November 25, 2016
Francois Fillon seems unstoppable after a good performance in the televised debate last night. 57% of viewers found him more convincing than Alain Juppé, while 41% thought otherwise. The lead among centre right supporters reflects Fillon's appeal especially to that group: 71% favoured him, and only 28% came out in support of Juppé.
Juppé tried all angles of attack (abortion, civil service layoffs, Putin...) without being seen as too aggressive. It certainly helped to bring to light Fillon’s conservative programme, which many of the viewers did not know yet. But did it harm him? On the contrary, it provided a platform for Fillon to show his tenacity, to show that he is really a candidate of the right. While Fillon exuded confidence, the aura of defeat was noticeable in Juppé’s gestures and discourse.
Le Point digs deeper to find out whether Fillon’s promise to cut 500,000 posts in five years is feasible. They found that if every one who retires is not replaced, he could achieve 600,000. But even Fillon would not want this. He says every one in two retires will not be replaced, which brings the figure up to 300,000. The rest is to come from not renewing short-term contracts. There are 100,000 ending every year. It is thus feasible on paper, but is it realistic? Sarkozy had a similar project, but the total number of civil servants actually increased. If Fillon wants to increase the pension age, this will not help him either. Nor is it easy to end short-term contracts that have been renewed for so many times.
The emergence of Fillon also impacts the left. François Hollande considers Fillon's victory a ‘divine surprise’, according to Marianne. As an eternal optimist, Hollande sees his chances increasing. On reason is the now persistent drop in latest unemployment data. Another is that Fillon’s stellar ascent shows that polls can get it wrong and that traditional politics can still mobilise the people. His team's reading is that Fillon, with his ultra-liberal programme, will find it harder that Sarkozy to get Front National voters and also voters from the centre. The article warns, however, that the forces that destroyed Sarkozy could also destroy him, if the electorate wants to get rid of its former leaders.
This is exactly what Arnaud Montebourg has in mind when he calls centre right voters to participate in the left primaries next year. He wants to mobilise those voters to get rid of Hollande, as left voters helped to get rid of Nicolas Sarkozy. Naturally, he also hopes that this increases his chances against other left adversaries.