March 17, 2017
Le Pen fishes for Sarkozy voters
Next Monday the five candidates for the French presidency are to have their first televised debate. For some, this marks finally the start of the campaign, where candidates can be compared by their programmes, character and style. But most of the important stuff is already happening behind the scenes.
Marine Le Pen now actively woos the electorate of François Fillon, to get their backing for the second round, writes Marianne. This is first about getting their vote in case she runs against Macron in the second round. But it also serves to divide the Republican electorate. Her calculation is that, if it comes to the final round, Republicans would vote for her rather than Macron. Just recently she was disregarding him as wanting an "uberisation" of the French economy. For Fillon voters she takes extra care not to be seen as too crazy. No more mentions of euro exit or pension at the age of 60. Instead Le Pen attacks Fillon’s morals, saying that he leaves his family behind in ruins. Not that Le Pen is free of judicial troubles. But the family aspect might just be the way in. Also, her endorsement of Henri Guiano, the former adviser of Nicolas Sarkozy, was a strategic stunt of its own kind. Portraying Fillon as a candidate representing the rich, she is now fishing for the popular right, those who voted for Sarkozy. The magistrates, meanwhile, have enlarged their formal enquiry to include those expensive suits that François Fillon received from generous friends.
Cécile Cornudet wonders what happens to the centre. Benoît Hamon and François Fillon are more to the left and right, respectively, than their predecessors were. Who takes care of voters of the centre? Are they going to abstain or vote for Emmanuel Macron?
Hamon presented his programme yesterday. It is more left wing than that of François Hollande five years ago, picking up on the "Made in France" approach of Arnaud Montebourg. A poll suggests that only 48% of the Socialists support Hamon, while 58% of Republicans support François Fillon, while 80% of the Left Front party support Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
Macron, meanwhile, got himself a meeting with Angela Merkel, a privilege that François Hollande was not granted before he was elected. The context is different today. The threat of the Front National is more real, as is the loss of popularity of François Fillon. Unlike Hollande at that time, Macron supports fiscal discipline and tells the Germans that reforms are the top priority in France, a message they all like to hear there. But the more interesting question is whether he can deliver. Can this help him with the electorate at home? The last thing Macron wants is an overly enthusiastic German reaction that will force him to mark his differences.