January 09, 2017
FN campaign troubles
What do François Fillon and Emmanuel Macron have in common? They are both pro-EU and pro-immigration. This is the conclusion from Florian Philippot, Vice-president of the Front National, the man to watch out for when it comes to deciphering Marine Le Pen’s strategy. He was the mastermind behind the FN strategy of becoming a majority party, away from targeting Islam and focusing on the EU instead to define a discourse on French identity. They have courted the left electorate in the past, but the FN now needs a strategy against those two opponents. In fact, with five serious contenders in the race, finding a demarcation line is trickier than it used to be. Many observers look at Le Pen, Fillon and Macron as the the ones most likely to reach the second round, as the three top the polls. But there is still some way to go and the FN has some internal battles to overcome. This is not only about finding the finances for its campaign, but there is also a rift inside the party that might become more than just a useful trick to keep its right-wing electorate happy whilst staying on course. Marion Maréchal-Le Pen - the niece of Marine Le Pen and grand-daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen - and the right wing of the party challenged Florian Philippot in the past and favoured a more right-wing strategy, but lost the battle. Now, with only four months to go, she is stepping up her attacks, questioning Philippot's mainstream orientation, and promoting instead a right-wing discourse to win the elections. This will not happen with Philippot. If he resigns, which he sometimes threatens to do, the party's campaign could well falter before it even begins.
Emmanuel Macron continues to roll out his proposals, one by one, and has surged to the top of the popularity polls ahead of Fillon. He is also casting himself as an anti-establishment candidate, and is thus stealing Marine Le Pen's show. He just delivered his proposal on health reforms, which is very much to the taste of the left. That Manuel Valls ignores Macron only enhances the latter's anti-establishment flair. His views on the Franco-German relationship and on education are on the agenda for this week.