Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The French Election Landscape

Most Americans consider the election of 2016 to be a rare event which comes only every fifty-odd years.

We are having that type of election in France for President to shape up as the same rare event.

The primary election is 23 April.  From this group of roughly ten political parties running candidates....if no one gets 50-percent, then a special election is held on 7 May with the top two candidates.  You can figure with 10 individuals....the top two will get no more than 60-percent of the vote combined (with the best of scenarios) with this first election.

The candidates?

Le Pen is the National Front candidate.  She's the daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen....who was the long-time front person of the National Front Party.  Jean would be best described as some combination of McCain-Trump-George Wallace.....as far out on the extremes as you could get.

Father and daughter....aren't exactly in agreement about things, and dad kinda got pushed out of the party (forced to retire), so there is some bad blood existing.

Note that she has a niece very active in politics (Marion Marechal-Le Pen), and the odds are that you will hear about the niece in a national election within ten years.

Here's the thing about Marine Le Pen.....around seven years ago, she started to pick up the National Front and clean up the image.  With dad's old group....it was a fairly hostile group who you could utter comments about racism and anti-Jew attitudes.  The group was lodged in those years with usually a ten-to-fifteen percent voting stance with the public.

In the past couple of years....Marine Le Pen has lessened the negative image....toughened the commentary on crime and terrorism....spoke about French character....been pro-active with gays/gay marriage.....and totally remade the National Front Party.  You cannot compare the National Front Party of 1997 to the National Front Party of 2017....two totally separate groups.  I read a piece this week that suggested that 35-to-40 percent of gays identify with the National Front, and the trend is increasing.

If you wanted to compare against an American political figure?  It would be very difficult.  She is fairly clever and articulate.  She's a fireball in defense of French character.  She's not that enthusiastic about the EU....but then half the French public isn't that thrilled with the EU anymore.  Corruption-wise, she's been very careful.  On the negative scale....she's nationalistic.  Right now....the French public is pumped up about terrorism and want tough measures, and Le Pen is likely carrying a lot of votes because of the comments made.

Up until three weeks ago.....the chief competition for Le Pen was Fillon from the Republicans.  He was the professional candidate....with a background, and clear speeches.  His downfall?  A newspaper....Le Canard enchaine....a weekly and small operation....came up with a fair amount of details over Fillon's wife and kids having fake jobs and a significant income from the fake jobs. From what they reported, it's obvious that some insider had come to give the info....the question is who, and for what reason.  Fillon was sitting safely in late December at roughly 30-to-32 percent of the vote.  Now?  18-to-20 percent of the vote.  He won't be able to mount a comeback.

The cops?  Well, yeah, they are investigating the fake job and there's potentially charges for this.  The party is angry to some degree.  They would like for Fillon to considering quitting and they could hustle back a replacement.  But it's a hundred days away, and it's hard to imagine a replacement mounting a serious election.  If the cops charge Fillon's wife or the kids?  I doubt if he'd get more than 15-percent of the vote.

Fillon's big negative?  He wants to fire or terminate 500,000 civil service employees with the French government.  If this were a Fillon and Le Pen election....Le Pen would have gotten all of the government employee votes.  Beyond the scandal?  Fillon has few negatives.  He's got experience and does great on debates.  He's popular with people....at least til the fake job topic came up.

So we come to candidate number three.....Emmanuel Macron from the Progressive Party.  I sat last night and watched an interview with a French politics professor who talked for several minutes on Macron.  As he said....no one knows Macron.  It's like a bus pulled up and dumped some guy out, and he tells to you about himself.....but no one really knows the guy.  For the French, they've never had some political figure to emerge out of the shadows and just be accepted to this degree.

I sat and read up on Macron last night.  It's an odd history.  He was a long term student....first getting a degree in philosophy (generally a wasted degree, in my humble opinion).  Then he went on to get a public affairs degree, and then went onto a senior training center for government positions.  The French tend to want professionals running government organizations, if you didn't know that.

So his real career or money-earning career didn't start until 2004 (13 years ago). He was a finances inspector for the government for four years, and then left.  Oddly, he ends up next at the Rothschild Bank....as an investment handler....for the upper-crust customers.  For four years, he did fairly well....closed some big deals, and made a fair amount of money for himself.

Then Macron returned to the government....as a deputy under the President Hollande's government (remember, at this point in 2012....he's only 34 years old).  In 2014, he becomes the minister of the economy (age 36).  Toward the fall of 2016, he resigned and went full blast at an election campaign. The money behind his campaign? Unknown.  A lot of speculation over the past month has drilled down into the large campaign staff, and who might be sponsoring the guy from the shadows.

The most odd feature of Macron?  His wife is 20 years older than he.  The wife?  She was actually his teacher when he was 15 years old.  Yeah....it's a curious deal.  They were officially a couple when he reached 18 years old, and married when he turned 30 years old.  The French tend to like stories like this....mostly because of the suggestion of some fantasy love affair deal.

Macron, if you look at comments and platform positions....is a mixture of just about everything.  He's pro-EU but wants French character.  He wants to hire 10,000 more cops and beef up the military with more money.  He says French character is important but so are other nationalities.  He appears to have lots of connections to wealthy insiders but never shows it.  In some ways, he looks a lot like President Obama, with four-star speeches but once analyzed.....the speeches really didn't say much.

You could look at his limited career and say that the guy at age 39.....is still ten years away from full maturity.  His limited experience?  He basically has been an audit guy, some higher-wheeler investment guy, some deputy within the government, and a finance minister....within a 15-year period. He makes great speeches but you just don't see much in terms of abilities.

Macron's current numbers?  20-to-22 percent.....meaning he's easily into second place.

The rest of the crowd?  Mostly people with 10-percent of the public vote.

Hollande's party is out (their pick to replace him is Hamon).  Three years ago, most thought that Hollande would run again, but his women-troubles and attitude toward terrorism won him and the party no big points.  Hamon is pushing 15-percent at this point, and is pretty maxed out.

The Unsubmissive Party the fifth party in the running with some good numbers.  They are running their guy at present with 10-percent of the vote.  They are what you'd call the new kids on the block (they've existed for a total of 12 months).  Their focus? They want a lot more taxes, which would then be redistributed out to the lesser classes, more environmental planning and regulation, and they'd like to withdraw from some of the EU situations (it's never clear which ones).  Somewhere in the mix.....they also want peaceful conditions within France and advances on society and culture.

The best way to describe the Unsubmissive Party is if you took the American tea-party gimmick, and slanted it into some liberal cause with environmental talk and high taxation....then you'd end up with the Unsubmissive group.  A lot of people are amazed that they are pulling ten-percent in most polls but it's really a collection of various small group which focused into one single party.

So, that's the French election landscape.  Frankly, it's a bit wild and crazy.  It could be one of the most marginal groups of characters running for President in France in forty years (I read one description from a French journalist describing it like that).  It doesn't matter who wins....the French republic is simply ready to move on.....the Hollande era hasn't been this really positive period, and the women-troubles made him into more of a joke.  They may accept the fact that from the top three contenders....none of them are really that great of a choice. They simply want to move on.

My guess is that Macron and Le Pen will be the final two.  It's anyone's guess how the public might go with this.

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