guide to the French presidential election, 2017
Click here for an
overview of political
parties in France
UPDATE: 27th November.
has won the primary of the Centre and right, and will be their candidate in the 2017 election.UPDATE: 2nd December.
François Hollande has announced that he will not stand for a second term in office.
WILL MARINE LE PEN BE THE NEXT FRENCH PRESIDENT ?
Short answer: NO
She is expected to be one of the two candidates to make it
through to the second round, but with a 71% disapproval rating (a large
part of which could be called an abhorrence rating), there is no way
that she could beat the other candidate who makes it into the runoff.
Unless..... No, there just isn't an "unless". A majority of
French voters would vote for anyone, even for Mickey Mouse, if he were
the sole alternative to a candidate from the Front National.
UK Brexiteers who dream of the French electing a candidate who will
implement a Frexit are just not in touch with the reality of the French
political system, nor of the mindset of French voters. Marine Le
Pen is not Donald Trump, nor is she Brexit. Trump managed to win
because he was the candidate of the conservative Republican Party...
not an outsider; and in the UK people voted for Brexit because it was
championed by big shots from the Conservative party, not just by UKIP.
Marine le Pen is a different case altogether : she does not have the
support of any mainstream political party in France, except her own
party the Front National.
It seems increasingly likely
that the next French president will be François Fillon, who
besides being an Anglophile, an admirer of Margaret Thatcher, and
having a British wife, is also a neo-Gaullist who has pledged to make
the French economy competitive again, taking the drastic measures
required to do so. This will include cutting bureaucracy, cutting taxes
and regulations on business, and making France "a good place to do
business". With the UK pledged to leave the EU, the opportunities
for attracting business from London to Paris will be enormous. At
present, in 2017, with the Socialist regime in France and the UK still
in the EU, few international companies would consider moving their EU
operations from London to Paris – as has been much remarked in
the pro-Brexit UK media. But in the course of 2017, the relative
advantages and disadvantages of Britain and France for international
companies are liable to be turned upside down.
2017 Marine le Pen will not be dragging France towards an
inward-looking Frexit; quite the reverse – France will
probably be embarking on a deregulating "liberal" revolution... just
when impending Brexit is making many international firms reconsider the
extent of their operations in non-EU Britain. No wonder many in
France are saying that Brexit will be a golden opportunity.... for
France ; all other things being equal, there are many world
business leaders who would love to live and work in Paris
rather than London.
As for most elections in France, presidential
elections are conducted in
first round, which takes place on 23rd April, is open to
any candidate who meets the
requirements (which include the written support of five hundred
elected representatives, including mayors and
deputies) and has enough funding.
Assuming, as is virtually certain to happen, that
no single candidate acquires an
absolute majority of votes on the first round, there is then a second
round, a fortnight later, which is a runoff
between the two
candidates with the most votes in the first round. The next President
of France will be whoever gets a simple majority of the votes in the
current president, François Hollande, a socialist,
was elected in 2012 . A
president can serve no more than two five-year terms in office.
to the 2017 election
The 2017 Presidential election in France is likely to be the most
significant for many years.
For the last two decades, candidates for the French presidency have
been promising to make changes and get the French economy back and
working properly again; but for the last two decades, the promises made
at elections have not led to much fundamental change.
President Sarkozy (a conservative) promised sweeping reforms
when he became President in 2007, but little came of them, apart from a
reform of the retirement age in France which was pushed through against
a background of strident complaints from the political opposition and
from the Unions. And even that reform was watered down.
Sarkozy's unpopularity led to the victory of his Socialist
opponent François Hollande in 2012. Hollande promised to cut
France's endemically high unemployment rate, and get the economy
growing again. But if he has just got the economy back into positive
territory, he has failed dismally on the unemployment front, and the
number of jobless in France today is far higher than it was when he
Hollande is now the most unpopular French president since
the Second World War, with approval ratings hovering below the 20%
mark. His Socialist party is now bitterly divided between the moderate
reformers and the hard-line left; and by trying to please both wings of
his party, Hollande has managed to displease almost everyone.
The 2017 election - uncharted
The 2017 election will take place in a world that is very
different from just a year ago. Right-wing populism has triumphed in
the UK with Brexit,
and in the USA with Donald Trump, and in France the right-wing
populists of the National Front, led by Marine Le Pen, are dreaming of
The trouble for them is that France is not the UK nor the
USA, and with its two rounds of voting, the French
electoral system has safeguards built into it to prevent populists and
demagogues from sweeping to power. Six months before a
momentous Presidential election, no-one in France would wager
much money on who the next president will be; on the other hand, it is
a pretty safe bet that it will not be Marine le Pen, even if she does
make it into the runoff, as her father did in 2002.
The reason? Marine le Pen's personal
popularity rating stands (mid-November 2016) at just 25% – and
rate at 71% (Ipsos / Le Point poll). Even if she reaches the second round of the
Presidential election, which she may well do, she cannot win, because
a large majority of those 71% of French electors are so viscerally
opposed to her and her party that they will vote for anyone but le Pen
– just as happened in 2002.
For the time being - mid Jan 2017 - pundits expect
Marine le Pen to make it into the second round of the election; but
even that is not certain, and who her opponent will be is anyone's
guess. The most likely situation is that her opponent in the
second round, if she gets there, will be the winner of the Centre-right
alliance primary election, François Fillon, who was
Sarkozy's Prime Minister. Nicolas Sarkozy only take third place in the first round of the primary, and so has been eliminated.
On the left, Hollande's decision not to stand for a second term
has left the door open for his Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, to throw
his hat into the ring. But Valls will be up
against at least three other candidates on the left, Jean-Luc
Mélenchon of the Parti de Gauche, Hollande's
former economy minister Emmanuel Macron, and a Green party candidate.
Macron is the joker in the pack. A former Rothschilds
banker, he was Hollande's economic advisor and then Minister of the
economy, but he is not a party member. He is standing as a candidate
for change, another anti-system candidate; and he has
supporters across the political spectrum. It is by no means clear if
his candidacy will mainly just fragment the left-wing vote, or whether
he could actually, as another anti-system candidate, also
drain votes away from Marine le Pen.
Things will be clearer in February, after the Socialist party and their allies have had their primary
elections, and designated their official candidates.
Fillon now seems to be the most likely person, along
with Marine le Pen, to make it through to the second round of the
Presidential election. Nonetheless if the left were to field one
heavyweight candidate rather than
three, he or she could make it to the second round... but at whose
expense? And if Macron can take votes not just from his supporters on
the left, but also from Marine le Pen, he too might make it to the
With so many candidates running in the first
round, none is likely to take more than about 26% of the vote.... and
the second-past-the-post could make it through to the second round with
as little as 20% of the vote.
We will probably have a much clearer view by mid
March, as the polls in France tend to be a lot more effective in
predicting results than those in the UK or the USA.
The Presidential elections take place on
April 23rd and May 7th 2017.
As of January 2017, the bookies' favourite to become
the next President of France has to be François Fillon.
Who is François Fillon ? Fillon
was Prime Minister of France from 2007 to 2012, during the presidency
of Nicolas Sarkozy. He previously served as a minister in the
governments of Edouard Balladur, Alain Juppé and
Jean-Pierre Raffarin. In this respect, he can hardly be seen as "new
blood". However he has a reputation as a reformer. In 2003 he
made a first serious attempt to reform France's much-criticized
retirement laws, by bringing public sector retirement rules in line
with those governing the private sector.
In 2004-2005, as
education minister, he pushed through, in the face of considerable
hostility, a reform of the French Baccalaureat.
Minister under Nicolas Sarkozy, he was somewhat in the shadows of the
man people described as the "hyper-president". Sarkozy was the
conductor and the first violin of the orchestra of government; the role
of Prime Minister became that of second fiddle. In 2010 he resigned as
Prime Minister, but was promptly reappointed by Sarkozy who wanted to
bring Alain Juppé back into the government. Juppé would
not serve under those competing for Fillon's post, so to bring on board
Juppé and his many supporters, Sarkozy had to reappoint Fillon.
In 2011, with France struggling to reduce its
deficits, Fillon announced an exceptional tax on high incomes and more
duty on alcohol cigarettes and sugary drinks.
Sarkozy lost the 2012 election, Fillon was favourite to become chairman
of the conservative UMP party; but in an election marked by acrimony
and accusation of fraud he lost. The narrow victory of
Jean-François Copé was upheld, and the UMP became a
machine designed ultimately to get Sarkozy reelected as president in
2017 – a mission in which it has failed.
apparent involvement in shady party financing deals with a dubious
company known as Bygmalion left many UMP members bitter. To try and
forget the past, Sarkozy engineered a rebranding of the party under a
new name, Les Républicains, and Fillon was largely a bystander.
However he remained popular with grass-roots party members, and
maintained a high popularity rating among French voters in general.
When in 2013 he announced that he would stand in the 2016 primary of
the Centre-right alliance (Les Républicains and their allies),
few people thought he would stand a chance, given the power of the
Sarkozy fighting machine ; but with Sarkozy still linked to accusations
of shady party funding in 2012, and seen to be moving increasingly to
the right, Fillon began to look like a stronger contender. There was
just the problem of Juppé.
Juppé remains popular too, and until a week before the first
round of the centre-right primary, he seemed the clear front-runner in
the race to secure a place in second round, for a runoff against
Sarkozy. Then Fillon gave a very strong performance in the second
candidates' debate on prime-time national TV, and he was in the race
with a chance. Nobody however predicted that he would romp home in the first round of the primary with a
lead of 16% over his closest rival Juppé.
So why did he win ? And what does he offer?
He won largely because he has a reputation as a reformer and as an
honest politician (the two words are not always incompatible). The
Centre-right primary was open to all voters, not just party members, so
Fillon picked up a large proportion of the votes from ordinary moderate
voters determined to ensure that the candidate of the Centre-right in
the 2017 Presidential election was not Nicolas Sarkozy.
As a candidate for the Presidency
he is promising major liberalising reforms to the French economy and
tax system, more reform of pension rules, and the suppression of half a
million public sector jobs. And on past showing, he has the
determination to push them through.
In France, one of the criticisms that has been much leveled at
him in recent months is that he is an admirer of the legacy of Margaret
Thatcher. Now while in the UK there has been, with hindsight, a general
consensus to the effect that the reforms of the Thatcher period were
fundamentally instrumental in getting the British economy back on the
rails, this is not the case in France. In France to this day "le
thatcherisme" is still caricatured or condemned by a large part of the
political class and the media as being a dictatorial doctrine rather
similar to American neo-conservatism, and thus highly undesirable;
Fillon has not jumped on this bandwaggon.
In many ways he is politically on
the same wavelength as David Cameron; and unlike some recent French
PMs, he is an anglophile. Indeed, if Fillon becomes the next French
president, France will get its first "British" French first lady.
Fillon's wife, Penelope was born in Llanover, Monmouthshire, of
Welsh English parents.
After the poresidential elections.
The new President will be sworn in and will announce his
team. Then, on 11th and 18th June, come the two rounds of the
legislative elections (parliamentary elections) to choose the Deputies
who will sit in the National Assembly.
If, as seems probable, the new President is the
candidate of the conservative and centrist alliance, François Fillon, voters are then
likely to vote in a centre-right parliament, and the new President will
be able to govern with little effective opposition. His government will
then introduce fairly rapidly some of the radical reforms that France
desperately needs : economic reforms, labour law reforms,
fiscal reforms, etc.
If, on the other hand, the candidate of the
conservative and centrist alliance were to be eliminated in the first
round of the presidential election, then the future is much harder to
predict. About the only prediction that can be made is that in this
situation, the new President is likely to be a lame duck from day 1.
Neither the Socialist party nor the National Front are currently in a position to
win a parliamentary election, even if their man or woman were to win
the Presidential race. There just remains the joker in the
pack, Emmanuel Macron. As a "non political" candidate, he might be able
to work with a moderate parliamentary majority from either side of the
house. But we are getting now very much into the realms of
French presidential election.
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