Day 83 – Still no debate. No issues. No campaign.

Fillon can’t escape ‘les affaires

Denying Saturday night’s rumours of imminent charges being brought against Fillon, the ‘anti-corruption Office’ investigating FakeJobsGate put out a press release on Sunday afternoon that ‘no decision’ had been taken and ‘no timetable’ had been fixed.

‘I will fight to the end’ were Fillon’s clear words from 9000 km away during his 3-day La Réunion less-than-jolly. He repeated that he was still standing. Yet, if standing, he stands rather alone. Reports appear as to how few Républicain MPs are inviting him to their constituencies. Post-Indian Ocean sojourn, only one public meeting has been fixed this week. Whenever he Meets The Public, demonstrations remind us of that Damocletian sword. So, for the moment; there’s no discernible public Fillon campaign whatsoever.

Some Républicain MPs grumble aloud, saying Fillon’s a lost cause – 16 of them organised a Paris dinner last night and had a joint moan. They said it was impossible for Fillon to campaign in these circumstances. BUT no-one will put in the sword. They demand that Fillon plunges it in himself.

However Fillon has today repeated he ain’t going nowhere. Addressing a meeting of Républicain MPs, he said: ‘Withdrawing my candidature today would create a major crisis’ with the risk of the ‘disappearance’of the Right from the Presidential Election. The Stamp of Official Approval was put on this pronouncement by his saying he had spoken about the situation to both Juppé and Sarkozy and that there was ‘no alternative better solution’.

Le Pen holds steady

In this most unpredictable of Presidential Election campaigns, pollsters ask another important question. What certainty that a voter will finally vote for that candidate on Election Day. They ask: ‘Are you sure of your choice or could you change your mind?’

Unsurprisingly, nearly every Le Pen voter is rock solid behind her. 85% of those who tell pollsters they are Le Pen voters say they will not change their minds before Election Day. She continues to lead 1st round polls with 26% support. She’s even polled 27% in today’s poll – her highest 1st round rating for 2 months.

She’s still pushing the Law ‘n Order button as outbreaks of trouble recur in several outer Paris areas for the 10th successive night. See Day 86 for a report on Outer Paris’s deeply troubled suburbs.

The FN puts out its regular régime of lies. The FN’s General Sec was on BFM TV (in French) this morning saying ‘Of course not all immigrants are terrorists, but all terrorists are immigrants.’ [Thanks to Le Monde‘s excellent fact checker, Senécat, for pointing out that of the 22 attacks in France since 2012 only 7 terrorists were not born in France, while 13 were French-born.]

One candidate at least has A Programme: 144 propositions. And Le Pen – actually, she’s changing from ‘Le Pen’ to become ‘Marine’ (less toxic I suppose) – keeps pushing them.

Macron under attack

Some polls show him losing support. For the first time in some weeks Macron went under 20% support in a poll (but still ahead of Fillon). Yet, more serious for Macron is that only 36% of ‘his’ voters say they’ll definitely vote Macron. A consequence of (i) no definitive programme – enabling him to be all things to all people and (ii) increasing attack from all sides (even vacillating Bayrou doesn’t have a good word for him)?

One quirky element in today’s OpinionWay poll (apart from oddly showing Macron and Fillon each up 1 point to 22% and 21% – well within the ‘margin of error’) is that 38% of those polled say Macron ‘will be elected President’ BUT only 24% ‘would like to see him elected President’.

Le Pen’s attack: Macron is ‘for immigration. He is for a total opening of the frontiers.’ She said that by being the ‘zealous servant … [of financiers, Macron] has acted against the interests of France’. Again, Trump’s lines are hers too.

I mentioned before the 400 experts who are going to publish the detailed/priced Macron Electoral Programme. Long before those experts, from May-July 2016 Macronistas went door-to-door to find out what “France was thinking”. They met 100,000 people and completed 25,000 questionnaires. Now the feedback becomes Macron’s programme.

Finally, more attacks. The General Sec. of Macron’s En Marche ‘Party’ claims today they’re under a constant fake news attack from Russia. While Macron’s cyber-person says their website is under constant attack: 4,000 attacks in 30 days – half from Ukraine (sic!). So Macron’s people talk of cyber-attacks in lieu of The Issues.

Hamon’s small steps

A formal agreement  with the (serious) Greens may be achievable for Hamon. But any deal that the Green formally withdraws his candidature in favour of Hamon needs endorsement (by email vote) of all Green Party members/primary voters.

Then the 1.5%(ish) who might have voted for Jadot (Green candidate) may vote Hamon and his ‘France 100% renewable energy’ programme.

However, Hard Left Melenchon (still polling 11%+) is as unlikely as ever to withdraw his candidature. That’s almost certainly a total block on Hamon breaking through and getting a real chance of the Round 2 run off. So with Hamon unable to persuade Melechon to step down in his favour, Hamon will just have to do his best to persuade Melenchon voters to go for the least worst practical option and ‘voter utile‘ (vote usefully).

While Hamon talks to Greens and Melenchonites he’s not talking to The Country.

Bayrou’s dilemma

Three-time Presidential candidate centrist Bayrou wonders what to do. To go? Or not to go? He dreams of his 18.6% Third Man place in 2007. What if Fillon were charged? What if Macron fell apart? His Last Chance to save France. Could this time be different?

To warm up he characterised Fillon’s continuing presence as the Right’s candidate as ‘menacing the possibility of the Right winning the election’ and said that the ‘Fillon Affair … was menacing democracy’. Hyperbolic stuff. It’s said Bayrou will announce his hat-into-ring-throwing (or not) by 20 February.

The most important issues?

OpinionWay asked electors what issues would most influence the way they would vote in Round 1 and reported today.

54% said Employment; 45% Health/Pensions (Social Protection); 44% Purchasing Power; 38% Fight against Terrorism; 36% Security; 32% Immigration; 31% Social Inequalities and Education; 28% Corruption; … 15% Housing; … 6% Globalisation.

For the moment at least, ‘It’s (still) the economy stupid’.

#Viewsnight

You may not have picked up on a vigorously opinionated polemic regularly brought out by BBC2’s Newsnight. 2 minutes of direct in yer face action. This one was by Nabila Ramdani explaining why Le Pen would not do a Brexit/Trump. Worth a couple of minutes. Hope she’s right … but not at all sure.

There were also good ones (totally unrelated to the Presidential Election) by Varoufakis and Liddle (Blogger’s Note: One or other may cause distress to certain readers and be bad for their health).

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