February 17, 2017
This is the question l’Opinion asked seven experts. Only a month ago this idea would have been rebuked unisono. But, in a campaign that has been full of surprises so far, a Le Pen victory can no longer be excluded. Many of the observers still believe that the second round will mobilise people to vote against Le Pen. Her electorate is rock solid, like granite, while the electorate of her opponents is more like limestone or even sand, says Alain Duhamel. The latest polls give her 26% in the first round, coming first in nine out of twelve regions.
Some argued that she was at this level five years ago, too, so why worry now? The point this time is that she does not have to do much if the other candidates continue to self-destruct. The Front National hopes to benefit from the weakness of Fillon, the lack of gravitas of Emmanuel Macron, and the leftward drift of Benoît Hamon. Yes, there is still the chance of a mobilisation against her in the second round, but today she also seems less frightening in a world of Donald Trump and Brexit.
We also wonder how the context will change with the riots in the banlieues of Paris, in reaction to an alleged rape by a police officer and the subsequent handling of such accusations. There are many parallels to the riots in 2005, which spread through French towns. Experts warn about an explosion of violence unless politicians act.
François Fillon’s troubles, meanwhile, continue. Financial prosecutors confirmed that they will pursue the probe into his family's job affairs after they received a police report. There is no indication of what will follow next. Fillon got better in his response, though, now doing what Nicolas Sarkozy always did while under investigation of corruption and influence peddling - carrying on with the campaign. He talks in a more combative style than before about subjects the Republicans know best, putting forward, among other things, a proposal to lower the penal age to 16.
The campaign of other close contender, Emmanuel Macron, has also entered a delicate phase. He had to defend himself after his statement that colonialism is a crime against humanity caused an uproar in France. Whatever his justifications, it is not in line with what he said about Algeria before, and fed into his image as a slick opportunist without convictions. Ian Brossat, a prominent Communist Paris politician, said Macron has changed his words so many times that “you are bound to eventually agree with something he says.”
We also have stories about the impact of a hard Brexit on air traffic; on attempts to reach an agreement on Greece before Monday's eurogroup; on Spanish dockworkers possibly striking over an ECJ ruling; on analysts' views of the impact of Trump on Balkan stability; on last-ditch attempts at peace in Italy's PD; on Trump's economic impact on the EU; and on the danger of muddled thinking on an Irish border.