Day 17 – Nearly Round One

The answer to life, the universe and everything … except François Fillon

Juppé’s contribution to the We’re All Behind Fillon movement [their first time together since 25 January] was a visit with Fillon to computer coding school Ecole 42 (founder Niel: creator of telephone operator Free/co-owner of Le Monde). The visit was abandoned when it was learnt that some naughty students were going to make Fillon’s entry badge produce a welcome message saying ‘Pay back the money, François’ instead of ‘Bonjour François’ – plus pics of Penelope on computer screens. The trouble with geeks.

Off Fillon/Juppé went instead to online music on demand supplier Deezer … only to find ‘Pay back the money’ on several screens. But, putting that silliness aside, Juppé said he was there to support Fillon, because:

  • I’ve always kept my word and I’m loyal to my political family
  • I want to avoid the nightmare of a Le Pen-Mélenchon 2nd round, plague or cholera
  • Macron doesn’t have [Presidential] status yet
  • I basically support François Fillon’s project.
  • BUT Juppé angrily declined to comment on Le Canard Enchainé gossip where he was quoted ‘if there’s a Government whose line is dictated by Sens Commun [political wing of the anti-gay marriage movement whom Fillon will (probably) bring into any Government of his] that’s simple, I’ll be in the opposition.’

Why no Big Fillon Interview in Le Monde? Every other leading candidate has had their couple of pages. The Editor yesterday told us that Fillon’s team had imposed a condition – after initially agreeing an interview – whereby Fillon wouldn’t have to reply to any questions concerning the matters on which he had been charged. Le Monde refused this pre-condition on the grounds that ‘it appears essential to ask him about morality in public life, an essential part of the current democratic debate’.

No Le Monde interview BUT … in lieu thereof … this very morning, the well-known brings-tears-to-your-eyes ‘Breakfast with Sarkozy’. Fillon’s team said he ‘wanted to thank Nicolas Sarkozy for his support’.

Has Fillon got an ‘axa’ to grind?

Giant insurance company Axa’s former boss, de Castries, is a long-standing Filloniste, originally rumoured to have suggested reducing the State’s healthcare role, while increasing it for private insurers. Fillon may now be disappointed to learn that seriously rich Axa founder, Bébéar (the man who anointed de Castries) is a Macronista: ‘I trust [Macron’s] rectitude, vision and advocacy for Europe’.

Vallsing Macronista

Former Socialist PM Valls (and distant runner-up in the Socialist Primary) has followed up his earlier pro-Macron stance. In a ‘solemn address’ [and open letter], he and his successor as Mayor have (‘faithful to their republican beliefs’) called for a Macron ‘vote utile‘ to ‘push aside the real danger today of a second round between François Fillon and Marine Le Pen: a catastrophe for our country and its values’.

Sarko This Day Supports

The appeal to set up a Sarko/Juppé Family Pic And Get-Together With Fillon fell on stony ground. Instead Sarko posted a Facebook appeal (in French) to vote Fillon – at the time of writing with 1.2 million views – saying his ‘programme will allow France to change over from the disastrous five years we have had and avoid the risk of extremes, whether extreme right or extreme left’ [no mention of the extreme centre?]

My 304 page anti-Euro diatribe (‘The Euro: How a Common Currency Threatens the Future of Europe’) is distinct from Her Analysis (says Nobel Prize Laureate)

Jo Stiglitz (Nobel Prize for Economics) followed up the earlier public distancing by him and 24 other Nobel laureates from Le Pen, tweeting: ‘I wish Marine Le Pen would stop acting like I agree with her and her ideas’ + ‘For the record: I am not a supporter of Marine Le Pen’ + ‘Nor do I support the policies of Marine Le Pen or her political party’.

But Le Pen’s at it again ‘Everyone knows the Euro is not viable’ she said on BFM TV, referring to Stiglitz once more.

That produced a further tweet from Stiglitz: ‘Marine Le Pen’s attacks on @JosephEStiglitz show again that she is not fit for office. We don’t support her. Period.’

We’ll Keep the [Different] Flags Flying Here

What a pleasure (flag-wise at least) to attend yesterday’s Hamon’s Festival of Fun (Music, Politics, Philosophy, a Breton food truck serving pancakes with home-made beurre au caramel salé – what’s not to like?) at the symbolically-important-for-The-Left Place de la République. Several flags … and none.

Maybe the limited number of flags was the effect of people reflecting on the Socialists possibly failing to get 5% of the national vote on Sunday. That would have a seriously dramatic effect psychologically: a result even worse than the 1969 catastrophe when the Socialists got 5.01% … with the Communists winning 21.3%, which led to Mitterand’s emergence, his squeeze on the CP and then winning Presidential power 12 years later … but, practically, there’d be a powerful double whammy (see below).

Anyway, back to flags. They weren’t being handed out to everyone who came into the Place – unlike Macron’s Bercy rally last Sunday, where I was offered a tricolore several times. Slowly, as the time approached for Hamon to speak – and the all-important TV transmission to begin – flags appeared. All types. Tricolores, lots of Euro-flags, Rainbow, Breton, Greens, Young Socialists, Hamon’s slogan ‘Make France’s Heart Beat’. The flags, at least, seemed – like the claimed 20,000 but Le Monde said was a mere 10,000 crowd – to be representative of France.

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Getting across into the Place from the Metro had been laborious. There’s evidently a much-heightened state of alert following Tuesday’s arrest in Marseilles of two alleged about-to-be-bombers intent on attacking a Presidential candidate. An outdoor meeting was seen to be perhaps still more vulnerable.  A cordon of highly armed police patted down every man entering the Place from any direction. In the apparent absence of any women police, someone would seem to have taken a view as to the gender of the possible threat: women only had to open bags.

Hamon gave a fine speech: it certainly needed to be good with an awfully bitter wind blowing. He attacked Mélenchon with considerably more ferocity than Macron. But it’s surely all far too late. If only he’d forensically taken apart Mélenchon like that from the beginning (above all for The Great Orator’s deeply questionable positions on Europe, Russia and Putin) things might well have turned out otherwise.

Hamon powerfully quoted Primo Levi: ‘It is therefore necessary to be suspicious of charismatic leaders, or rather, of those who seek to convince us with other tools than reason: we must be cautious about delegating to others our judgement and our will. Since it is difficult to distinguish true prophets from false, it is as well to regard all prophets with suspicion.’

[But whilst there was all this Socialist ‘jollity’ in Place de la République, elsewhere Socialist plotting was under way, reports Le Monde, for the après-Hamon era. President Hollande still lets it be known – and he’s said to be a fine assessor of the political runes [other than where it concerns himself and his policies maybe?] – that (i) on Sunday tout est possible, (ii) Macron will not have a majority following June’s Parliamentary Elections and (iii) the Socialist Party’s real vote in the country is not at Hamon levels. An anonymous Minister is quoted: ‘Hollande thinks the [two Party] system is not dead’.]

Today – Naughtie

For those who’d like to hear a few mellifluous minutes of the estimable Jim Naughtie (Scotsman, Washington Post, Guardian and BBC) on the current state of the French Election it’s here (Today programme, 20 April) at 1:51:13. Not much new … but lovely word pictures.

Election Expenses

The campaign expenses of each Presidential candidate cannot exceed €16.85 million in Round 1, or €22.51 million for the 2 candidates who get through to Round 2. [Sarkozy’s still being investigated in relation to his excess campaign expenditure in 2012.]

The State reimburses all expenses incurred by any candidate, up to c. €8 million, provided they’ve obtained 5% of votes cast. Those getting less than 5% of votes cast only have c. €800K reimbursed. For the 2 candidates in Round 2 the limit on reimbursement is €10.7 million.

Candidates and parties can also receive donations. However, individual donations to candidates are limited to €4500, while no donation to a political party can exceed €7,500.

Opinion Polls

Harris Interactive (18/19 April – 3000 people)

  • Macron 25%, Le Pen 22%, Fillon 19%, Mélenchon 19%

BVA (18/19 April -1500 people)

  • Macron 24%, Le Pen 23%, Fillon 19%, Mélenchon 19%

Certainty of their choice.

  • Harris says 85% Fillon, 84% Le Pen and 79% Macron voters are certain
  • BVA says 86% Le Pen, 81% Fillon and 74% Macron voters are certain; BVA also mentions that TWENTY NINE PER CENT OF THOSE WHO SAY THEY ARE CERTAIN TO VOTE SAY THEY COULD STILL CHANGE THEIR MIND OR REFUSE TO SAY HOW THEY WILL VOTE … while 11% of undecideds will make up their minds when in the polling booth: Can that really be true? Or are they just shy Le Pen voters?

Abstention: BVA says turnout might be just under 2012’s 79.5% – this has been brought about, they say, by the possible presence in Round 2 of Le Pen AND Mélenchon.

Round 2

Harris: Macron wins against Le Pen (34%), Fillon (32%!), Mélenchon (40%); Mélenchon wins against Le Pen (40%), Fillon (42%); Fillon wins against Le Pen (42%)

BVA: Macron wins against Le Pen (35%), Fillon (33%), Mélenchon (40%); Mélenchon wins against Le Pen (40%), Fillon (42%); Fillon wins against Le Pen (43%) [Refusal to say how they would vote in Round 2 is down to 16% for Macron v Le Pen; is down to between 25-27% in all others except Fillon v Le Pen which remains very high at 35%. That run-off could still lead to a Le Pen victory.]

Footnote on opinion polls. A Montpellier professor of political science, Dormagen, says the polls have unrepresentative out-of-date samples: eg under-estimating all retirees, especially workers who are retired, but over-estimating retired senior managers and professionals. Age-wise there are under-estimates of the over-80’s. All these ‘errors’ can lead, he says, to an under-estimation of the Right’s vote. Make of that what you will. Those with money on Fillon might start getting more excited.

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