The Right’s candidate has been in the run-off of each of the 10 Presidential Elections of the V République since it started in 1958. So the absence of the Right’s candidate will be a first, and (to the surprise of few) the Socialist candidate will also be absent.
Juppé’s Monday morning press conference was to tell us ‘once and for all’ that he wasn’t taking the poisoned leadership torch. Saying that the Right couldn’t now be reunited, he sadly declared ‘As for us, the Right and the Centre, quel gâchis‘ (what a mess).
He criticised Le Pen for her anti-Europe fanaticism which would lead France to ‘disaster’. He dissed Macron for his political ‘immaturity’ and his ‘weak platform’. But, in a serious change of style , Juppé kept by far his strongest words for Fillon.
He reminded Fillon that after his huge victory in the Right’s Primary there was ‘a boulevard‘ ahead of him leading to the Presidency. But his legal problems followed by the specific style of his defence based on ‘an accusation of a supposed conspiracy … and of a political assassination’ had actually ‘led [Fillon] into an impasse.‘ (dead end).
Juppé also strongly rejected the rightward shift of Fillon and the Républicains: this has resulted in the near-abandonment of the tradition that the Right represents the Centre too. Juppé, condemning Fillon’s ‘obstinacy’, said: ‘As was shown by the Trocadéro demonstration, the core of the Républicain activists and sympathisers has radicalised.’
‘It’s too late for me’ concluded Juppé, ‘but it’s not too late, it’s never too late, for France’.
Several newspapers have put together analyses of the ‘Five Days That Saved Fillon’. Sarkozy’s role appears critical. You can choose between
- an oft-quoted (anonymous) Juppé-supporting MP who may have said ‘Sarko prefers to lose with Fillon than win with Juppé’, and
- the same Sarkozy who allegedly tried, as late as Monday morning, to get Fillon to stand aside, being quoted in Le Monde as having said to Fillon ‘you must think long-term and of the future of your political family’.
Late on Monday, we had a further episode of this endless serial with the Républicain Political Committee solemnly announcing that ‘ … after wide discussion, we have unanimously renewed support for François Fillon and undertake to work at bringing together the [Right’s] political families … The debate is closed.’ Goar (Le Monde) described this statement as Brezhnevian. (It rather reminds me of the ‘support’ offered by a football club’s owner to their failing team manager … except that, in this particular situation, there’s no owner with the power to step in and blow The Final Whistle.)
The classic French Right is now fractured and cracked after ‘Fillon imposes his candidature on the Right’ (‘Le Figaro‘ front page). The centre-right party, the UDI, has always been the traditional ally of the Républicains. It has long had seats ‘reserved’ for it at legislative elections. Last week it suspended support for Fillon. But finally decided last night (48 votes to 10) that – while regretting that Juppé had not stepped into the breach – it would continue to support (in French) Fillon, provided
- the previously agreed electoral pact for their safe seats was confirmed this week, and
- Fillon demonstrated publicly his initiatives at bringing policies and people together [just shows what realpolitik can do for wannabe MPs: focusses the mind no end].
While in today’s StillYetAnotherFunnyMoney story, Le Canard Enchainé reports that the selfsame Extremely Seriously Rich Man who
- paid Mme Fillon €100K to write commentaries (due to her anglo-saxon background) for his literary plaything La Revue des Deux Mondes and
- received France’s highest honour from Mr Fillon in 2011, also
- loaned Mr Fillon €50K interest-free in 2013 – Fillon didn’t ‘deem it necessary’ to declare that loan to the public authority responsible for transparency; it’s been repaid in full, said Fillon’s brief … so please move along, nothing to see here.
This latter piece of unwelcome news was dismissed by Fillon’s spokesperson as a ‘destabilisation operation’. She said ‘they are not going to steal this election from us’. While in a further hysterical ramping up of hyperbole (all of which plays into the hands of the anti-democrats) an article will appear (in French) in tomorrow’s Figaro signed by lots of Right-wing politicians entitled ‘For the honour of a man and the future of France’. It will include the utterly extraordinary statement that there is an ‘attempt to put to death’.
As the only man left standing when the music died, F Fillon has won by default. I got it totally wrong … but, as before, my defence is that I was in extremely large company.
Last night, 4000 ‘fervent’ (Le Figaro) Fillon supporters in Orléans chanted ‘François, France needs you’. Fillon said that ‘in Orléans no-one has used the word ‘submission’ for centuries. Well, I too don’t submit’. He also replied to Juppé saying that those who went to the Trocadero meeting ‘were not extremists … they were responsible citizens … they wanted respect … let their voice be respected, let their vote be respected.’
Those ‘responsible citizens’ would clearly have been thrilled to have heard Fillon (last Sunday in Trocadero) say that they were people who shared his Gaulliste ‘certaine idée de la France‘ (in French) and, in a still odder passage, refer to the ‘France of cathedrals, of chateaux and of sans-culottes‘ (the lower classes who became Revolutionaries) [All present and correct: church, aristos and discontented workers. Actually, the latter are surely voting either Melenchon or Le Pen]
A commenter (Richard) had asked about Baroin saving the day as deus ex machina. I said I didn’t see that as possible. A Républicain MP, asked the same question, wondered ‘why one should bring in the 2nd knife of the 3rd candidate’? [Explanation: The 3rd candidate in the Primary was Sarkozy. The ‘2nd knife’ is the French equivalent of ‘2nd banana’ ie a comedian playing supporting role to a top banana – the things one learns whilst blogging.] Baroin’s hanging around on Fillon’s platform on the (v. v. small) off-chance he might end up as Fillon’s Premier … since he can’t be Sarko’s. Close, but no cigar, M. Baroin.
The Socialist ex-Mayor of Paris, Delanoe, told France Inter today he will support Macron, not Socialist Hamon. Delanoe may be the first of what Le Figaro‘s page 1 lead today called ‘The heavyweights of the [Socialist Party] are ready to join Macron’.
Initial mutterings against Hamon are gaining strength. Some of the accusations:
- he spent too long negotiating a pointless agreement with the Greens;
- he gave too much away to the Greens in environmental commitments;
- his campaign took a month to get going;
- he obtained nothing from Melenchon;
- he ignored the Socialist-social-democrats totally for several weeks;
- his programme does not deal with the preoccupations of Socialist voters; BUT …
- now Hamon has begun to say positive things about certain Socialist programmes (eg education/social) over the last 5 years, which may slow the outflow; and
- Hamon is beginning to talk about an enormous shrinkage of the initial eye-watering ambit of his universal income proposals
Word’s out that Macron is reflecting on how to persuade France, the night he becomes President, that he needs a majority of MPs to carry out his programme. Hamon seems to be facing up to the fact that the Socialists could be in quite as parlous a state as the Right.
She described Macron on the radio this morning as ‘the pure product of the system. He is the candidate of rampant globalisation … There are some French people, alas, who favour globalisation: that will not last, believe me. He is the candidate of massive immigration. He wants to naturalise foreigners massively, he wants to put in place positive discrimination. He is the globalist, I am the patriot. There are two clear choices.’
On equal pay, she said: It’s big companies who organise pay inequalities – plus declining rights for women being linked to islamic fundamentalism
President Hollande, reports Le Monde, is doing everything possible to avoid our final image of him being that of his welcoming Le Pen on to the steps of the Elysée Palace in May. He has made several visits lately to Le Pen territory, as well as to outer town suburbs to awaken those who might be thinking of abstaining. The newspaper quotes him as saying in private that Le Pen’s support ‘is under-estimated in the opinion polls’ and if she ‘is 10 points ahead in Round 1, the 2nd candidate will find it difficult to pull support together’.
My favourite commentator: Gérard Courtois (Le Monde)
Cassandra-like, he’s been warning of the coming catastrophe since soon after Hollande’s election, alerting readers in stark language to the ever-growing Le Pen threat.
Today, in a piece headed ‘The tragi-comedy of the right’ he writes of ‘… a candidate ready to do anything to stay, his supporters furious to defend him, his fierce opponents trying to beat him but unable to do so, electors stunned between anger and despondency, clans reviving vendettas which have traumatised the right for years, and godfathers who try to preserve their power and influence while staying in the shadows … If we weren’t less than seven weeks away from a Presidential Election supposed to debate the future of the 5th most powerful nation in the world, one might find this festival of underhand tricks and hypocrisy comical … [Fillon’s] image is in tatters … his [Party] is fractured … and he will have the greatest difficulty in persuading others to accept discipline in public finance when he breached that discipline himself.’
Two party politics
If Fillon and Hamon are both seen to be on the way to losing in Round 1, how many Républicain/Socialist MP’s will have abandoned ship and sought sanctuary elsewhere by Election Day? Is two party politics in France over?
- Macron almost equal with Le Pen in the 1st round – Le Pen steady at 26%
- Fillon at 19% at least 5 points behind and almost certainly not qualifying
- Hamon 13.5%, a bit ahead of Melenchon
- Le Pen’s vote increasingly solid with 80% saying they’re certain to vote for her; Macron’s more fluid with half his ‘voters’ saying they could change their mind
- In the run-off both Macron and Fillon would beat Le Pen 60-40