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.