by the present centrist, if not center right, Socialist government. His ‘signature’ is his brutal intolerance of journalists and interviewers who ask him what he regards as stupid or loaded questions. Ironically, he is competing with the supposedly Far Right Candidate Marine Le Pen for working class voters. The polls showing him attracting between 12% and 15% percent of votes. Votes that will be essential for any left-wing candidate to win the presidency.

Electoral visibility is not improved by the legacy of the retiring President François Hollande. Late in the day he announced he would not stand again. So, the Left candidates, all of them Hollande’s ex ministers, that have agreed to submit to the primaries find themselves desperately short of time to defeat each other and then establish themselves in the eyes of the wider national electorate. The three main contenders are ex-Prime Minister Emmanuel Valls, former Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg who favors a return to protectionism to protect French jobs and Benoit Hamon formerly Minister of Education who proposes a ‘universal salary’ of €750 for all, whether they work or not. As he put it when criticized for devaluing the work ethic ‘I too am philosophically attached to a work based society. I think you can flourish through it and it can be useful. But I notice also that people want to work less, because work is grinding them down.’ It would be interesting to know what hard core orthodox German Finance MinisterWolfgangSchäuble makes of this.

Final thought – supposing François Hollande, whose popularity is recovering, after watching his former ministers destroy each other, changes his mind and decides to run after all?

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