In the aftermath of Brexit and the tensions caused by the Dutch elections and Geert Wilders, The French Presidential Campaign will catch everybody’s attention and it will be the second of three big challenges European Union will face in 2017.
With regard to migration, the rise of nationalism or populism in several European countries in the last couple of years has concerned European leaders for eventual harms it could do to the European project and single market. For French people, nationalism is not something new. In fact, the radical right-wing party National Front (Front Nationale in French) has been participating in every French electoral campaign since its founding in 1972, however, their national relevance in french politics was very residual until the 2002 Presidential campaign of Jean-Marie Le Pen.
In 2002, Jean-Marie Le Pen shocked all critics and media when he assured a 2nd round with Jaques Chirac against all the experts' expectations who thought 2nd round would be Chirac facing Lionel Jospin.
This result made the French parties to announce their vote preference in Chirac. As a matter of fact, 2nd round was too easy for Chirac. Besides the support of all moderate and progressive parties, Chirac had media and syndicates on his side, and so it became quite predictable his victory. In the end, Chirac’s won with 88% of the vote.
From that moment until 2008, Jean-Marie Le Pen kept his position as President of National Front and competed in all French and European elections; however, he never reached the heights of 2002.There were many reasons for the decline of the radical right-wing party such as the modification of the regional electoral system to contain the influence of National Front in some regions; party faced a financial crisis and forced the party to make a restructuring to solve it.
Furthermore, the beginning of the 21st century was a time of some prosperity for both European countries and European Union. The European currency “Euro” had a bright start and it gained a very good reputation in the international markets, which gave some credit to the European project. The Euopean project was at an all time high of popularity in its member states.
After the results in 2008, Jean-Marie Le Pen retired from the Presidency of National Front and there was an internal run between his daughter Marine Le Pen against the vice-president Bruno Gollish. In January 2011, Marine Le Pen was elected president of National Front and with her presidency, National Front was able to win 24 seats in the European Parliament.
This year, eleven candidates are running for President, but only 4 have any real chancey to get the final two places for a run-off election. What has changed the dynamic of the election is that both the Socialist candidate for President (Benoît Hamon) and Republican Candidate and Former French Prime Minister under former President Nicholas Sarkozy; Francois Fillon have both had lacklustre campaigns which have also seen Fillon has stubbornly resisting calls to step down after revelations he paid his wife and children government salaries, though they apparently did little or no work in return. He has not denied the payments but insists he did not misuse public funds.
Most French voters are not vindictive with regard to such minor instances of corruption, and given the other choices may decide to forgive Fillon because of the experience, demonstrated competence and sheer gravitas he would bring to the presidency.
Opinion polls show around a third of France's 45.7 million voters might abstain, an unprecedented number in a country with a long tradition of high turnouts. Even among those who intend to vote, about one-third have yet to make up their mind on how to cast their ballot.
When Fillon won the Republican Primary election in November, he proved that he was a strong finisher and will be betting that he gets a good split of the 30% undecided factor in recent French polling.
Heading into March, this race looked like it would have been the first election in French post- war history where there was not a major party candidate in the run-off election; which Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron being the likely candidates. Le Pen and Macron had 25% and 24% taken at the end of March by PrésiTrack OpinionWay / ORPI for Les Echos and Radio Classique.
While Fillon is attacking Macron as a closet Socialist too close to the unpopular Hollande Government, Le Pen has her vulnerabilities as well. Le Pen relies on support among young and working class voters, two groups where abstention is forecast to be high.
According to the dutch Investment bank Rabobank, Emanuel Macron is the most likely candidate to succeed Holland in the presidency. According to the last polls Macron and Marine Le Pen are tied with 23%, followed by François Fillon and Mélenchon (Communist) with 18% each.
This has been backed up by the latest Ifop-Fiducial poll on 12 April showed Le Pen winning 23.5 percent in the April 23 first round, one point ahead of centrist Emmanuel Macron.
Both Le Pen and Macron's support dipped by half a point from Tuesday while conservative Francois Fillon was stable on 19 percent and Melenchon unchanged on 18.5 percent.
The top two candidates go through to a run-off on May 7, where polls say Macron would easily beat Le Pen.
Mélenchon has surged in recent weeks with some good debate performances, in a field where enthusiasm is low (outside of Le Pen), however, his platform by many is seen as far too left wing even for left of centre voters who are gravitating to Macron's campaign as the only 'viable' opposition to Fillon or Le Pen.
With Mélenchon and Le Pen rising in the polls; until the elections are over, the financial markets will see unrest as both want to put the EU membership of France to a vote and Le Pen wants to take France out of the Euro.
However, we predict that if Le Pen is in the final run-off election; she will lose. Le Pen, just like her father will galvanise all of the other parties against her (providing Mélenchon doesn't make the run off, which we see as unlikely). It is predicted that Macron, as the most likely to run against Le Pen would receive the endorsement of the Socialist President Hollande and the Republican Party through its standard bearer Fillon.
This prediction is not only based in history when the same phenomenon saw Jacques Chirac receive the support of every other party to block Jean Marie Le Pen but in every head to head poll completed this cycle shows Le Pen losing to either Fillon or Macron.