Day 35 – NONE of this is a late April Fool. (The punchline’s towards the end)

Out on the streets

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Now The Election Really Is Coming. Every French municipality will soon see the posters and meetings of each candidate. Everyone has their own ‘display board’ in the order of names determined by the draw the Conseil constitutionnel made.

‘Rock star’

A strangely gushing portrait of The Evil Niece: Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, or MMLP (see Day 92), in the Financial Times: ‘In a leather jacket and skinny jeans, blonde hair swept into a ponytail, one of the rock stars of France’s National Front is making her final preparations to address a crowd of adoring fans.’ She said: Great swaths of France are “off-limits” to ordinary people because “the rule of the drug dealers and of radical Islam” reigns supreme. The right to asylum is an “extraordinary trick” to let in more immigrants, who “bring terrorism” into France.

Cécile Alduy, Stanford professor and FN specialist, commented: “Young, eloquent and bold . . . [MMLP] can attract the type of disenchanted socially conservative Fillon voters who care about abortion and gay marriage.” One senior FN supporter said: “Marion is our secret weapon.” Some say she, not Marine, will be France’s first female head of state.

Anti-Macron

Baroin, the man who’ll be Fillon’s choice as PM (should that position ever need filling) is interviewed in yesterday’s popular Le Parisien. As with Fillon, 98% of the time is spent attacking Macron … and all of the balance hitting hard at Le Pen, with remarks clearly intended to reinforce voters’ belief in politics.

Some extracts of his elegant bile: ‘I was one of the first to highlight [Macron’s] hypocrisy, the illusions and the lie he’s trying to sell to the French. He’s a socialist. He was one of the major players in the lie that was the 2012 campaign … He says everything and nothing. He has problems with history, geography and the economy.’

Asked why the Républicains had intensifying their fire [against Macron] last week, Baroin replied: ‘The masks are off. Two months ago, François Fillon had two Socialist candidates against him. The official one, Benoît Hamon, and the contraband (sic) one, Emmanuel Macron. Since then, Hamon’s been allowed to drop away and Macron has benefited from the re-organisation: from Hollande’s former Prime Minister to his lawyer. So now we have a plane with a pilot who’s never been a pilot, co-pilots ranging from Cohn-Bendit [ex ’68 Danny the Red … now rather centre-leftist] to François Bayrou [centrist] … and a navigation crew ranging from Ségolène Royal [Socialist Min. of Environment and ex-Presidential candidate … who’s still not said she will vote Macron] to Jean-Yves Le Drian [Socialist Defence Minister … who has gone over]. It’s a guaranteed crash … His programme’s pure Hollande.’

Replying to the question why he was hitting out at Macron and less against Le Pen, Baroin said: ‘I’m fighting the two with equal intensity. They each embody populist adventures … [his] is a high society populism.’

Pro-Fillon

‘Fillon gambles on a sudden burst from the right’s electorate … Relying on the fervour at his meetings, [Fillon’s] team wants to get the idea of a ‘hidden vote’, not being measured by opinion polls, accepted’ AND ‘Fillon hopes for the return of the disappointed electors … The desire for a change of Government and support for his plans will be stronger than the scandals.’ (Le Monde headlines, April 2) AND … right on cue yesterday we received through our front door the self-same 8 page Fillon leaflet I wrote about on Day 41.

So this must be The Big Push. One Last Heave. The idea being that, alone in the privacy of the polling booth and facing The Big Decision, large numbers of people – say ONE AND A HALF MILLION or so (believe that if you can) – will forget The Man and think only about The Plan. Hence endless repetition of the mantra: Macron’s a Socialist/The Return of Hollande/Time for a Change. An ardent Fillon lieutenant, Wauquiez, wrote in Le Figaro: ‘François Fillon is not the issue. It’s the future of France.’

Fourquet (pollster IFOP) considers this ‘hidden vote’ highly unlikely, but says Fillon might well claw a few extra percentage points with returning voters from the right. Teinturier (pollster Ipsos) does not see Fillon exceeding 20-21% because his plans for retirement at 65 and reform of Social Security ‘arouse real disquiet amongst the moderate right’.

Other people’s stuff

This very readable article from last Sunday’s Observer is well worth your time … even if  it’s rather more about fiery MMLP than her ‘wiser’, less provocative aunt Marine.

There’s also this by the BBC’s Emma Jane Kirby. She’s doing a series of depressingly good vox pops in France for Radio 4’s flagship PM programme – her latest is here at 23:38.

Some amusing Mme Fillon memes collated by the BBC presented for your delectation.

Front National and Le Monde

Fenoglio, Le Monde‘s Director, wrote this signed piece yesterday: ‘The leadership of the Front National invariably resorts to the same tactic when confronted by news which embarrasses them and which reveals their true nature and their schemes … For the last two days [Philippot, Rachline, Saint Just – FN leaders] have swung between ridicule and defamation trying to disparage Le Monde‘s revelations about the FN’s deliberate strategy of misappropriation of European Parliament funds. Unable to produce any basic arguments against the well-supported work of our journalists, they’ve let it be known that our information was obtained by bribing an informer … and, further, that Le Monde was trying to harm Marine Le Pen so as to advantage one of her opponents … These lies have become so systematic that it would be right, once and for all, to set down the truth. No – Le Monde never pays money to obtain information. Saying we have bribed a source is defamation … No – in this Presidential campaign Le Monde has not joined any camp. The liberty of our journalists is total and is in no way affected by the public declarations of its shareholders [Bergé, one of Le Monde‘s 3 shareholders, is a well-known supporter of Macron]. Le Monde does not buy anyone and has not been sold to any candidate. Its only bias is its journalism: the key element in the democratic debate between enlightened citizens. In other words, exactly what the leadership of the Front National does not accept.’

To be read while sitting down: Abstention, Differential Abstention and the ‘Front Républicain

Le Monde‘s Saturday headline was ‘Abstainers and undecideds: why they could swing the Election’. In an interview, Teinturier (Ipsos) spoke of the possibility of a record level of abstention in the 1st Round. The previous record had been in 2002. Then, 28% abstained in Round 1 (despite, or because of, 16 candidates), with Chirac and Le Pen ending up as the top 2. Current polls show abstentions may exceed 32%, with half under-35s abstaining, though only a quarter of 65+ doing so. Teinturier commented that with Fillon emphasising ‘Presidential dirty tricks’, and Macron being Hollande’s heir, it becomes ever more likely that many of Fillon’s voters would abstain in Round 2: currently forecast to be over a third.

In Libération (in French – and I’m unsure if that hyperlink will last) academic, physicist and climate-sceptic (sic) Galam, creator of sociophysics (as explained by a 2009 blogger), and a member of the Science Po University Research Institute, also writes about abstention.

Galam claims he forecast the 2005 French rejection of the Euro-Constitution at the Referendum, Le Pen being 2nd in 2002, Trump’s election and Juppé’s defeat. He’s now warning of the effects of differential abstention, ie levels of abstention varying between different socio-economic/political groups of voters.

Galam refers to the previously ‘guaranteed’ anti-FN glass ceiling which always prevented the FN getting more than 50% of the vote in any major election. This largely depended on what’s become known as the ‘Republican Front’. The latter deems that democratic parties of right and left alike unite in the 2nd round of an election to fight alongside each other against the election of a representative of a party, the FN, opposed to the principles of the French Republic. Most famously all parties/candidates in the 2002 Presidential Election (except for Extremely Precious Trot Laguiller) united in calling on the nation to vote for Chirac against Le Pen.

However, the Right has demonstrated increasing disinterest in joining with the Left where there was a run-off election between a Left candidate and the FN. The Right under Sarkozy developed a policy of ni-ni (neither one nor the other) … even Nice Old Juppé was affected by this disinclination to support a Republican Front. In the run-up to the Right’s Primary he was asked for his position. He said he’d accept a Republican Front, provided the left’s candidate was ‘un social-democrate et pas un rouge‘ (not sure Hamon would have got his support).

Back to Galam. He writes ‘While Le Pen activates anti-FN voters regardless of their challenger, each candidate who might qualify for the 2nd round against her [Macron or Fillon in practice] is going to de-activate voters who cannot vote for them, even against Le Pen … Those voters will find excuses not to go out to vote and abstentions will be considerably more numerous for the challenger than for Le Pen.’

Galam concludes with the death-knell: ‘If there’s an overall 77% turnout, but a turnout of 85% from Le Pen voters, there only needs to be a 45% intention to vote Le Pen for her to obtain 50.02% in the Election should her opponent only get a 70% turnout … The election of Le Pen to the Presidency in 2017 previously went from impossible to improbable. It is now in the course of changing over from improbable to very possible.’

[Extraordinarily (never seen this before) almost the identical(ish) article is available – but this time completed by lots of whizzy graphs – written up by Wisniewska and Ehrenburg-Shannon in yesterday’s Financial Times – under the title ‘Stay-at-home voters offer path to victory for Le Pen‘ (perhaps behind paywall?). In the FT, Galam instances Le Pen polling 42% (her highest poll rating so far). Should her turnout be as high as 90%, while her opponent’s is only 65%, she gets 50.07%: Le Pen is President.]

Shock. Horror. Odoxa (polling 29/30 March) shows Macron getting 59% to Le Pen’s 41% in Round 2. This poll may be an outlier … virtually all previous 2nd round polls give Macron a very solid 62+%.

[So (some) Brits can get still further depressed, for those still gobsmacked by the UK’s 2015 General Election result – where there was a very surprising overall Conservative majority in the face of enormous numbers of polls, none of which had predicted that outcome – here’s a (probably definitive) disquisition (pretty, dense graphs ‘n all) on shy Tories/late swings among voters … with Mellon/Prosser concluding that ’twas probably ‘Differential Abstention Wot Done It’.]

 

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