Fillon – strong but still fragile.
Operation Transparency has resulted in the publication of lots of detail about Fillon’s ‘wealth’ and the payments to his wife. Those who’ve always wanted a rather lovely-looking French chateau, and who may indulge in the Politics of Envy, might yearn harder when told that this 1107 sq. m. chateau (PLUS 1062 sq m of outbuildings PLUS 993 sq m of “uninhabitable” farm) has a value (at least for the purposes of M. Fillon’s Wealth tax calculations) of €750K. But think of the upkeep.
Alistair Campbell’s apparently non-existent rule about how long a person can stay in the headlines before they’re toast, has itself now been well and truly toasted. Le Canard Enchainé (in French) today, for the 3rd week in a row, runs yet more Penelopegate stories.
Their banner headline ‘Yet more proof that Fillon knows how to cash it in’ also ‘Investigators have found no material proof of Penelope’s work, except for the trace of her severance pay’. The latest news is well summarised by The Guardian’s Chrisafisin. Fillon instantly put out a vigorous denuciation of ‘Le Canard Enchainé’s lies‘ (in French). To lose one job may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness … but the severance pay will surely have helped.
Fillon is also counter-attacking on the ‘legal side’. His lawyers claim the investigators (Parquet National Financier) don’t have the legal competence to pursue him. Several Fillnoiste MPs are popping up reminding us of ‘the presumption of innocence’ – wish they did that when certain others are being maligned.
It seems now that at the end of last week, Fillon was within nearly a gnat’s whisker of being overthrown by a Républicains’ palace revolution. He’s safe from that today. He’s the only Républicain candidate in town. He’s toughed it out, telling the turbulent barons (and Baroin) that, chosen by 3 million voters, no-one would gainsay his democratic investiture. Will he now get a poll boost from his stubbornly pig-headed refusal to roll over and go away? If all the balls can continue to be kept aloft till May 7 he just may get away with it.
But how will the French swallow the bitingly severe budgetary discipline Fillon wants to impose in the light of his (‘irreproachable’ – his word) life?
Finally for those wanting some Man of Action Fillon pics (sub- Putinesque) there are several to be found here midst the 25.
Macron – experts scribbling
We still have to wait to see Macron’s programme. As I write, 400 ‘experts’ (they’re more acceptable over here) have been divided into 8 groups, and themselves sub-divided into 30 sub-groups. They are each creating ten proposals, accompanied by a detailed costing and a political analysis: it’s promised for end-Feb.
Bayrou – a man’s gotta do
Long-running centrist François B. just won’t go away. This morning (France 2) he cranked up the ego-engine further: ‘What I see today is such a menace for democracy that I will not hesitate to shoulder my responsibilities’. If Bayrou’s the answer for saving democracy it’s an odd question. Bayrou perhaps reduces the chances of Macron making the run off … and so leading us to a deeply worrying Fillon v Le Pen run off.
5 polls have been conducted in February (polling more than 1400 people each).
Le Pen 25%-26%. Macron 20.5%-23%. Fillon 18.5%-20% (always 2 points behind Macron). Hamon 14%-15.5%. Melenchon 10%-12%.
Even if the Green (1%) and Melenchon withdraw, it still seems Hamon can’t make the run-off without a (highly unlikely) serious transfer of votes from Macron to Hamon. When asked about the solidity of their decision, very many more Le Pen voters than Macron voters have definitively made up their minds.
More disturbing still, an Ipsos-Mori poll asked some big questions. Responding to the question ‘Do we need a strong leader?’. 20% of the Germans, 40% of the Americans and 80% of the French said yes.
While worryingly a substantial percentage of the French feel the system is broken and have a strong nativist feeling (ie immigrants take jobs and social services from locally-born nationals).
For me, one of the wisest print commentators is Le Monde’s Gérard Courtois. He has been sounding clear warnings about the dangers of this Presidential Election for a long time. His latest piece (in French, only 2 paras free) says that 3 essential ingredients of a Presidential campaign are missing:
- no real debate about the last 5 years – neither President Hollande nor Premier Valls being there to defend their term
- no candidate (today at least) has Presidential ‘stature’
- no national debate about the future (candidates variously talk of their wish to ‘sort out France’ (Fillon), ‘restore France’s sovereignty’ (Le Pen), bring about a ‘citizen’s revolution’ (Melenchon), engage in a ‘profound democratic revolution’ (Macron) and ‘make the heart of France beat’ (Hamon)).
But Courtois ends with his, so far, most downbeat analysis: ‘That’s why this campaign appears so worrying. Anything seems possible, even the worst.’
89 days from Election Day that’s chilling.