French Presidential election: the unexpected and unpredictable factors

Monday, 2017-04-17 17:00:39
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Candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon has become the focus after the second debate was directly broadcast on television. (Credit: Le Monde)
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NDO – The race to become head of the Élysée palace is turning out to be a presidential election that is fraught with the most unexpected and unpredictable factors in French history.

After the conservative candidate Francois Fillon ‘stumbled’, it seems the next step is going to be the parallel race between Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen. However, in recent days, the hard-left candidate, Jean-Luc Melenchon, has suddenly become the top favourite. The dilemma of selecting the ‘No. 1 candidate’ is an unsolvable problem in French politics.

Just before the upcoming first round of the French presidential race on April 23, the polls show that the competition between the candidates is very close. According to a survey by Ipsos-Sopra Sterna, independent middleman Emmanuel Macron and the far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, will receive 22% of the vote in the first round, while conservative candidate Francois Fillon will get 19%, followed by Melenchon. Analysts say that with the 3% point gap separating the top four candidates in the polls’ margin of error, it is difficult to predict the winner.

It is noteworthy that during the race for the Élysée palace, Melenchon has been the ‘new star’ in recent days. Like the ‘Le Pen phenomenon’ a short time ago, Jean-Luc Melenchon has become the focus after the second debate was directly broadcast on television. With a view to pull France out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and even European Union (EU) like Le Pen, Melenchon, according to the results of Elabe’s poll, 25% of the comments applauded the 65-year-old candidate for his convincing arguments. Meanwhile, 21% supported Emmanuel Macron, who was predicted to be the brightest candidate in this year’s election.

As planned, the first round of the French presidential election will take place on April 23 with the participation of 11 candidates. In case none of the candidates win the majority of votes, the two with the most number of votes, will enter the second round two weeks later. However, with successive surprises in the past as well as the above polls, at the moment, all four leading candidates have an equal chance.

Analysts say that the distribution of votes among many candidates brings forth an element of ‘sadness’ for France. Firstly, the situation reflects that the discontentment over the country’s economy has made more and more French candidates turn their backs on traditional major parties, reflecting the crisis of major parties in French politics. As part of the recent polls, up to one-third of 45.7 million French voters may abstain because they are not in favour of any of the candidates.

Secondly, the above situation also reflects the internal divisions in France. Any of the four candidates who becomes the President will face great difficulties in uniting the country. Thirdly, among the four candidates, Le Pen and Melenchon are the advocates of ‘turning back’ on EU, so once they win, the ‘Frexit scenario’ (France leaving the European Union – EU) will happen. Consequently, not only France, but the whole EU will have to suffer unforeseen consequences.

Moreover, in the context of a difficult economy, most French voters hope that the new President can revive the country’s economy; however, the action plan on economy released by candidates have been underestimated by the French Press and public. The daily newspaper, Les Echos, has published the research results of Montaigne consultancy, saying that the proposed agenda of candidates cannot save the national budget as they had promised due to numerous new expenditures.

Specifically, candidates Fillon and Macron have declared that their agendas will save EUR100 billion and EUR60 billion, respectively. However, experts point out that the figures will be only around EUR60 billion and EUR35 billion in reality, respectively. Meanwhile, as part of the plan proposed by Melenchon, the French people will have to pay an additional EUR85 billion for tax, while Le Pen’s plan may cost them EUR200 billion.

The French presidential race is apparently taking place in an unusual scenario. The reality of not having an outstanding candidate can be a serious cause for France’s ‘sadness’, for voters expect a President to command exemplary leadership and win their confidence.