The following has been obtained from a source in European Economics but their figures are based on the Ipsos-Sopra poll, for which I have provided a link below.
Note that ‘voting intention’ is the way in which the pollsters presently predict the votes to happen. It sounds a little strange but that’s the only way of putting it.
The Ipsos-Sopra Steria survey is the one to follow if you want an update on the French election polls. As of 17th February 2017, it showed the centre-left independent party candidate, Emmanuel Macron, still in 2nd position. He is getting 23% of voting intentions for the first round, with Marine Le Pen slightly ahead at 26%. That doesn’t mean she is going to win: this is only for the first round, remember, which will eliminate the other candidates and put the most popular two forward for the second round in May.
Republican candidate, Francois Fillion, is coming in at 3rd place with 18.5% of voting intentions. He’s really suffered there from the Penelope-gate scandal. What a shame. Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon is at 4th with 14.5%. In my last article I suggested that Hamon may seek an alliance with further left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon in a bid to widen his appeal but I believe Melenchon has said no, in fact I know he has said no: see below. It is quite amusing in fact. Melenchon, the lesser known candidate (until this alliance was proposed), comes in at 5th place with 12% of the voting intention.
Fillon is still under investigation for the fake job scandal but as yet, no judicial investigation has been opened up against him; this would need significant evidence. However, he’s already sunk in the polls and it’s unlikely, even with his loyal followers, that he’ll recover.
17th March 2017 is the last day for naming presidential candidates so unless they find some credible evidence by then, Fillon, who has expressed his desire to stay in the race, will remain the Republican candidate.
Do not despair, it will all change in the second round
That’s right. I met my girlfriend this morning and she can’t even bear thinking about it. Whilst Le Pen might be in with a formidable chance in the first round, it all changes in the second where she is predicted to lose by a whopping great margin of 40-60%; i.e. she takes the lower 40%.
Can we go back to that Melenchon bloke for a second?
Ah yes, him. We do have a tendency to focus on the 4 leading candidates. In one of my previous articles I posited the idea of an alliance between him and the Socialist candidate Hamon. Melenchon said he wouldn’t mind but only if Hamon stepped down and left him to run for President; not the other way around. Smart guy. This is the bit that I thought was quite funny. Melenchon is anti-establishment and as such, is unlikely to join up with the Socialists. Hamon, being the more popular of the two, is hardly likely to renounce his candidacy to boost Melenchon’s chances. Moreover, if he did, he’d likely lose a substantial amount of support which would fall right into Macron’s lap; not a bad place to be I might add (in my book). Anyway, there’s no chance that the Socialist party and the party of the current French President Francois Hollande, would allow Hamon to defect leaving them with no candidate at all. So we’re back to Square 1: no alliance. There you go. I just thought I’d clarify that as it was something that I mooted previously, as did the papers, and you may have been wondering.
Marine, Marine: Will you be crowned Queen?
To be sure, who knows what is going to happen these days. However, Bloomberg puts it quite plain and simply:
‘If Le Pen makes it past the first round, she has to win an absolute majority of votes cast in the second round to become President. Not a single poll has indicated she might win the run off on May 7th. To succeed, she’ll probably need at least three times as many votes as she received in the first round of the 2012 election. But once only two candidates are left, the electoral dynamics are very different from the first round. Those who voted for losing candidates in round one are more likely to vote for Le Pen’s round-two opponent than her. And defeated politicians are likely to rally around her rival. The higher the turnout, the higher the bar will be set for her victory’ (Maxime Sbaihi for Bloomberg).
This is what happened to Marine’s father and FN (Front National) founder Jean-Marie. In 2002 he was heavily defeated in the second round by Jacques Chirac, who took 82% of the vote.
Whilst Le Pen has succeeded in softening the extremist policies of her father’s somewhat and may fare better than he did then, Bloomberg goes on to say that she is ‘still unlikely to break a 30-40% ceiling’.
Let’s break up this article with a little gallery, shall we?
French Government System
The following has been nicely outlined by Maxime Sbaihi for Bloomberg. I have provided information on him below.
French Parliament is bi-cameral: it has two chambers. The National Assembly and the Senate work together to pass legislation. They also have the power to bring down governments. The President appoints the Prime Minister and ministers but this government needs to pass a majority vote in Parliament – that being both chambers. And whoever is President is not necessarily the one with the majority in Parliament. (More of that below).
The National Assembly has 577 seats, of which Marine Le Pen’s party holds only 2.
The Senate has 348 Senators. Marine Le Pen’s party has 2 of them.
It’s not looking good
Legislative elections are due to take place in France after the June Presidential elections. When this happens, the entire National Assembly is up for renewal. Certainly if Le Pen were to win, she would hope to gain more seats than her party have presently. These seats are chosen in a two round electoral system, like the Presidential elections. It is not proportional. As such, the chances of her National Front party managing to gain a big majority in the Assembly are unlikely. Despite being President, she would still have to work alongside a government in which her party would likely continue to have very few seats. As such, she would need to look beyond the ranks of her own party to build a majority government; you might prefer to call it a coalition. In order to do this successfully, she would have to negotiate on some of her more extreme policies; some of which may have been the ones that made the electorate choose her in the first place. So her hands would be tied: to re-use my former pun, she’d be a bit ‘penned in’. She could choose to remain in the parliamentary minority but this would mean she would be handing parliamentary power over to the opposition.
Has this happened in the past?
Yes. 3 other times. In such instances, the opposition government have focused on domestic policy whilst the President has focused on external affairs. I could look into this more for you but it will divert me and I dare say you want to get to the end of this already.
Negotiating with Europe
Like David Cameron, if Marine Le Pen does win, she has promised to approach Brussels for preliminary talks to seek changes to France’s role within the EU; thereafter, a referendum would be held. That she has promised. Has this happened before? Oh yes. Cameron negotiated with the EU, with some success I thought, although there was no room for movement on the freedom of movement issue. Sadly his efforts fell flat when the referendum went against him. You may as well have crumpled all of those negotiations into a little ball and used it to play target practice against a life size cardboard image of Boris Johnson (sorry Boris, but you were a bit mean to David).
And in the likelihood of a referendum in France?
Ah, Le Frexit. France was one of the founding members of the EU and pro-European sentiment is still very much part of the national culture. Thank goodness. Pre-referendum polls show that the French outlook for remaining is stronger than that of pre-referendum Britain. The French have a lot more to lose.
Just out of curiosity, what is the French legislation in regard to triggering an Article 50?
Article 89 of the French constitution states that any revision would have to be approved by both chambers of Parliament; which is the decision that the Supreme Court recently came to in Britain. With the UK House of Commons having agreed to the UK Brexit Bill, Parliament must now follow suit. As the front pages of today’s newspapers will show you, Theresa May was found sitting in the House of Lords yesterday. It is unusual for a British Prime Minister to leave the familiar green benches of the Commons and wander down the hall to take a pew on the red benches of the Lords, but is has been known to happen. Her agenda? No doubt a little reminder for the peers to tow the line.
Back to the French Constitution in which Article 11 gives Le Pen an option to overrule both chambers in the event that both or either one objected. Said Article enables the President to hold a referendum proposing changes to the constitution (Ergodan in Turkey is quite fond of this little manoeuvre). Charles De Gaulle invoked it when he was President in 1962. Unfortunately, as frequently seems to happen when leaders make these bold decisions to hold referendums, the pendulum does not always swing in their favour and they are forced to resign. Another example please? Matteo Renzi’s suggested proposals for a constitutional amendment in November last year.
Any concluding remarks?
Not really. I’m just giving you an update on the current polls. And some credible sources for you to follow, should you be so inclined. But I will end with the words of a highly esteemed French philosopher who incidentally I once saw at a public debate in London. I recall approaching him shortly thereafter on his way up the stairs and telling him how charming I found him. Then I ran away, fast; but I’m pretty sure a gallant smile ensued. Oh the French …..
That same French philosopher, Bernard-Henri Levy, was interviewed for comment by the Telegraph back in November 2016, shortly after the Trump victory, and these were his words: ‘Nothing, from now on, is unimaginable’. More worryingly, he also said: ‘I would warn the media not to follow the polls again’.
I like you Bernard but I’m going to keep following them anyway.
Here is a direct link to the Sopra Steria polls mentioned. It’s in French. I found the IFOP site but couldn’t access the polls directly:
The information above on Le Pen and the hurdles she would face should she become President were provided by Maxime Sbaihi, an economist at Bloomberg. You can’t get the full analysis without a subscription to Bloomberg Intelligence so I have tried to provide an outline to his argument, the one entitled ‘Le Pen’s Six Hurdles to Brexit’. His twitter feed is here and he’s quite good at updating the polls so it’s a useful one to follow:
Deutsche Welle update on polls, 19.2.17. It’s in English so don’t worry:
And more of the same from Reuters, 18.2.17:
Bloomberg’s guide to understanding French polls (and what do you know, they seem to have adopted Make Me Aware’s Question and Answer format! First time I’ve seen that elsewhere…). It’s a bit old, 30.1.17, but the Fillon allegations were being reported at that time. Bloomberg has a little video too. At the beginning it’s mostly really about the chances of Marine Le Pen winning, although it does touch on the allegations towards Fillon at the end. Even closer towards the end it mentions Macron and his chances. Macron, they suggest, is somewhat of a blank slate with no policies as yet; he is under pressure to produce some and fast but, they say; he will. Finally, some comments about the economy are made:
More on the IFOP Polls from Business Insider, 13.2.17 (just trying to ensure you have some credible links you can continue to look at):
French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy, quoted in the Telegraph, 20.11.16:
Le Pen Getty image featured in Time magazine:
Marine’s Trump hands from Versa News (an Oxford student publication):
Marine ‘s Trump hands from the New Statesman:
Le Pen, Atlantic:
Le Pen Getty image, reproduced in the Daily Mail:
Le Pen salute:
Huffington’s Le Pen:
Le Pen praying, Politico:
Le Pen Trump hands, Washington Post:
Marine Le Pen fixing hair:
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