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European Anxieties
France’s Anti-Establishment Election

Looks like politics in 2017 will if nothing else continue to be as unpredictable as last year. In France, where elections are looming in May, until recently it was more or less taken for granted that the final run-off would be between Front National’s Marine Le Pen and Les Republicains’ Francois Fillon. Polls had Fillon—an economic liberal, a social conservative, and an advocate for softening Europe’s stance on Russia—winning handily in the run-off against Le Pen. That was true until scandal broke. Reuters:

Le Canard enchaine weekly said Fillon’s wife had been paid roughly 600,000 euros ($640,000) for employment by him and for subsequent work for his successor in parliament and later as a literary reviewer for a cultural journal. Fillon did not deny that figure.

The Canard enchaine said there was little sign Penelope Fillon had done any work in any of the jobs. Fillon brushed this aside, saying she had been working for him ever since he entered politics more than 30 years ago.

“Without the work my wife carried out I would not be where I am now,” he said.

He said he would abandon his presidential campaign if he was placed under formal investigation.

And even without the official investigation, a good amount of damage seems to have been done. A new poll shows that Fillon is viewed favorably by only 38 percent of his countrymen since the scandal broke, a drop of 16 percent. 61 percent have a negative opinion of him.

Meanwhile the young, charismatic Emmanuel Macron has been running what by all accounts is an unprecedented campaign for France as an independent. He has surged to a solid third place since announcing his optimistic, pro-EU campaign, and while his candidacy is still considered a long shot, he appears to have the wind at his back. The Socialists are in disarray after the more centrist Manuel Valls faced a stiff challenge from the left of his party, in the guise of Benoit Hamon. A run-off vote between Valls and Hamon is scheduled for Sunday, and if Valls loses, he is indicating he might throw his weight behind Macron. Reuters again:

His comment follows talk that some of Valls backers in parliament are preparing to throw their weight behind Macron, a centrist whose pro-business policies are close to those of Valls, if the more traditionalist Hamon wins.

“I will take a back seat,” Valls said when asked what he would do if he loses on Sunday.

“I am at the heart of the progressive movement – from Hamon to Macron, because we have to bring it together,” he added.

What’s not clear is where Fillon’s voters will go if he keeps sinking. A sort of tradition has sprung up over the years in France of unifying to thwart Marine Le Pen in the runoff vote. Maybe this time, with anti-establishment forces clearly fired up across the spectrum, really is different.

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  • Observe&Report

    So in other words, the French presidential election has Marine Le Pen playing Trump, Fillon playing Clinton, and Macron playing Bernie Sanders.

    • ljgude

      Pas mal!

  • Kevin

    The presidential run offs have been between right wing FN and center right candidates, where the center left and left supported th center right. It’s not clear how this breaks if there’s a leftist or technocratic centrists (center leftist by his past party affiliations) running against the FN.

  • FriendlyGoat

    Le Pen’s prospects are probably most dependent on the French view of Donald Trump when their elections take place. With several months to go, anything could happen. They will be deciding whether they want a Trump of their own or not.

    • Jim__L

      So Trump is building a wall, and has banned immigration from several Muslim countries (except for Christian refugees in fear for their lives.)

      … And what will the Europeans make of this? I suspect that the ones that disagree with Trump will continue to disagree, and the ones that think that immigration is problematic may see him as an example to follow.

      • FriendlyGoat

        Months to go. Stories about Trump are not already cut and dried because future events are not already cut and dried. By May, Trump’s military inclinations and/or police-state inclinations (if any) will be more in view.

        • Jim__L

          Ah. So you’re waiting for Trump to turn into a dictator.

          Kinda like waiting for George W. to start Armageddon, because everyone on the Left knows that that’s what evangelicals all want to do?

          • FriendlyGoat

            Trump is already a dictator to whatever extent currently allowed by law in America—-with many “stress tests” to come on what the law is and who can determine how it is enforced. The only questions are 1) What kinds of initiatives as dictator does he really want to do?
            2) How strong are Americans to push back from the grass roots if any of it seriously goes off the rails?

            The press, the education community, the courts, the Senate rules, existing statutes and the civil service are all under varying degrees of attack now. How far that attack goes and how it is met by citizens is yet to be seen. As for evangelicals, they didn’t know what they rooted for and they don’t know what the ramifications will be. They also don’t know that they too would be under attack if/when they ever woke up and vocally opposed ANYTHING the dictator may attempt.

          • Jim__L

            Obama was dictatorial beyond what the law allowed. I’m a little surprised to see you acknowledge Trump is an improvement.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I didn’t, of course.

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