Why is this happening?
To begin, two spot-on analyses taken from the Financial Times’s very-well-worth-reading article (sorry – perhaps behind a paywall):
“It has never been that unstable and that uncertain,” says Luc Rouban, a Sciences Po Cevipof professor of politics. “We are witnessing a complete overhaul and a polarisation of the traditional French political offering. Meanwhile, voters’ behaviours have become so complex that pollsters and analysts have a harder time predicting them.”
“The Macron sensation is a symptom of the political system’s advanced state of decay,” says Dominique Reynié, head of Fondapol, a centre-right think-tank. “In normal times, someone who has never been elected and does not have a party base would not be a serious contender for the presidency. We’re in a moment where opportunists can win because the old world is crumbling.”
The current 5th French Republic was established in 1958. There have been 7 Presidents since then, of whom 3 were re-elected. Every one of them was either from an established centre-right Party or the Socialist Party. Never has an outsider been elected.
Emmanuel Macron is now the bookies’ strong favourite to become President.This former Rothschild’s banker, former Economics Minister – whose main political achievements were (i) liberalising France’s rigid Sunday opening hours, provided management and unions agree and (ii) introducing long-distance coach travel to France – who has never held elective office has The Big Mo in spades. As weeks pass, and Macron climbs ever higher in the polls, people’s predictions that his bubble would quickly burst once campaigning was under way seem out of touch. Macron has an apparent ability to connect with large numbers who have not previously shown any interest in politics.
[Blogger’s Note: Betting odds are only brought about by punters like thee ‘n me having a punt. Betting odds always gave Remain as the more likely Brexit vote outcome. What do punters know? For what it’s worth, current betting odds give Macron 50% chance of winning, Le Pen 25% and Fillon less than 20%.]
Late this afternoon, Macron spoke in Lyon for 2 hours to some 9,000 people (and, says, Le Figaro, there were 8,000 more outside). 2 hours was 20 minutes longer than his average – he even carried on speaking almost through the whole 1st half of the England v France rugby match. He described the scandals linked to the Fillon affair (without mentioning him by name) as ‘a return of practices from another era’ which ‘must not benefit the Front National’ and, calling for a fight to restore dignity in public life, said there had to be a ‘struggle against a democratic leprosy taking hold’ in France.
But there’s something about Macron that worries many observers – this man dubbed ‘Mr Perfect’ in today’s Telegraph. His 10-month-old Party is called ‘En Marche‘ and it’s so much more on-line than anyone else. The campaign slogan he appears to have chosen (it was emblazoned all about his Lyon podium) is ‘La France En Marche‘, (“Forward France’).
Slogans are always difficult. “Neither Left nor Right. French” was a 1930’s Fascist slogan, and was picked up by Marine Le Pen’s hard-line father. “Neither Left nor Right but Forward” also came from the far right of politics. But, to make things more complicated, the latter has been adopted by modern Green Parties. Macron still says that he won’t unveil his definitive programme until the end of February but claims that he has already put out a considerable number of proposals (in French). Until we get to see what his contract with the nation will be, it may be difficult to do much more than slogan(ise). Some detail has already been mentioned in this earlier post. .
Hamon (Socialist candidate) today criticised Macron for turning in a different political direction every day: one day, he said, Macron’s an economically liberal right-winger, the next he’s on the progressive left.
Those feeling queasy about Macron’s candidature may well not be reassured by this. It’s standard practice for every French politician to say at the end of their public meeting or public speech (though rarely, if ever, quite like this example from Macron’s opening Paris campaign rally) ‘Vive La République! Vive la France!‘. Today, in Lyon, Macron led the singing of the Marseillaise as an addition to that standard closing formula: not many do that.