The republic and the Republicans (French version)

As expected, final counting in Sunday’s French election improved Emmanuel Macron’s position slightly (because rural districts, which favor the right, tend to report first). He finished with 24.0% to Marine Le Pen’s 21.3%, followed by François Fillon on 20.0%, Jean-Luc Mélenchon 19.6% and Benoît Hamon 6.4%.

Macron has been endorsed for the runoff by almost the whole of France’s political class. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to add his voice to that chorus, although reports are unclear whether he will confine it to a personal endorsement or encourage his supporters to follow suit. The political bureau of his Republican party put out a statement saying that “In the face of the National Front, abstention cannot be a choice.”

The big hold-out so far is the far left’s Mélenchon, who has attracted considerable adverse comment for his stance. As the New York Times reports, he is holding an internet-based consultation of his supporters, in which the options are “a blank ballot, a vote for Mr. Macron or an abstention. A vote for Ms. Le Pen is not one of the choices, and Mr. Mélenchon’s aides insist that is the last thing they want.” Nonetheless, there is no doubt that some of his vote will leak to Le Pen.

But in contrast to what you might think from their leaders’ positions (or the media), it is from the right that Le Pen is more likely to draw support. Polls taken since Sunday show Macron picking up on a net basis 70%-80% of Hamon’s vote, 30%-50% of Mélenchon’s vote, but only 10%-20% of Fillon’s.

The Republican leadership sees part of its task as to live up to its party’s name and defend the values of the republic against its enemies. But many of its voters see the world more in left-right terms, and instinctively shy away from a candidate of the centre-left. Hence “Manif pour tous”, the anti-same-sex marriage organisation that strongly backed Fillon, put out a statement opposing Macron for the runoff, calling him an “overtly anti-family candidate.”

It does not actually endorse Le Pen, but there is no corresponding criticism of her, even though one might have thought that rounding up Jewish children to send to the gas chambers was also “anti-family”.

It’s that moral blindness on the right more than her policy similarities with the far left that will ensure Le Pen a much better score on Sunday week than the 17.8% that her father achieved in 2002. Even so, she will lose in a landslide; the odds of 9-2 that the betting market is offering are very stingy in the circumstances. (Macron has come in to a still generous 7-1 on.)

That much is not in doubt. The interesting part will be to see if President Macron can somehow put France’s fractured political system back together.

4 thoughts on “The republic and the Republicans (French version)

  1. As we have discussed before, of more interest now is the parliamentary elections in June. Apparently 50 PS sitting members have been enlisted to run as EM candidates. Only 239 more needed for a majority!
    Wiki says: “In the first round of the presidential election, Emmanuel Macron of En Marche! arrived first within the borders of 230 constituencies, against 216 for Marine Le Pen (FN), 67 for Jean-Luc Mélenchon (FI), and 53 for François Fillon (LR).[1]”
    I have no idea of the likelihoods but if those 230 that voted for EM as president actually holds for the parliamentary elections then perhaps Macron might be able to achieve a stable and workable government? (Obviously people vote differently in Prez v Parliament because the FN have only two deputies.)
    Some grandees in Les Republicains, such as Alain Juppé, have stated this week their willingness to support a Macron coalition government (saying he didn’t want to see another 5 lost years) however Sarkozy is agitating to try to engineer Republicain control but they currently have only 196 members. I suppose they might be somewhat leaderless but I wonder if Sarko is the one who can step into the void (without being an elected politician and no intention to be one)? I have the suspicion if he tries this he will further damage his own lot.
    I have no idea of where Mélenchon’s La France Insoumise (FI) stands in this. I don’t think they have any deputies and I don’t know if he plans to contest any in this election. I doubt FI could win anything like those 67 he nominally won in the presidential first-round.

    One interesting thing I saw some time ago is this (below) which is a genuine change to the usual career politicians, but I’ve read nothing more about it since:

    [Macron] wants En Marche — his eight-month-old movement — to field candidates in every electoral district. He has also put out the message that he wants to “renew” parliament, and called for people from “civil society” — i.e. non-professional politicians — to apply online if they want to run. Candidates will then be chosen by an independent commission.

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    1. Thanks Michael – I’m writing a new post on that over the weekend, which I hope will answer most of those questions.

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  2. Either I’m misreading you, or there’s something wrong with your reporting of the French polls. Your link shows 40-50% of Fillon voters going for Macron, not 10-20%.

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    1. Thanks John – the key phrase there was “on a net basis”. 40%-50% of Fillon’s voters are indeed going to Macron, but 25%-35% are going to Le Pen, so Macron is netting only about 10%-20%.

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