Tuesday, 21 March 2017

On the French Presidential election of 2017 and my tribute to Martin McGuinness

The 11 candidates who have made it onto the first round ballot in the French Presidential election of 2017 are:

Nathalie Arthaud (Workers' Struggle/LO)
Francois Asselineau (Popular Republican Union/UPR)
Jacques Cheminade (Solidarity & Progress/S&P)

Nicolas Dupont-Aignan (France Arise/DLF)
Francois Fillon (The Republicans/LR)
Benoit Hamon (Socialist Party/PS)
Jean Lasselle (Independent)
Marine Le Pen (Front National/FN)
Emmanuel Macron (En Marche!/EM)
Jean-Luc Melenchon (Unsubmissive France/FI)
Phillippe Potou (New Anticapitalist Party/NPA)

How well are they likely to perform, you ask?

It is already clear that whilst five candidates (M. Fillon, M. Hamon, Mme. Le Pen, M. Macron, et M. Melenchon) are polling above 10% and have consistently been doing so, only three of these 11 candidates have a realistic chance of becoming the next French President: economic liberal Francois Fillon, extreme, anti-immigrant, anti-EU nationalist Marine Le Pen, and new moderate Emmanuel Macron, since only those three are likely to make the second round (and of course, only two candidates can enter the second round, assuming no candidate in round one manages 50% of the vote).

I predict that Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen will make it to the second round. Even though Marine Le Pen is the most disliked of the known candidates, her hardline disgruntled nationalist and working-class base is staying with her and making sure she consistently polls 22-27% in opinion polls (which incidentally is not much better than her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who managed 16.86% in 2002 but was heavily defeated in round two by Jacques Chirac), or her own performance as FN candidate in 2012, which was 17.9% and third place. The same cannot be said for Francois Fillon, who is being investigated for embezzlement and misuse of public funds over the Penelopegate scandal, where it has been revealed that his wife Penelope received a salary for being a parliamentary assistant even though she did not do any real work; many middle-class conservatives and traditional moderates are deserting him as a result. Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, is now being favoured as the candidate to stop Le Pen in the next round, since even his novel, fresh ideas cannot push his opinion poll rating to greater than 26%, partly because of his relative youth (at 39 he is the youngest candidate in the race), his pro-Europeanism (unpopular particularly in the northern areas of France) and unfamiliarity with the En Marche movement amongst tribal voters (personal votes can only take one so far in the French Presidential election).

Benoit Hamon, the PS candidate being endorsed by EELV candidate Yannick Jadot (mostly for tactical reasons; Hamon is no more green than Jeremy Corbyn i.e. not very) is faring much better than Francois Hollande would have been had he decided to run again for President (which he did not) but unlike Corbyn he has to contend with a more hardline socialist rival, namely Jean-Luc Melenchon. Both are polling above 10% but crucially neither are hitting 20% at any time, meaning they have only an outside chance of making round two. The PS brand, more significantly has been severely damaged by the ineptitude of Francois Hollande and a failure of France to improve its fortunes under his tenure or that of Manuel Valls; unemployment still exceeds 10%.

Out of the other six candidates, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan has a small amount of support from Eurosceptics who will not support Le Pen's toxic, 'alt-right' and racist platform but who are tired of the EU's failure to achieve fundamental reform and who are against free trade agreements like CETA and the aborted TTIP. Jean Lassalle will likely only achieve 1-2% and this will mostly come from MoDem voters not willing to support Macron for one reason or another; Francois Bayrou initially planned to run but has now endorsed Macron (MoDem is the closest French equivalent to the Liberal Democrats). Nathalie Arthaud and Phillippe Potou are just dividing up the communist and hardline Marxist vote that is not already supporting Melenchon, and neither is likely to achieve more than 2-3%; the Judean People's Front/People's Front of Judea analogy is an international phenomenon for hardline socialists. Souverainiste Francois Assilineau, known mostly for conspiracy theories, will poll no better than Arthaud or Potou. However, I predict that Jacques Cheminade will be the one to finish last, as candidates of LaRouche movements (the French version is called Solidarity & Progress) across the world invariably do; the LaRouche movement is in political terms an incoherent, incomprehensible joke, even more so than the now defunct Natural Law movement.

On another note, former Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness died earlier today, aged 66. Despite the controversy that hung over him his entire political career due to having had IRA membership (albeit only for some years), he will however be remembered for his crucial role in the peacemaking Good Friday agreement of 1998, and his decision to resign as Deputy First Minister over the Renewable Heat Initiative Scandal earlier this year.

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