Traditionally, we lot in Britain don’t pay much heed to what is happening in France or occurring election-wise there over the channel, do we? No, not least because it is a country full of the French who insist in talking French instead of English when we visit, they deliberately always have a different time to us (CET 1 or 2 hours ahead of GMT), they have a strange, incomprehensible, convoluted, complex, electoral system with a plethora of political parties, they have meaningless unheard of nobody leaders [apart from Napoleon Bonaparte and Charles de Gaulle (who will ever remember current president François Hollande, eh?)], they don’t have a king or queen, they have a track record of shipping us crap wine, they never play by the rules, they constantly thwart us at the EU, they beat us too often at football, they hate us British because we saved them in the war, without warning they keep striking, demonstrating, blocking roads & ferries & airports, and moreover they are a long way away (some 20 miles, as far as London to Eton, indeed?).
However, this time it is different, isn’t it? Yes, it is an election that is internationally captivating, because the World has changed, hasn’t it? Yes, Britain is at long last leaving the European Union. Donald Trump, an inexperienced unfathomable and possibly unstable guy with no political experience, has been duly elected President by the American people and to be leader of the free world. Religious obsessed terrorists abound in our very midst everywhere, determined to indiscriminately eliminate as many innocents amongst us as possible to earn an imagined place in their heaven. A North Korean nutcase is on the verge of creating a major war, if not indeed a world and perhaps nuclear one. Britain has another female Prime Minister (despite suffering Maggie Thatcher for 13 years), who notwithstanding repeated denials, has unexpectedly called a snap General Election for June 8th.
It is in this environment that France is holding a Presidential election now, and the French people were choosing one from a gaggle of previous nobodies. Their convoluted process has been going on for quite some time now, but finally they had a BIG election do last Sunday to eliminate the bulk of the remaining no-hopers, to end up with just 2 candidates standing, and ready to square-up and fight to a final knock-out in just a week’s time (Sunday May 7). Now it is a strange interesting pair squaring up to each other though, isn’t it? Yep.
Coming out from one corner we have Emmanuel Macron of En Marche, not even a party but a centrist political movement that he founded last year, specifically it would seem simply to provide a platform to stand in this election? If elected he would become the youngest French President for some 200 years (that would be since the French revolution’s Napoleon). Furthermore, as an ex-civil servant and ex-investment banker he seems to be a totally quite inadequate & inexperienced politician and the closest he has got to elected office has been by being socialist President Hollande’s political financial advisor, before being appointed as Finance Minister by him & his socialist Prime Minister Valls. With NO current representation, whatsoever in the French parliament, it is extremely unlikely then, that he will have very much say on the way that France is run (that is controlled by the National Assembly, you see?). So, he is likely to be an ‘arbitrator’ rather than a political power (as was de Gaulle’s original ‘intention’ when he established the current Constitution some sixty years ago), don’t you think? Apparently, the most likely outcome of French June elections this summer, is a majority for the right-wing or a coalition, neither of which would support Macron, and so he would be scuppered as far as running things go, eh?
From the other corner comes lawyer and politician Marine Le Pen of the nationalist hard-right Front National (FN), a party founded some 45 years ago by her father (Jean-Marie Le Penn, media nicknamed the “Devil of the Republic”) of who she is the youngest daughter. That certainly used to be a toxic, unelectable, explicitly ultra-right-wing party, full of bigots & racists, but since she took over from her father, half a dozen years ago, she has distanced it from that and turned it around, kicked-out the racists, and in 2015 even ditched her own jackass racist father from the party for reiterating seemingly anti-Semitic comments he made about the Nazi Holocaust gas chambers. [She stepped-down ‘for now’ a week ago to fight the election].
What will it mean to us in the UK which of these two contenders wins the French Presidency, then? Well, Le Pen is the one who could do us most good and be a helpful ally as we try to negotiate a good deal on BREXIT, because she supports our voters’ decision to leave the European Union. Indeed, she isn’t in favour of France itself being in the EU or using the euro, nor being in the Schengen Area with its scrapped border controls [temporarily suspended in France over the past two years due to the terrorist attack in Paris, whence a state of emergency was declared. Britain and Ireland have maintained ‘opt-outs’ from that of course]. She has moved the party’s position away from that of her father’s days demonizing ‘far-right’, so is much less right-wing now, and potentially is electable.
Well, the maverick candidate Macron with no party structure at all to support him, surprisingly is always the one riding highest in the polls (20+ points ahead), and at the bookies as well, but as someone who has gone out of his way to emphasise his claim that he is neither left or right (despite previously having been in the lefty PS party for years (and indeed held a Ministerial post in its government!), many see him as becoming a lame-duck president from the outset, don’t they?
Now that must put populist Le Penn’s name more in the frame (though the polls don’t show it?), because she is certainly anything but a ‘wishy-washy’ politician, is she? However, she nevertheless has a similar, albeit lesser, problem in controlling the lower house of parliament, as her party doesn’t have control of that assembly of 577 seats either, and under the current bizarre French mad voting system doesn’t seem likely to win more than a gaggle of seats, does she? [The FN currently hold only 2 seats which they gained with 0.35% of the vote in June 2012, but in the more recent local council elections a couple of years ago they did well, winning 14 city councils, but ended-up with just a few percent of the seats (Le Penn herself has been a regional councillor for seven years) – but also in the last EU elections (2014) they pulled-in twenty-five percent of the votes and secured the most seats (the FN won 23 seats out of 74 compared to only 3 the five years previously, eh?]. Le Penn is also a MEP herself and has been so for almost a decade – notably she has been ranked as the second-most influential MEP in the European Parliament (just behind its President himself).
Macron, as the polls correctly predicted, clearly won the first-round last Sunday (by less than 3 points), but in France’s previous direct presidential elections that hasn’t always translated into a win in the second round, has it?
However, Le Pen was winning large areas of the country, especially in the north and southeast, but has got only a week now to dent Macron’s massive 20-point poll lead. However, there is widespread discord within the country because of the poor state of the economy and its high unemployment level which is in about double figures, indeed double that of Germany and above even the likes of Latvia and the other poorest EU states.
Le Penn does have massive support amongst the young (it is the most popular party among French citizens ages under 34), and her stances on big issues like increasing security, on drastically reducing immigration, on reinstituting border controls, on the reintroduction of the franc currency, on containing Islam, on opposition to free trade (advocating ‘protectionism’ as a middle way forward), on opposition to Macron style globalism, being against privatisations (like the post office – with consequential closures particularly in rural areas; and like social security), and on allowing government borrowing at low interest rates, certainly does appeal to the valid anxieties of the French people on terrorism, the failing economy, and the rapidly rising national debt, whence her vision of a strong, protective and strategist state,could dramatically swell her support this week, don’t you think? We will see next week, won’t we?
In the recent past, some major political opinion Polls have been widely WRONG, haven’t they? Yep, for example for BREXIT it was said that Remain were 8½ % ahead but they LOST; in the last UK general election they said it would be a hung parliament but the Conservatives WON by 6½ %; in the US Presidential election it was said that Clinton would take it easily by 5% but Trump actually WON, didn’t he?
[Can Marine Len Pen really still beat the favourite Emmanuel Macron (termed an ‘acceptable’ candidate to the supporters of all the eliminated others) to be President of France (perhaps his real support will prove flaky?), and so she confound the polls, when the very fact is that in the first round over fifty percent of the French voted for other people than the remaining pair, or will she be trounced like her father was in a landslide vote (82% v 18%) fifteen years ago, eh?]