Thursday, February 16, 2017

As they round the bend, the leader is ...

Horse-race reporting on elections is no métier for a self-respecting intellectual, but it's that time again, folks, so here is the latest from CEVIPOF:

As expected, Le Pen maintains her lead, but she's not expanding it, despite Fillon's swoon. Macron seems to be picking up most of his lost votes. Mélenchon and Hamon are close, and neither is gaining on the other.

In short, the race is static for the moment. But two major uncertainties hang over the field. The Parquet National Financier has refused to clear Fillon and has signaled that there is enough to keep the investigation going and probably result in eventual charges, perhaps as early as next week. Fillon emerged from his lunch with Sarkozy yesterday with a proposal to reduce the age for treating a criminal as an adult to 16, which is hardly likely to persuade voters that he is once again immaculate. Who knows what deal the two men may have concluded sotto voce? Plan B François Baroin? Who cares? Being designated the choice of both Fillon and Sarkozy would probably be enough to sink Baroin before he surfaces. The only Plan B that makes any sense is Juppé, and it's not clear that he's up for it.

The second major uncertainty is Bayrou, as I discussed the other day. We should be hearing from him soon. And then it's off to the races.

Meanwhile, Macron, in Algeria, characterized "colonization" as a "crime against humanity" and "true barbarism." He was immediately attacked by Fillon and Raffarin, among others. What are we to make of this latest Macron sally? Macron is too intelligent not to know exactly what he's doing. This is his pitch to the left, the token that is meant to redeem him from the charge that he is a heartless neoliberal capable of telling the unemployed that if they want to wear nice suits, they need to work, that young French people need to dream of becoming billionaires, and that the life of an entrepreneur is often more difficult than that of a worker. Yes, he said all those things, comrade, but he also said that colonization was a crime against humanity, so he's all right. And he will have all those right-wing backs up and pummeling him for his divisiveness. It's bold camouflage and typical of Macron: he holds on to the left with symbols while keeping his sponsors happy with substance. He's a cool customer. But it's a risky course, as reflected in the high level of uncertainty among those who say they're for him. They might not stick. One or another of his moves might just be the thing that alienates this soft support.

So this election is far from a done deal. As all observers are hastening to note, the only candidate with solid support is Marine Le Pen. But her solid support accounts for only about 1/4 of the electorate, and the other 3/4 are pretty solidly against her, even if they can't agree on an alternative. So it's not correct to say that if Macron falters, Le Pen is the obvious winner. Everything is still up for grabs.


Anonymous said...

About Macron: Might his youth end up hurting him in the race? Is there a segment of the voting public that thinks, regardless of party lines, that the top job ought to belong to a Pere de la Nation-type figure and that Macron is just too young to claim it?


mpz13 said...

About colonialism and Macron. Macron was born 15 years after the 1962 Accords d'Evian which put an end to the war in Algeria. The way he looks at the colonial past of France might disturb people who still have a nostalgia of that past when l'Algérie was a French département just as the Bouches-du-Rhône except it was a little further down south with more "arabs". They are always very niggling and insist that the "atrocities" commited by the FLN must always be remembered. Sure, but I also remember the masacre of Sétif in 1945, a boy shot by a french policeman simply for shaking a forbidden muslim flag instead of a french one, the following riots had 102 "Français de souche" (meaning white) killed but the retaliation on the civilian population killed 8 000 people... What are the appropriate words to qualify that ?
Maybe it wasn't appropriate to use the legal terms of "crime contre l'humanité" about colonialism in general, and not just France deeds in Algeria since, so far, France has not been charged with that crime by the TPI, but the conservative right is equally bothered by "abomination"... As a matter of fact any judgment that wouldn't mention "the positive aspects" of French colonialism ( its civilizing mission...) won't satisfy the French right.
I am stunned that in 2017 there are still people who feel that way about colonialism and I suppose that they also might find positive aspects in slavery and the slave trade to America, "a land of opportunity for African negroes" I suppose they might say.

Anonymous said...

Macron did say in that interview, after alluding to crimes against humanity committed by France, that France had introduced "les droits de l'homme" to Algeria. Crimes against humanity are post WW II. Before the UN's universal declaration of human rights (1948) who thought that colonialism was a violation of human rights? Not many.... So in a sense Macron was saying that France, in bringing les droits de l'homme to Algeria, gave Algeria the right to condemn France. Quel malin! I hope he wins.

Anonymous said...

Another interesting set of polls: Region by region.
In some areas, MLP has 1/3 of the vote in the frist round.

brent said...

I notice in Thursday's Monde that Jadot and Hamon are moving closer to their combined candidacy and 'governmental pact.' Can a deal with Mélenchon be far behind? (Well, yes it could be out of reach, but maybe not.) The math still works: the combined 3-way ticket looks like it would place second if not first, and Hamon would surely beat Le Pen. Is this the worry that has Macron pivoting left in Algeria?

bert said...

”Hamon would surely beat Le Pen”

What universe does that come from, Brent?
A parallel Berniverse?

I hate to be the habitual alarmist in comments, and nothing would please me more than to see Le Pen soundly beaten. But these sweeping statements of confidence are alarming. I'm seeing a lot of mutual reassurance about the solidity of the Maginot line, at the expense of concerted action against an actually-existing threat.

Hamon has yet to unite even the PS. And what is the principal obstacle to expanding his base with a Mélenchon deal? Europe. One of the key cleavage issues on which Le Pen hopes the election will turn.

I might as well share something I've been turning over in my head since Trump announced the Carrier deal (if we can remember that distant, pre-inauguration world). The constraints placed on France's macroeconomic management by its EU commitments are obvious. I've mentioned them in comments more than once. But they're difficult to put across as campaign issues. All a bit abstract to connect effectively at street level.
Not so State Aid. Imagine a situation where, late in the campaign for the second round, a large firm announces the planned closure of a big factory. Something must be done, and the government engages in desperate talks with the Commission to negotiate what action will be permitted under the rules. MLP is not constrained. She has her issue in the closing stretch.

It might not happen, of course. But it's worth considering whether there might be an alignment of interests. People conceive of business as straightforwardly on the globalist side of things. But there have always been industrial interests who would favour protection in domestic markets. Take a look at the 20th century history of L'Oreal. Why would a wealthy and powerful company collude in the accession of the far right? Parce qu'elle revaut bien.

Art Goldhammer said...

Mélenchon has laid down his conditions for an alliance with Hamon. I read these as demanding that Hamon repudiate the Socialist Party, which I don't think he'll do:
Jean-Luc Mélenchon est allé plus loin vendredi, en envoyant une lettre à Benoît Hamon (lire la lettre ici (pdf, 35.0 kB)), dans laquelle il expose ses demandes, qu'il appelle de « très sérieuses garanties ». Par ces dernières, le candidat de la France insoumise demande qu'il n'y ait « aucun accord ni à la présidentielle ni aux législatives avec Emmanuel Macron et son mouvement ». Le texte poursuit : « La seconde garantie concerne ta propre volonté d’assumer la rupture avec la politique du quinquennat et donc l’engagement clair à en abolir les mesures emblématique, c’est-à-dire essentiellement la loi El Khomri, le CICE et l’État d’urgence permanent. Cela se traduira par la mise à l’écart des prochaines élections notamment des ministres du gouvernement qui a imposé cette « loi-travail » à coup de 49-3. » Mélenchon demande par ailleurs à Hamon l'assurance qu'il veut bien, lui aussi, « tourner la page de la monarchie présidentielle, avec la convocation d’une assemblée constituante dans les trois premiers mois de la nouvelle mandature ».

brent said...

Having just read Mélenchon's open letter, I would agree that a combined candidacy doesn't look close at this point. A few further thoughts:
--JLM's expressed conditions are absolute and unrealizable--but this is a first offer, not necessarily an ultimatum.
--the letter is intended to address the points of greatest tension between the two candidates, but there may be more points in common, which could form the basis of a concrete agreement
--perhaps the biggest problem is JM's tone of superiority, his address to Hamon as a junior colleague and not a potential president. The future of the negotiation will depend on Hamon's capacity to respond respectfully while pushing back at JLM's arrogance.

Bottom line: if Hamon can achieve mastery while laying out a program quite similar to, but not identical with that of la France insoumise, he may win over a significant fraction of JLM's supporters even if the man himself remains aloof. This is Hamon's moment to seize control of this negotiation, and of the new eco-socialist Left.

bert said...

To pick up another point in this thread, in musing about Algeria, Macron may equally be trying to sow dissent to his right.
Apparently Philippot's office is filled to the brim with de Gaulle memorabilia.
Very much the opposite is the case elsewhere in the FN, particularly among the alte kampfer.

Art Goldhammer said...