In Upset, Francois Fillon Beats Sarkozy, Leads Conservative Party Runoff Vote for French President

Hopefully, French readers will chime in to add to English language media reports of the stunning win by former French prime minister Francois Fillon, who mere weeks ago had been the number three candidate in the Conservative party runoff for President. But a sparkling debate performance, unforced errors by his opponents, and a distinctive message delivered a fatal blow to former President Nicholas Sarkozy, who said he is retiring from public life. Fillon received 44.1% of the vote in the open runoff election, versus 28.6% for former prime minister Alain Juppe, who had been leading in polls, and 20.6% for Sarkozy.

The election battle in France expected to be right versus further right. President Francois Hollande is scoring abysmally in polls, and so the election in 2017 is expected to pit the Conservative winner against Le Front Nationale’s Marine Le Pen.

Even though pundits expect the Conservatives to beat Le Pen, one wonders why voters would back failed neoliberal policies. For instance, Fillion is running on neo-Thatchertie positions that he calls “pro-business,” such as increasing the work week from 35 to 39 hours and weakening labor rights. He also favors curbing the parental rights of gay couples, cracking down on “political Islam,” and improving relations with Russia. As the Financial Times blandly noted:

The unexpected outcome of the primaries has reinforced the sense of upheaval in the French political mainstream — shaken by the anti-elite uprising behind Donald Trump’s election as US president and the UK’s vote to leave the EU as well as the electoral gains of Ms Le Pen’s National Front.

Among other things, this upset shows yet again that pundits and pollsters are no longer able to read the public’s mood. And next May is a long way away. Admittedly, events in the interim could work against Le Pen just as readily as they could favor her. However, the sunny elite belief that her threat will be beaten back is starting to look like overconfidence.

Credit: Naked Capitalism

57 Comments

  1. If the final election in France turns out to be this homophobic Thatcherite vs. Le Pen, exactly why will Le Pen represent the end of Western civilization, but Fillon its salvation? Will there be a big difference between them other than Frexit?
    Any chance of someone representing the Left other than Hollande?

  2. The Trumpening

    You should really justify your statement that Marine Le Pen is a homophobe. Not that homosexuality it the most burning topic facing the French. Her niece, the beautiful Marion Le Pen, is against gay marriage since she thinks it leads to polygamy.
    Florian Philippot is the No.2 in Le Front National and is openly gay. Here is his statement on the subject:
    “Le FN est pas ‘gay friendly’ ni l’inverse, il est french friendly”
    The FN is neither “gay friendly” nor the inverse. It is French friendly. In other words drop your limited identity politic obsessions and start saving France from the globalists.

  3. Try reading Jessica’s comment again – the term “this homophobic Thatcherite” referred to Francois Fillon not Le Pen.

  4. I believe Jessica was referring to Fillon (not Le Pen) as the “homophobic Thatcherite” — which is a partial but accurate description of him. I’m not sure what Le Pen’s feelings are about gays or gay marriage.
    I am at best an amateur observer of French politics (too busy following UK and US) but it’s clear that the traditional Right probably chose its strongest candidate: Sarko is a Clintonesque character with a history of greed and corruption (and a major role in the Libya fiasco). Juppé is another political dinosaur with his own history of corruption. Fillon is at least a fresher face though a rather vile one.
    Most of my French friends seem to have given up on politics altogether and are completely cynical (who can blame them). We see from Clinton vs Trump that the latter’s “true believers” filled the stadia and went to the polls unlike Hillary’s. We may see the same thing in France next year with the FN.
    I was in fact in France when Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen came in second (beating the hapless Socialist candidate Jospin, France’s version of Dukakis or Kerry) in the first round and Libé came out the next day with an enormous “NON” on its front page. The left and traditional right united to give Chirac a 85%+ (IIRC) victory in the final round of voting. Marine is far less odious and prejudiced than her father, and this will be another ball game altogether. (To mix metaphors!)

  5. I think you need to read Jessica’s post again, more carefully this time.

  6. The Trumpening

    On a second reading (after a cup of coffee) I think you are right. I saw the homophobic applying to both politicians but given the overall tone of the comment the better reading is that homophobic applies only to Fillon.

  7. The current FN manifesto is firmly against gay marriage:
    La famille doit se fonder exclusivement sur l’union d’un homme et d’une femme et accueillir des enfants nés d’un père et d’une mère.
    roughly: Families must be exclusively based on the union of a man and woman and welcome children born of a father and mother.
    It is however willing to allow for civil unions, which it calls “adequate”.
    I live in a very conservative suburb and my neighbors in the “Manif pour tous” (anti-gay marriage pressure group) have told me that their political sympathies are with Marine Le Pen because Sarkozy was untrustworthy, due to his role creating the Conseil français du culte musulman (the French Council for the Muslim Religion, an entity that represents Muslims in interactions with the state), which they see as an affront to French Catholics and take very personally. Fillon’s very hard line stance on Islam reassures them.
    Is Marion-Maréchal Le Pen’s physical appearance really a consideration?

  8. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you. Is the conseil not dissimilar to what Napoleon set up for the Jewish community in the 1800s?

  9. Exactly.

  10. The position of your neighbours is baffling and very uninformed because the Conseil in question is clearly meant to be an instrument of monitoring and control, which is exactly what we need. Longer term the goal is to midwife the birth of a gallican islam free from the taint of qatari, saudi, algerian etc meddling. That is fully in line with french political tradition, including when dealing with the catholic church (google gallicanisme).

  11. I agree with you. There’s unfortunately no reasoning with such deep chauvinism.

  12. I think Jessica’s refering rather to Fillon as being homophobic.
    The main rationals to say so would be to refer to him as being a practising catholic and having declared that he will revise filiation laws on gay adoption.
    The second point may have serious impact on inheritance taxation for gays.

  13. Um, re-read Jessica’s post, it’s Fillon that’s cited as homophobic.

  14. It’s rather that Fillon, as a practicing Catholic, accepts the teaching of the Church that homosexual marital unions are not valid. That’s certainly a minority view in France today, but it hardly amounts to an irrational fear of homosexuals. In any case, as somebody has pointed out, that whole business was largely about property inheritance – French law favors the family, and as things stood, homosexual couples could not bequeath property to each other.

  15. Marshall Auerback

    Emmanuel Macron. So we might have France’s Thatcher running against France’s Tony Blair.
    As I write these words, increasingly I am beginning to think we might well see a President Le Pen.

  16. IIRC, the FN is not particularly Thatcherite. Part of their schtick is saving the French welfare state.

  17. So Sarko loses by a nose, eh? (I.e. by a political mile in his case.) Does that mean no neoliberal ‘Marshall Plan’ for the poor benighted Africans? I’m sure the Africans are gonna be about as upset by that news as the Haitians would be at the Clinton Foundation announcing they were pulling out of that country.
    If Le Pen wins in France and Merkel gets the boot in Germany, things are gonna get very interesting indeed for l’homme Davos and the future of the neolib globalist project.

  18. I do wish there would be more droning over Davos. I believe the gathering an ISIS plot.

  19. This seems to be very good news for Le Pen, especially if it encourages Hollande to run again. Fill ion would not seem to have any appeal beyond the traditional right, who seem as despairing of their leaders as the left. I think for them Fillion represents a sort of old school rectitude, but I doubt that has much appeals outside their heartlands. If the left can’t find someone inspiring, then a Fillion Hollande election would leave a huge number if French people with no obvious candidate except the National Front.

  20. ‘Fillon’ I mean.

  21. The Trumpening

    Marine Le Pen is very happy today. Although she is always labelled in the European media as “extreme right” she is actually very much to the left on many issues. Against Fillion in the final round, Le Pen will be able to tack to the left of Fillon and left-leaning voters will suffer from cognitive dissonance as the media tries to herd them into voting Filllon instead of the candidate who is fighting the multi-nationals, calling for more welfare spending, etc. And besides, wouldn’t it be just dandy to see a woman smash through France’s patriarchal glass ceiling!!!
    Several of my Socialist friends in France said they were going to join Les Republicains in order to vote for Alain Juppe who was certain to beat Le Pen. Looks like they didn’t do that in large enough numbers.
    Europeans trust their media much more than Americans do. This election may smash that trust as they shamelessly cheer-lead Fillon over Le Pen.

  22. A Fillon-Le Pen run-off would be worth it just to see the progressive media –Libérationfor example – tying itself in knots trying to justify a vote for Fillon. I’ve always said that, in most European countries, the Right will eventually outflank the Left from the left.

  23. For the reasons the Trumpening has cited, Marine Le Pen vs Fillon basically re-runs the Trump vs Clinton campaign, with the sexes of the candidates reversed. This assumes the Obama-like Hollande doesn’t get out of the first round.
    Now Clinton wound up getting more votes than Trump, so Fillon could win this. But then you have to deal with the differences between French and US presidential elections. No Electoral College in France, no fraud-enabling vote counting process, and a run-off between the top two first round vote getters so minor candidates leaching votes away fromo the two two usually isn’t an issue. The Electoral College of course favored Trump in the US but the other factors favored Clinton.

  24. Though if one gives Johnson votes to Trump and Stein votes to Clinton, Trump wins by a landslide. In no states did the Green party votes exceed the margin by which Clinton lost. In several states the Libertarian totals exceeded the margin by which Trump lost.

  25. Nobody in Europe is learning from neither Brexit, nor Trump.
    Italy is next. Take this:
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/20/italy-famous-chef-osteria-francescan-modena-threatens-to-leave-over-referendum-vote
    If Italian voters see the threat of a top chef to up sticks from his expensive Italian restaurant if they don’t vote the way he thinks they should, they may well deliver a very strong F U, delivering Renzi to the wolves. Sometimes celebrities should just shut up. They don’t persuade anyone of their cause. I should imagine those in the Mezzogiorno are wetting themselves laughing.

  26. this is a sure omen of which way the referendum will go. renzi will have to resign

  27. I don’t think this affects Le Pen’s chances much. Fillon is clearly not a centrist candidate as Juppé is but he can run up the score on the right and the left can vote for him over Le Pen (even if he doesn’t cool it a bit on the economic front which I think he should and will).
    Bottom line: everything suggests that Le Pen has still a ceiling around 30% of the vote share. Her only chance to win in 2017 is to face a candidate so unpopular that turnout goes way down. Fillon is not in this category at the moment.

  28. An interesting point about the LR primary process is that both the first and second rounds are open to anyone old enough to vote. They just have to pay two euros and say that they adhere to the values of the LR party. Several of my colleagues, who fall on the left of the political spectrum, held their noses yesterday and cast a vote for Juppé in order to do their part to ensure that Sarkozy got knocked out. There have been a number of reports in the press on the phenomenon of left-wing voters who voted in the LR primary to prevent (or “faire barrage”) Sarkozy from winning. Almost all of them stated that they would vote for Juppé. Now that Sarkozy is out of the running it will be interesting to see if these “infiltrés” participate in the second round to boost Juppé against Fillon or if they will declare victory and stay home.
    As for Sarkozy’s post-election pursuits, here’s to hoping that he does indeed retire from French politics this time around – he said the same thing after his defeat in 2012. With any luck the corruption allegations that have been hovering over him for the last several years will finally bear some fruit.

  29. Colonel Smithers

    One wonders in whom the Gulf States and Wall Street will invest after Sarko’s demise. A month ago, Sarko met two of the EMEA management of one of the Wall Street giants. The Brit, talked about sometimes as a successor to the J Aron trader who heads the firm, and South African popped down to Paris for the day. Brexit and relocation featured. Sarko wanted a PR coup if he was elected next spring and promised quelques douceurs, including tax breaks for employees and employers.

  30. Couple of points of clarification. There is no “conservative party” in France, but a series of largely personality-based “clans.” The purpose of this Primary was to produce a single candidate for (most of) the Right, which would avoid the potential fratricide from having too many candidates in the first round of the Presidentials, thus allowing one of the Left-wing candidates through in a second round against Le Pen. This single candidate looks to be Fillon, not so much because of his intrinsic qualities, but because he’s not the dishonest Sarkozy (who might disappear into prison before May) nor the old, tired Juppé. Fillon’s relatively good performance in the debates made people think he stood the best chance of winning. It’s unlikely that his ideology (hard-line traditional right) featured much beyond the core of true believers. He does speak, to some extent, though, for the traditional right-wing constituencies in the small towns and villages, with conservative social ideas and a long-time hatred of Paris and the urban elites, which may partly explain the enthusiasm for him.
    However, waiting in the wings is François Bayrou, who said he would not run if Juppé won, and so will now consider himself free. Bayrou had a serious run in 2007, and is the incarnation of a moderate centre-right which many voters next year might find preferable to Fillon. Other fringe candidates on the Right could take 5-10% of the vote. A late run from Sarkozy is not impossible (he has nothing to lose after all) and this becomes more likely if Fillon shows himself to be a poor candidate and look like losing. Sarkozy would then allow himself to be reluctantly put forward in the interests of national unity, or something.
    Depending on who the Left chooses as standard-bearer (and there will be more than one candidate anyway in the first round) the situation after the first round in May could be almost anything. A single percentage point, for example, could put any two of Fillon, Bayrou, Le Pen or A Leftist into the second round, or knock them out.
    The issues are mainly economic, immigration and the relationship with Europe, on which there’s less distance between the main candidates than you may suppose. If Le Pen makes it into the second round (which at the moment looks possible, or even probable) than it will be the FN vs. effectively, the French political establishment, in one of its many forms. In such a situation, Le Pen could quite possibly win. Social issues are not major factor, but they are likely to handicap the Left slightly. Gay marriage cost the Socialists a number of votes, especially in the more conservative immigrant community, and reinforced the traditional Right. How that will play out (like almost everything else) remains to be seen.

  31. Wouldn’t Emmanuel Macron (En Marche) eat up a lot of potential Bayrou (Modem) votes? Seems like a split in the center benefits the right but who knows in this atmosphere.

  32. NotTimothyGeithner

    This is also the first French Presidential primary for the center right parties. The nature of the electorate would be hard to predict.
    It’s possible Fillon was a “none of the above” candidate especially if he wasn’t given a chance.

  33. Agree. Pundits tend to forget that voters have to choose between actually existing candidates, not an ideal infinite list. Fillon is the most right-wing, in traditional terms, but its not clear who all the three and a half million people who voted actually were, and so why he won so easily. There were certainly people who voted just to stop Sarkozy (who scored disastrously in certain areas), as well as others who thought Fillon would be the best candidate, and disliked Juppé. This was, indeed, the first primary on the Right, and it confirms what I had long suspected, that outside the militant fringe, Sarkozy isn’t that popular. He owed his position in 2007 and 2012 to his control of the party machine, which he’s now lost.

  34. NotTimothyGeithner

    I see McCain in the 2008 GOP primaries. He was simply there and had good press but wasn’t doing well outside of groups expected to not even vote in the 2008 GOP primaries. Romney, Huckleberry, and the other dweebs were simply too petty to “elect” in what would be a tough general.

  35. I think the gay rights issues in Russia and France are really misunderstood in the American press. My French, Russian, and Ukrainian cousins view it as being more about resisting American cultural imperialism — and especially American-style identity politics — than about anything else.
    That said, each county has a very, very different take on on this. Ex-Soviet states still tend to overreact to Western definitions of identity and “rights” in order to prevent color revolutions.
    France, meanwhile, has always viewed itself as far more culturally progressive than Americans, especially when it comes to relationships. Most the people I know — including gay people — just don’t see the need for “gay marriage.” Like their straight colleagues, they’re a-ok being single/monogamish/whathaveyou.
    Moreover, the fact that gay rights groups are using their American playbook without any changes is a Clintonian-level blunder. Gay French millennials know that NGOs are importing this “issue” because it worked in the US, and that it worked because it addressed real American problems like obtaining medical care. However, those issues never really existed in France, so it’s an idiotic PR move that makes you roll your eyes so hard you hurt your eyelids.
    Moreover, the fears about unintentionally legalizing polygamy aren’t unwarranted. French constitutional protections in everything from copyright to banking were effectively overridden by the EU. The last thing they want is to go from “EUthanized” to “Eastern America/Western Wahhabi.”

  36. Disturbed Voter

    French elections are a stimulating variant to me.
    Très intéressant! Mais pas stupide.

  37. fillon says he would cut 500,000 public sector jobs should he become president. i don’t see how that would be preferable to le pen, for most people.
    juppé is the one who can beat her, so sarkozy voters would need to flock to him in the second round.

  38. Wow … IMO you can put it on the board then. Le-Pen doesn’t have a chance they will say … until she does … and then she wins.
    Also: friend of mine in Scotland won a double bet on the Trump win from a UK betting house; his second bet coming at midnight on the morning of. Thinking of having him put a tenner on Le Pen on my behalf.
    #aFoolAndHisMoney #orNot

  39. Colonel Smithers

    One wonders if the FN could buy “I’m with her” materials from the Clinton campaign.

  40. Makes me wonder if Madeleine Albright will be hired by the FN team to do her “There is a special place in hell …” remark re female candidates and women voters again 🙂

  41. I know I am going to have fun throwing that quote at liberals attacking Le Pen.

  42. The thing that is hard to get across here given the present zeitgeist, is that France badly needs reforming. Every politician here has said so, and repeatedly, over the last 30 years. Too many things are blocked, plugged up. As an expat living here all that time, I’ve gotten a full taste of that. But I’m also here, living happily ever after, entranced by the beauty, the art de vivre, and the heart-felt generosity of the healthcare system, amongst other things.
    So, two observations: 1) the political class hasn’t changed much over these last 30 years which is embarrassing, one’s eyes glaze over at the infinite shelf life and incredible mediocrity of our elites, and 2) attempts at reform over this same period, obviously by these same elites, be they, left, right, up, down, have been lackluster, insipid, and haven’t really reformed France’s ‘ills’ at all. To be fair, France has been a particularly hard country to govern.
    I’ve been a naked capitalism loyalist for years, but I think it’s important to realize that the times seem to be a’changing here. New faces and a reformist agenda are what’s needed and I’m confident that ‘French values’ are robust enough to allow reforms. And no it won’t be fun or easy and people are waking up to the fact that we’re out of our comfort zone.
    I’m waiting to see the role that young investment banker and former minister under Hollande, Emmanuel Macron, who claims to be neither left or right, and recently announced candidate, will play in the presidential elections. Also I’d like to remind NC readers that the French non-extreme right is generally slightly to the left of US democrats. The Le Pens fall somewhere else, much darker territory, as we now know, more than ever.

  43. france does need reform, but the only kind of reform that’s been put on the table at all has been of the sabotage sort. the first thing that needs to go is the dogma that the economy should exist to enrich private intersts. it’s ok for a bureaucracy to exist for the purpose of creating jobs. the question should be how to make this bureaucracy sustainable, not how best to gut it.

  44. France has been subjected to an incessant barrage of “reforms” for more than 20 years now, all inspired by Anglo-Saxon neoliberalism, and all embraced wholesale by the political and media classes. The result has been greatly increased unemployment and poverty, a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary people to the rich, the hollowing-out and financialisation of the economy, greatly reduced employment rights and the mass transfer of jobs abroad and importation of immigrants to drive down wages. By common consent, these “reforms” have produced an economy (not to say a health and education system) in much worse shape than was the case thirty years ago, and without any obvious relief in sight. But since the “reforms” are self-evidently right (two economists recently published a book equating resistance to such “reforms” with Holocaust denial) they must be continued, and all opposition must be ruthlessly crushed. That’s the position of all the mainstream political parties: bleeding will continue until the patient eventually recovers. And they wonder why the National Front is doing so well.

  45. Sound of the Suburbs

    Where did it all go wrong?
    Today’s experts are trained in today’s economics that is no good.
    A PhD in neoclassical economics leaves you poorly qualified to run an economy and the FED is full of them.
    2008 – “How did that happen?”
    In 2008, the Queen visited the revered economists of the LSE …..
    “If these things were so large, how come everyone missed it?”
    The Queen has taken note, but the mainstream media remain oblivious.
    Twelve people were officially recognised by Bezemer in 2009 as having seen 2008 coming, announcing it publicly beforehand and having good reasoning behind their predictions.
    He identifies four common aspects of their work:
    1) Concern with financial assets as distinct from real-sector assets
    2) With the credit flows that finance both forms of wealth
    3) With the debt growth accompanying growth in financial wealth
    4) With the accounting relation between the financial and real economy
    Steve Keen was one of them and saw the private debt bubble inflating in 2005.
    Ben Bernanke could see no problems ahead in 2007 (bad economics).
    Steve Keen carries on the work of Irving Fisher and Hyman Minsky looking into debt inflated financial asset bubbles.
    “Minsky Moments”
    1929 – US (margin lending into US stocks)
    1989 – Japan (real estate)
    2008 – US (real estate bubble leveraged up with derivatives for global contagion)
    2010 – Ireland (real estate)
    2012 – Spain (real estate)
    2015 – China (margin lending into Chinese stocks)
    Debt inflated financial asset bubbles, that inflated and burst under the watchful eye of Central Banks staffed by people without the necessary training.
    Housing booms around the world, debt inflated asset bubbles that inflated and are waiting to burst under the watchful eye of Central Banks staffed by people without the necessary training.
    Let’s get some real experts in.
    How to get out of debt deflation?
    Studied by Richard Koo after watching Japan for 25 years after 1989.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YTyJzmiHGk
    Austerity is the worst thing you can do.
    Fiscal stimulus coupled with low interest rates, keeps the money supply stable while the debt is paid down.
    Whose idea was it to let banks maximise profits with their debt products where Central Banks are not trained to recognise the dangers of private debt bubbles?
    The only way out now is fiscal stimulus and the co-ordination of Central Bank and Government efforts meaning Central Banks can’t be totally independent.
    Larry Summers:
    “Former Treasury Secretary Summers Calls For End Of Fed Independence”
    “Central bank independence “comes from an understanding of the macroeconomic policy problem that is not relevant to current times,” Summers said in a speech at the International Monetary Fund.
    Central bank insulation was needed in the 1970s and 1980s to combat inflation, Summers said. That’s because the White House and Congress sometimes saw the short-run benefits of unexpected inflation, while the Fed kept its eyes on the long-run costs, he said.
    But that was yesterday’s problem, Summers said. The economy now faces secular stagnation, or a chronic lack of demand.”

  46. This is a lightly edited translation of an article on Fillon’s policies at the French website contrepoints.org today. It might help non-French readers to get a bit of a grip on Fillon, who in France is widely regarded as an “extreme liberal” (yes, really), although conservative on social issues.
    “The sudden breakthrough of François Fillon in the polls invites us to take a closer look at the candidate’s proposals. François Fillon…… is distinguished by a liberal approach to economic and educational issues that is clouded by a more conservative view of society.
    Work and social dialogue: ambitious proposals
    In favor of the abolition of the 35-hour working week, a revision of the Labor Code focusing on fundamental social norms, more systematic referral to negotiations at the level of the company, raising the social thresholds (at which the company is obliged to observe various social regulations) from 10 to 50 and 50 to 100 employees , and the introduction as a reason under labour law for dismissing labour for “reorganization of the company”, François Fillon is the most audacious candidate when it comes to the labour market.
    In terms of social dialogue, Francois Fillon’s proposals call for a radical reform of trade unionism aimed at: ending the monopoly of trade unions by instituting freedom of candidacy in the first round of professional elections, limiting the time devoted to Union activity, and encourage corporate referendum.
    (To understand this paragraph, one needs to know a lot about the particularities of French trade unionism)
    François Fillon…….is the most courageous in tax matters. He proposes to abolish the ISF (wealth tax), introduce a modest flat-rate tax on all revenues, reduce (wage sum social) charges, taxes and levies on businesses by EUR 50 billion, align the (corporate tax) IS rate with those of comparable European countries (by a 3% increase in VAT), and to ensure fiscal stability over 5 years.
    François Fillon stands out on housing through his proposals to encourage ownership and promote social mix. He proposes to introduce VAT at a reduced rate for the acquisition of the principal residence, to abolish the rent regulations, to repeal the (a complex law that seeks among other things to put a cap on rents) ALUR law and …….. to introduce an accelerated procedure to reduce the deadlines for expulsion (of defaulting tenants), to abolish the aid associated with the construction of social housing by municipalities above the threshold of 30 to 40% .
    A reform of education in the perspective of “free schools”
    Among the proposals made by François Fillon on (national) education, one stands out particularly: granting more autonomy to institutions in the management of teachers, school time, etc.
    A measure closer to the “autonomous schools” defended by GenerationLibre: to finance the schools by the State but to guarantee them a total autonomy in the management of their budget, their teachers, their methods of learning.
    Conservative and interventionist reflexes on social issues
    A liberal assumeé on the economic side, François Fillon sins by excess of conservatism on the questions of society……..
    It should be noted that François Fillon distinguished himself on the question of secularism by refusing the adoption of a general law on (wearing of the) veil at universities to give the boards of directors of the institutions freedom to adopt rules of procedure which will decide this question.
    Learn more about http://www.contrepoints.org/2016/11/20/272164-fillon-plus-liberal-de#FoSKfzOR3RfYxLTG.99“

  47. “stunning upset”?!!
    Just politics as usual. Sarko was dead in the water before it started. But it’s important to look at politics in every western country through the same lens. Politics in France are like politics everywhere except even more so. It’s a closed club of elites, most of them civil servants with guaranteed salaries and pensions for life who use the built-in revolving door all their lives, alternating between private/public industry and government. Somebody should do an exposé on this aspect of the French system (established by General De Gaulle (with extremely good intentions) for NC readers. It would be illuminating for everyone.
    The point being that Sarko and Fillon are bitter enemies who have been sparring for power for a long time and Fillon has had his revenge. He just had to be patient. And of course he got the support of the party because Juppe is too old now – too old and too late. He doesn’t have enough friends amongst the younger members of the party. It’s all about cliques and personal power struggles.
    Now sit back and watch Macron do his Trump trick. He’s the next little war lord.

  48. It looks like somebody want Le Pen to win.
    She could pick up votes from the left as the anti neo-Thatchertie as she does have some pro worker/welfare policies if the French left implode before election day.

  49. Count on at least one.

  50. This is quite a long thread that hasn’t even attempted to respond to Jessica’s original question:Any chance of someone representing the Left other than Hollande?
    From what I’m gleaning in the English-language press (I need to tune-up my French), that’s a very serious question to be asking, because Hollande has made noises about standing down. Manuel Valls has managed to step on a crotte by identifying himself with Blair-ism and Clinton-ism. Ségolène Royal is on the comeback trail, but is she too close to her former paramour Hollande for an electorate that wants change? Are there any other viable candidates of national standing?
    The syndicats du travail can’t possibly back Fillon — if la Gauche can’t put forth someone with a narrative that addresses the reality that multiculturalism in France appears to be failing miserably, it seems to me that many of them will turn out for Le Front National and Le Pen, who is the strongest anti-neoliberal in the field.
    Emmanuel Macron appears to be the Wild Card, and I’d be curious to hear from francophone readers about him and whether his history as the Sciences Po pro-business “reformer” appeals at all to traditional left-wing voters in light of the nuit debout movement against PS austerity programs.

  51. NotTimothyGeithner

    The idea Hollande is still playing with the notion of running is telling. The vultures are too weak to tackle Hollande’s bloated carcass. I wonder if the night time protests (the name escapes me) has really shaken the center left elite’s to a point where they simply don’t know how to proceed.

  52. See above: Nuit Debout translates roughly as “Up All Night.” These were protests against the PS — Parti Socialiste — of Hollande and until lately Macron.
    Le Pen has positioned herself as the defender of the French welfare state — but only for the “French” — against Hollande’s Blair-ite/Clinton-ite austerity attacks and the Pétain-ist sounding austerity of the right, especially of Fillon, whose major platform is firing 50,000 unionized public workers.
    Shaping up to be another Brexit…

  53. 500,000 actually …. At a time of record unemployment. But it’s understandable in a bizarre fashion, politically as an attack on the “bureaucrats” the French love to hate, and economically as a way to increase unemployment, and push down wages even further.

  54. The Trumpening

    There is no hope on the Left. Hollande has a 4% approval rating. Plus he is one of the only people Le Pen beats currently in the second round. Manual Valls, the current Prime Minister, is a slight bit more popular and is a talented politician but he really has no chance either of reaching the second round..
    Macron is hated, hated, hated by the working class left. He is famous for insulting a union worker by saying, “the best way to afford a suit is to work”. When he comes to town the unions line the street and throw eggs at him. I don’t know whether he would be considred left or right but Macron is certainly a committed globalist.
    The is also Jean-Luc Mélenchon who was the leader of the Front de Gauche and is now being pushed by the Parti communiste français (PCF). He will never get out of the first round.
    So really the best candidate on the Left for the French would be Marine Le Pen. President Hollande even complemented her by saying her policies respemble those of the PCF during the 70’s and 80’s! And for once Hollande was 100% correct! On the other hand the PCF was very angry at Hollande for saying this!
    http://www.bfmtv.com/politique/marine-le-pen-parle-comme-un-tract-du-pc-des-annees-70-selon-francois-hollande-879003.html

  55. There’s nobody on the left. It’s a lost cause. Our socialist party turned neoliberal and fell apart from hubris and infighting 8 years ago.
    Everybody should stop comparing apples to oranges. Europe is a continent, like the United States. France can be compared to California. Try that and you’ll have a mjch clearer perspective on things. Then imagine that south of the Mason Dixon line it’s poverty and chaos (doesn’t take much imagination), stagnation in the north and center and coastal “bubbles” with most of the economic centers full of liberals . Same old same old, everywhere on the planet because Neoliberalism has taken over the whole planet. It’s the “globalization” stupid. (just repeating an old joke)
    David’s comment on the clan system in France was right on. It’s all about mafias. Political parties refer to themselves as a “family”. You get the idea.

  56. The Parti Socialiste is a lost cause, no contest. However, people need to start paying attention to Mélenchon. Of course, the mainstream media in France hates him even more than the US MSM did Bernie Sanders, but in spite of that he still obtained a double-digit score in 2012. Considering the massive infighting that can be expected among neoliberals and conservatives (Fillion, Macron, possibly Bayrou, whoever ends up winning the PS primaries, etc.), I wouldn’t be surprised if he could advance to the second round. And if he does, Mélenchon–Le Pen would be a very interesting face off.
    (Regarding the Parti Socialiste: the local section has obtained my email address somehow, so I keep receiving their announces. A few days ago, it was an invitation to a “debate” about labour regulation called “En Marche / PS : rupture(s) et/ou convergence(s)?”—so about the common points and nuances between the PS platform and Macron’s. They’re not even trying to deceive people with false promises of worker-friendly measures this time around.)

  57. To the question “one wonders why voters would back failed neoliberal policies” I would suggest, based on all the views broadcast on the US channel of France TV, that virtually none of the voters showed looked younger than 30, and very few younger than 40. Still a lot of people, though.

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