Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Frondeur frondé, Fillon filet

"Avez-vous déjà écrit votre article sur notre élection ... démente?" a former government minister wrote me the other day. A demented election indeed. I have never witnessed a crazier one. But today is shaping up to be the craziest day of all. The establishment fronde against the former anti-establishment frondeur Hamon is picking up steam. Prominent Socialists are accusing him of having "hardened" his platform since winning the primary, thereby justifying (or rationalizing) their refusal to support him despite his having won the democratic contest. The breakup of the Socialist Party appears to have been consummated.

Meanwhile, Macron is picking up so many endorsements from former sommités of the right that frictions are developing between leftists and rightists in his entourage. A particular bone of contention involves the naming of former Chirac minister Jean-Paul Delevoye to head the committee to choose En Marche candidates for the legislative elections. Dominique de Villepin and Jean-Louis Borloo are also rumored to have thrown in their lot with Macron. It is as if Marine Le Pen's charge that the two parties of government were really only one, the UMPS, has been made flesh. The power-seeking moths are inevitably drawn to the only candle still burning.

And then comes the news that the Fillon flame may be about to be snuffed out. He abruptly canceled a scheduled visit to the Salon de l'Agriculture, that obligatory passage required of all candidates. Rumor has it that he is about to be mis en examen. He is scheduled to make an announcement imminently.

UPDATE: Fillon announced that he will indeed be mis en examen on March 15, but he is staying in the race nevertheless. He continued his unblinking (and unconvincing) insistence that he is the victim of a conspiracy and has done nothing wrong. It didn't work the first time, and it's unlikely to win him more votes now. I expect him to decline further in the polls. Yet the Republicans, many of whom appeared with him at today's press conference, appear to have decided that there is no alternative to going down with their leader. Behind the scenes the battle for the future leadership is undoubtedly fierce.

UPDATE 2: Bruno Le Maire has resigned as Fillon's foreign policy advisor. He thinks Fillon should have renounced his candidacy because he will be mis en examen. Other desertions have followed.