Posts Tagged ‘En Marche’

Macron bans Russian-state media from campaign trail

April 29, 2017

AFP

© THOMAS SAMSON / POOL / AFP | French presidential election candidate for the En Marche ! movement Emmanuel Macron talks to the press on April 18, 2017.

French presidential frontrunner Emmanuel Macron’s campaign Thursday denied press access and passes to two Russian state-backed media, RT (formerly Russia Today) and Sputnik, accusing them of spreading “propaganda” and “misleading information”.

The decision was described as “scandalous” by Kremlin foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, after Macron confirmed to AFP that the access applications had been refused.

“It (RT) is not just a news outlet like the others,” a source in the Macron campaign told the Daily Beast on Monday, “it is a propaganda organ. Therefore we have decided not to give it accreditation.”

RT promptly hit back, telling the Daily Beast, “RT has not received an official reason for its exclusion from the Macron presidential campaign. We hope that his team will see fit to afford the courtesy of accreditation to RT shortly, and not attempt to curtail journalism, and manipulate the media, by selecting who can and can’t report on his campaign.”

Macron’s campaign accuses RT of spreading ‘fake news,’ dodges requests for clarification https://on.rt.com/8a96 

The Kremlin’s Zakharova said that the necessary requests had been made by Russia media and as “other foreign media have not faced any obstacles, we consider these prohibitory measures to be targeted and openly discriminatory”.

Sputnik and RT (Russia Today) were created by the Kremlin for foreigners, and are available in several languages including French. According to Le Monde, the French-language versions of both RT and Sputnik are “very present on [French] social media,” and both sites doubled their traffic in 2016.

A “smear campaign”

The Macron campaign did not offer specific examples of what it considered “propaganda” from RT or Sputnik. However, in February, Macron’s spokesman Benjamin Griveaux accused the Kremlin of mounting a “smear campaign” via state media against the pre-EU centrist former economy minister.

Sputnik published an extensive interview with right-wing Les Républicains lawmaker Nicolas Dhuicq on February 4, in which Dhuicq accused Macron of being an “agent of the big American banking system” and of having “a very wealthy gay lobby behind him”.

The article may have prompted Macron on February 7 to publicly deny having an extramarital homosexual affair.

Anti-Macron or just pro-Le Pen?

Russia is viewed as a keen backer of Macron’s rival Marine Le Pen in the presidential race. Le Pen even met Russian President Vladimir Putin in a surprise visit to Moscow ahead of France’s April 23 first round vote.

RUSSIA ‘ACTIVELY INVOLVED’ IN FRENCH ELECTION, WARNS US SENATE INTELLIGENCE CHIEF

Russian attempts to influence the French campaign via hacking are easier to prove: cybersecurity experts have said they are “99 percent sure” that Russian hackers are targeting the Macron campaign.

The Russian cyber-spying group Pawn Storm used “phishing” techniques to try to steal personal data from Macron and members of his ‘En Marche!’ (Forward!) campaign, the Japanese cyber-security firm Trend Micro said Tuesday.

“This group set up a specific infrastructure to target Emmanuel Macron’s movement in March and April 2017,” Loïc Guézo, Trend Micro’s strategy director for southern Europe, told FRANCE 24.

Pawn Storm – also known as Fancy Bear, Sednit, APT28, Sofacy or Strontium – is also believed to be behind the attacks last summer on the US Democratic National Committee, thought to be aimed at undermining Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

The group is widely suspected of having links to Russia’s security services.

Moscow has denied any involvement in seeking to influence France’s election, which will be decided in a second round run-off between Macron and Le Pen on May 7.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

French election 2017: Marine Le Pen leading the race as polls open but victory far from assured

April 23, 2017

Fox News

As voting starts in the French Presidential Election,  Marine Le Pen — who has built her campaign on the populist anger that helped President Trump get elected — is seeing a similar boost in support.

Marine Le Pen goes into today's first round of the French election in the lead

Marine Le Pen goes into today’s first round of the French election in the lead

An opinion poll released Friday by Odoxa shows her nearly neck-and-neck with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, a jump in the past week. Analysts point out that the latest attack in Paris, which killed a police officer and left three other people wounded Thursday, may have contributed to her surge in support.

HOW FRANCE’S ELECTION COULD HAVE A BIG IMPACT ON UNITED STATES

Still, the race is far from decided. As many as one-third of voters had not settled on a candidate this week, Newsweek reported. President Trump said he believed the Champs-Elysees attack would help Le Pen, while former President Barack Obama offered Macron his best wishes in a phone call Thursday. Both Trump and Obama stopped short of full endorsements.

Election stations opened Saturday in French overseas territories voting first — one day earlier than on the mainland.

Newsweek found many voters across France saying they were leaning toward Le Pen — which would parallel the surge for Trump last year among undecided voters and supporters who chose to lay low.

‘COULD LE PEN WIN?’ A GUIDE TO THE FRENCH PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION

André Robert, 56, said her tough stance on terror convinced him. “I’m voting for the candidate who’ll keep us safe.”

“Marine gets me shaking,” 65-year-old Monique Zaouchkevitch said, adding that she’d stayed out of politics until she heard Le Pen speak. “Marine, she’s close to the people.”

In another parallel to the U.S., some voters seemed to suffer from election fatigue and weren’t blown away by any of the candidates. Gabriel Roberoir, a 61-year-old former public servant, called the election a “circus,” adding, “I don’t even know why any of them are running.”

Sunday’s vote is the first round in the French elections, with the top two candidates advancing to a winner-take-all runoff on May 7. The high-stakes contest is viewed as something of a vote on the future of the European Union, with Le Pen calling for a referendum on France’s membership in the bloc.

In a sign of how tense the country has become, a man holding a knife caused widespread panic Saturday at Paris’ Gare du Nord train station. He was arrested and no one was hurt.

Conservative former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, whose campaign was initially derailed by corruption allegations that his wife was paid as his parliamentary aide, also appeared to be closing the gap, as was far-leftist, Jean-Luc Melenchon. Campaigning by the 11 presidential candidates got off to a slow start, bogged down by corruption charges around once-top candidate Fillon before belatedly switching focus to France’s biggest fear: a new attack.

Le Pen has also echoed some of Trump’s hard-line rhetoric on immigration, calling for hardening French borders to stanch what she describes as an out-of-control flow of immigrants.

She has spoken of radical Muslims trying to supplant France’s Judeo-Christian heritage and, among other measures, has called for foreigners suspected of extremism to be expelled from the country.

Le Pen, a 48-year-old mother of three, has distanced herself from her father, National Front party founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, who has been convicted of crimes related to anti-Semitism and mocked the Holocaust as a “detail” of history.

Nevertheless, earlier this month she denied the French state was responsible for the roundup of Jews during World War II, drawing condemnation from other presidential candidates and Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

A victory for Macron would be a vote of confidence in France staying in the EU. Obama, when he was in office, encouraged Britain not to leave, though it ultimately voted to do so anyway.

Trump backed Britain’s decision to exit from the EU and has also predicted that other countries would make similar decisions. Yet during a White House news conference Thursday, the president said he believed in a strong Europe.

“A strong Europe is very, very important to me as president of the United States,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/04/22/france-election-marine-le-pen-sees-trump-like-boost-in-support-but-victory-far-from-assured.html

See also from The Telegraph:

French election 2017: Marine Le Pen leading the race as polls open
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/04/23/france-goes-polls-marine-le-pen-emmanuel-macron-leading-race/

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France: Polls open in Presidential Election that could have a dramatic effect on the shape of the European Union

April 23, 2017

Amid heightened security fears following a terror attack in Paris, the French will elect a new president in two rounds of voting on April 23 and May 7—the result could reshape the European Union. WSJ’s Niki Blasina explains who the top candidates are, how they could win, and what might happen next. Photo: Getty Images.

PARIS—French voters headed to the polls Sunday for the first round of a closely contested presidential election that has turned into a referendum on the future of France’s generous entitlement system and on the nation’s place in the European Union, amid heightened security days after a terror attack in the capital.

Uncertainty is running high as polls show the four candidates leading the race are within striking distance of one another. The quartet comprises two mainstream contenders and two antiestablishment candidates seeking to pull apart the political and economic order that has governed France and Europe for the past 60 years.

The top two finishers from a field of 11 will proceed to a runoff on May 7, unless any one candidate garners more than 50% of the vote Sunday.

Adding further tension, voters are casting their ballots amid heightened security following a spate of terror attacks. An additional 50,000 police and gendarmes will be deployed to secure polling stations around the country, where some 10,000 soldiers are already patrolling the streets as part of an antiterror mission.

Photos: Voting Begins in France

French voters cast their ballots in the first round of that country’s election Sunday

Expatriate French voters line up at a polling station in Hong Kong.
Expatriate French voters line up at a polling station in Hong Kong. ALEX HOFFORD/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
A voter casts his ballot at a Paris polling station in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday.
A voter casts his ballot at a Paris polling station in the first round of the French presidential election on Sunday. CHRISTIAN HARTMANN/REUTERS

French people were reminded of the threat Thursday when a police officer was gunned down on Paris’s Champs-Élysées. Two days earlier, police detained two men in the southern city of Marseille suspected of planning an imminent terror attack.

Polling firms say many voters planning to cast a ballot still hadn’t picked a first-round candidate at the end of the week. According to a poll by BVA Thursday and Friday, 23% of people intending to vote say they could still change their mind.

Leading among the anti-EU candidates is Marine Le Pen, the National Front leader who has pledged to halt immigration, and wants France to pull out of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and ditch the euro. Left-wing firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon is also threatening to pull out of NATO and the EU, unless the bloc bends to his demands to scrap treaties that rein in excessive spending.

Coming to the defense of Europe are Emmanuel Macron, a 39-year-old former investment banker who has never run for office, and François Fillon, a social and fiscal conservative who has publicly apologized after news reports showed he had put his family on the public payroll.

Also at stake in Sunday’s vote is the fate of France’s big-hearted state. Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Mélenchon are promising to reinforce pension and holiday entitlements. Messrs. Fillon and Macron say the time has come to bring benefits in line with France’s debt-laden public finances.

Second-Round Matchups

The six most realistic scenarios for the May 7 presidential runoff and their predicted outcomes.

Emmanuel Macron | François Fillon

A contest between two pro-Europeans that shifts the debate to taxation, spending and how to fix the French economy.

Emmanuel Macron | Marine Le Pen

A staunch EU defender takes on one of the economic bloc’s most committed adversaries.

Emmanuel Macron | Jean-Luc Mélenchon

A referendum on the role of France in the EU and NATO, laying bare divisions on the French left.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon | François Fillon

A soak-the-rich crusader of the far-left squares off with a conservative proponent of austerity.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon | Marine Le Pen

The second round investors fear most, because it guarantees France will have a deeply euroskeptic president.

François Fillon | Marine Le Pen

This matchup with the scandal-plagued Mr. Fillon, polls say, is Ms. Le Pen’s best shot at the presidency.

Sources: Staff reports; CEVIPOF poll conducted between Apr. 16–17 by Ipsos-Sopra Steria of 11,601 people registered on the electoral rolls (polling)

The BVA poll showed Ms. Le Pen and Mr. Macron each on track to garner 23% of the vote, with Mr. Mélenchon on 19.5% and Mr. Fillon half a point behind the left-wing candidate. The projections, the poll says, have a 2.5-percentage-point margin of error.

Those razor-thin margins are testing the longstanding practice in France of casting ballots for those candidates voters consider to be lesser evils—what is known locally as a “vote utile,” or “useful vote.”

“It was already complicated before,” said Florence Pilon, 43 years old, who is now leaning toward voting for Mr. Macron. “We haven’t had a very reassuring campaign.”

At the start of the year, Mr. Fillon and Ms. Le Pen held a comfortable lead in polls, which projected him beating her in the second round as voters rallied against the National Front leader.

But Mr. Fillon’s campaign suffered a blow after a newspaper reported he had hired his wife and two children as parliamentary assistants, paying them hundreds of thousands of euros in state funds. In March, an investigative magistrate notified Mr. Fillon he was suspected of embezzlement for providing his family with fake jobs. Mr. Fillon has apologized for hiring relatives but denied allegations the jobs were fake.

Mr. Fillon’s ensuing collapse in opinion polls thrust Mr. Macron, a pro-business former economy minister, into pole position.

In recent weeks, however, Mr. Macron’s left flank has come under attack from Mr. Mélenchon, a fiery, Mao jacket-wearing leftist who has cast himself as the champion of the working class.

Mr. Mélenchon’s surge scrambled the voting math once again, as polls showed many on the left were tempted to abandon Mr. Macron.

The Interior Ministry will publish the first turnout figures at noon local time and again at 5 p.m.

The first estimations based on a partial count the vote will be calculated by polling companies for the main TV channels and broadcast at 8 p.m.

Polling companies expect to have firmer projections by 10 p.m., though there is an outside chance the race could still be too close to call. If that is the case, the first round may not be called until the government completes the vote count on Monday morning.

Write to William Horobin at William.Horobin@wsj.com and Joshua Robinson at joshua.robinson@wsj.com

https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-tense-presidential-election-gets-under-way-1492927200?mod=e2tw

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France votes amid political turmoil — “This is a deep institutional crisis.”

April 23, 2017

Today’s first round of voting in France’s presidential elections is the culmination of the country’s very surprising campaign. Lisa Louis reports from Paris.

Frankreich Wahlen (Reuters/P.Rossignol)

France has seen its most extraordinary presidential election campaign in recent history. Beyond politics as usual, it points to a deep institutional crisis.

The French are going to the polls today to vote in the first round of the presidential elections. About a third of them still don’t know who to vote for according to polls. And can you really blame them?

French presidential election campaigns normally produce two clear front runners – often from the main center-right and center-left parties. In 2012, the center-right candidate Nicolas Sarkozy was facing current Socialist President Francois Hollande. Admittedly, far-right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen reached the second round of voting in 2002. But that had been undetected by the polls.

This time around though, four candidates could potentially reach the decisive run-off vote on May 7. The gaps between their projected tallies are so small that they lie within the margin of error. That’s unheard of and hasn’t occurred since the beginning of France’s Fifth Republic in 1958.

“This is the first time that the media’s projections published at [1800 UTC] on the first day of voting will probably not give us the names of the two candidates that’ll get into the second round – the vote will just be too close,” said Nicolas Lebourg, political historian at Montpellier University.

“It’s extraordinary – never has a presidential election been so chaotic,” he added.

Full of surprises

Thursday night’s terror attack just added to the confusion focusing the campaign on terrorism in its last stretch. Unemployment had been the main talking point up until then. During the attack, one policeman was killed and three other people wounded after a 39-year old French man opened fire on a police van on Paris’ iconic Champs-Elysées boulevard. However, it doesn’t seem to have given any of the candidates a huge edge according to the latest polls.

But the whole campaign has been full of surprises. To start off with, none of the winners of the Republican and Socialist parties’ primaries were expected to come first.

Frankreich Francois Fillon (Getty Images/AFP/P. Kovarik)Francois Fillon, once the frontrunner, has seen his candidacy hurt amid allegations he gave family members fake jobs

Then came scandal for the conservatives. The Republican candidate, former Prime Minister Francois Fillon, had for months been the favorite to become France’s next President. He’s a social conservative and intends to get the country back on track with Thatcher-like radical economic reforms. He is also planning on repositioning the country internationally – by seeking closer ties with Russia and Syria.

But in January, scandals around alleged fake jobs for his family saw his poll numbers drop from 28 to about 18 percent. He is now competing with far-left candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon for third position.

Melenchon recently – and surprisingly so – zoomed upwards from ten percent, with Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon plummeting to single-figure numbers.

The left-extremist Melenchon still thinks in terms of class warfare. A gifted orator, he wants to strengthen the French welfare state by increasing the minimum wage and bringing down weekly working hours – currently at 35. He also intends to renegotiate EU treaties or, if that fails, push for France to leave the EU all together.

Another extremist is among the two front runners – again a first in French history. Marine Le Pen from the far-right National Front has a very good chance of getting through to the decisive run-off vote – and this is reflected in the polls. She’s proven popular with a recipe of anti-immigrant, economic protectionism and nationalistic rhetoric. But she has managed to smoothen out the party’s image by no longer making controversial statements like her father Jean-Marie. He was tarnished by charges of xenophobia and anti-semitism.

Kombobild Melenchon Le PenLeftist Jean-Luc Melenchon has risen in the polls ahead of the vote, while far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is hoping her anti-EU, anti-migration rhetoric will galvanize her populist base

Traditional parties in crisis

Le Pen’s closest rival is independent centrist Emmanuel Macron. The former Economics Minister is pro-European and pro-business but also intends to maintain and strengthen France’s welfare state. His movement “En Marche!” (On The Move!), founded only a year ago, skyrocketed in the polls. He’s now in first place.

“The fact that a lightning party like ‘En Marche!’ can attract members from the Communists and the Republicans just shows to what extent the traditional parties are in a crisis,” said Florence Faucher, Professor for Political Science at Paris University Sciences Po.

But historian Lebourg says it’s not just the Socialist and the Republican Parties that are in a dire state – but the whole Fifth Republic: “This is a deep institutional crisis.”

“Our Republican Monarchy was made for the agrarian France of 1958, when less then ten percent of the people under 50 had a degree – now that figure is at 38 percent.”

“People want to be included in political decisions – and no longer be dictated to. Our institutions and very authoritarian and centralized political system are just not suitable any more.”

Perhaps for this reason, many in this election campaign were trying to depict themselves as anti-system candidates – including Melenchon, Le Pen, and Macron.

No clear favorite

Lebourg says the current political system, based on two rounds of voting, only works with two frontrunners and two strong political poles. But with four strong candidates, none of them is likely to get enough votes to appear legitimate. “The two run-off candidates will not have been able to gather much more than 20 percent in the first round,” he stated.

And more problems could lie ahead. Parliamentary elections will take place in June and the resulting majority will form the new government.

But only a President Francois Fillon would have a chance of getting such a majority. He could fall back on a large base of traditional voters of his party.

The other candidates, if elected, would not have that base and would hardly be able to get the necessary number of MPs. Those who are voting for the winner in the Presidential elections would not necessarily support his or her candidates in parliamentary elections, Lebourg explained.

The result would then be a coalition – a so-called “cohabitation.”

But coalitions have never worked very well in French history. “It would be total chaos – the French are just not good at making compromises,” Lebourg said adding that it wasn’t for nothing that the French had come up with the term “Franco-French war”.

“In any case, the system is at breaking point – it’s almost impossible not to reform it as things stand.”

Lebourg thinks the electoral rules need to be changed towards a proportional system and that more space needs to be given to citizen initiatives.

Political scientist Faucher says it’s no wonder people are confused given all the ups and downs of the election campaign. “The French are just not happy with the status quo. This campaign is the expression of a resentment against the established system, just like the Brexit vote and the outcome of the US presidential elections.”

“Many just don’t know who to vote for now – especially as they are more worried than ever to get things right.”

http://www.dw.com/en/france-votes-amid-political-turmoil/a-38548523

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France: Emmanuel Macron says not to “give in to fear” — Le Pen says reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists

April 21, 2017

After Paris Attack

LE PEN: EXPEL FOREIGNERS WHO ARE ON WATCH LISTS

BYREUTERS APRIL 21, 2017 12:49

.
En Marche candidate Emmanuel Macron urged the country not to “give in to fear” in the wake of the attack.

Image may contain: one or more people, people on stage and people standing
Marine Le Pen delivers a speech during a political rally near Toulon. (photo credit REUTERS)

Far-right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen said on Friday that France should immediately reinstate border checks and expel foreigners who are on the watch lists of intelligence services, adding that these were steps she would take, if elected.

Seizing on Thursday night’s killing of a police officer in an attack claimed by Islamic State, Le Pen, who has been campaigning on a hardline anti-EU, anti-immigration platform, urged the Socialist government to carry out immediately measures that are included in her campaign manifesto.

 

“We cannot afford to lose this war. But for the past ten years, left-wing and right-wing governments have done everything they can for us to lose it. We need a presidency which acts and protects us,” Le Pen told reporters at her campaign headquarters.

French voters elect a president in a two-round vote on April 23 and May 7. Opinion polls have for months forecast that Le Pen would make it through to the run-off, but then lose in the final vote.

Until now, Le Pen had struggled to get the campaign to focus on her party’s trademark tough security and immigration stance. By contrast, she has been thrown on the defensive over her position to pull out of the euro zone, a proposal that lacks wide support.

Referring disparagingly to outgoing Socialist President Francois Hollande as “notoriously feeble,” Le Pen said: “I only ask one last-ditch effort from him before leaving power: I solemnly ask him to effectively reinstate our borders.”

She added: “Elected president of the Republic, I would immediately, and with no hesitation, carry out the battle plan against Islamist terrorism and against judicial laxity.”

Several other presidential candidates made public statements in response to the Champs Elysees shooting.

French centrist presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron urged the country not to “give in to fear” in the wake of the attack.

“We clearly see that the challenge we have in front of us over the coming years will continue to be fighting against terrorism. Because we will not erase it overnight, and for the final stretch of this campaign our challenge is, on the one hand, to bring about the response, to shed light on the democratic choice in this context. But to never give in to fear,” the En Marche candidate said on Friday.

Conservative presidential candidate Francois Fillon also spoke on Friday, saying that the fight against “Islamist totalitarianism” should be the priority of France’s next president.

Fillon, who has been campaigning on a hardline security platform, told reporters: “We are at war, there is no alternative, it’s us or them.”

“Radical Islam is challenging our values and our strength of character.”

It is unclear what impact the attack will have on the first round of already very unpredictable presidential elections on Sunday.

With their hardline view on security and immigration, Le Pen and Francois Fillon may resonate with some voters.

But other attacks that took place shortly before elections – the November 2015 attacks in Paris ahead of regional elections and the shooting in a Jewish school before the 2012 presidential elections – did not have any effect on those ballots.

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Which French presidential candidate is the best match for you?

April 5, 2017

AFP and FRANCE 24

© Joël Saget, AFP | The five leading candidates in the French presidential election

FRANCE 24, in partnership with Vox Pop Labs, has launched the Vote compass, a tool designed to help users find out which presidential candidate in France’s upcoming elections is the best fit for them.

With less than three weeks to go before the first round of presidential elections – and with 11 candidates in the race – more than two-thirds of French voters still haven’t decided whom they will choose on April 23, according to the most recent Cevipof poll for French daily Le Monde. FRANCE 24 partnered with Vox Pop Labs to create a Vote compass to help voters get a clearer sense of their options.

This tool has been developed with the help of a scientific panel made up of political scientists from Sciences Po Bordeaux, Quebec’s Université Laval and the University of Iowa. The principle is simple: After responding to a series of questions about the candidates on an assortment of campaign themes, the Vote compass tells the web user how those responses stack up with answers provided by the candidates themselves.

Once those results are compiled, the Vote compass also enables comparisons between each candidate’s responses based on individual themes and the questions asked. Their stances on secularism or gender equality, say, will no longer hold any secrets for you.

For that matter, new questions will be added right up until the end of the campaign, so don’t hesitate to take the test again to see whether the candidate selected as your closest match hasn’t changed in the meantime.

To launch FRANCE 24’s Vote compass, click on the image below.

Or at the link:

http://www.france24.com/en/20170404-french-presidential-candidate-best-match-you

Date created : 2017-04-05

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The vote that could wreck the European Union: Why the French presidential election will have consequences far beyond its borders

March 3, 2017

The Economist

Why the French presidential election will have consequences far beyond its borders

From the print edition | Leaders

IT HAS been many years since France last had a revolution, or even a serious attempt at reform. Stagnation, both political and economic, has been the hallmark of a country where little has changed for decades, even as power has rotated between the established parties of left and right.

Until now. This year’s presidential election, the most exciting in living memory, promises an upheaval. The Socialist and Republican parties, which have held power since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, could be eliminated in the first round of a presidential ballot on April 23rd. French voters may face a choice between two insurgent candidates: Marine Le Pen, the charismatic leader of the National Front, and Emmanuel Macron, the upstart leader of a liberal movement, En Marche! (On the Move!), which he founded only last year.

The implications of these insurgencies are hard to exaggerate. They are the clearest example yet of a global trend: that the old divide between left and right is growing less important than a new one between open and closed. The resulting realignment will have reverberations far beyond France’s borders. It could revitalise the European Union, or wreck it.

Les misérables

The revolution’s proximate cause is voters’ fury at the uselessness and self-dealing of their ruling class. The Socialist president, François Hollande, is so unpopular that he is not running for re-election. The established opposition, the centre-right Republican party, saw its chances sink on March 1st when its standard-bearer, François Fillon, revealed that he was being formally investigated for paying his wife and children nearly €1m ($1.05m) of public money for allegedly fake jobs. Mr Fillon did not withdraw from the race, despite having promised to do so. But his chances of winning are dramatically weakened.

Further fuelling voters’ anger is their anguish at the state of France (see article). One poll last year found that French people are the most pessimistic on Earth, with 81% grumbling that the world is getting worse and only 3% saying that it is getting better. Much of that gloom is economic. France’s economy has long been sluggish; its vast state, which absorbs 57% of GDP, has sapped the country’s vitality. A quarter of French youths are unemployed. Of those who have jobs, few can find permanent ones of the sort their parents enjoyed. In the face of high taxes and heavy regulation those with entrepreneurial vim have long headed abroad, often to London. But the malaise goes well beyond stagnant living standards. Repeated terrorist attacks have jangled nerves, forced citizens to live under a state of emergency and exposed deep cultural rifts in the country with Europe’s largest Muslim community.

Many of these problems have built up over decades, but neither the left nor the right has been able to get to grips with them. France’s last serious attempt at ambitious economic reform, an overhaul of pensions and social security, was in the mid-1990s under President Jacques Chirac. It collapsed in the face of massive strikes. Since then, few have even tried. Nicolas Sarkozy talked a big game, but his reform agenda was felled by the financial crisis of 2007-08. Mr Hollande had a disastrous start, introducing a 75% top tax rate. He was then too unpopular to get much done. After decades of stasis, it is hardly surprising that French voters want to throw the bums out.

Both Mr Macron and Ms Le Pen tap into that frustration. But they offer radically different diagnoses of what ails France and radically different remedies. Ms Le Pen blames outside forces and promises to protect voters with a combination of more barriers and greater social welfare. She has effectively distanced herself from her party’s anti-Semitic past (even evicting her father from the party he founded), but she appeals to those who want to shut out the rest of the world. She decries globalisation as a threat to French jobs and Islamists as fomenters of terror who make it perilous to wear a short skirt in public. The EU is “an anti-democratic monster”. She vows to close radical mosques, stanch the flow of immigrants to a trickle, obstruct foreign trade, swap the euro for a resurrected French franc and call a referendum on leaving the EU.

Mr Macron’s instincts are the opposite. He thinks that more openness would make France stronger. He is staunchly pro-trade, pro-competition, pro-immigration and pro-EU. He embraces cultural change and technological disruption. He thinks the way to get more French people working is to reduce cumbersome labour protections, not add to them. Though he has long been short on precise policies (he was due to publish a manifesto as The Economist went to press), Mr Macron is pitching himself as the pro-globalisation revolutionary.

Look carefully, and neither insurgent is a convincing outsider. Ms Le Pen has spent her life in politics; her success has been to make a hitherto extremist party socially acceptable. Mr Macron was Mr Hollande’s economy minister. His liberalising programme will probably be less bold than that of the beleaguered Mr Fillon, who has promised to trim the state payroll by 500,000 workers and slash the labour code. Both revolutionaries would have difficulty enacting their agendas. Even if she were to prevail, Ms Le Pen’s party would not win a majority in the national assembly. Mr Macron barely has a party.

La France ouverte ou la France forteresse?

Nonetheless, they represent a repudiation of the status quo. A victory for Mr Macron would be evidence that liberalism still appeals to Europeans. A victory for Ms Le Pen would make France poorer, more insular and nastier. If she pulls France out of the euro, it would trigger a financial crisis and doom a union that, for all its flaws, has promoted peace and prosperity in Europe for six decades. Vladimir Putin would love that. It is perhaps no coincidence that Ms Le Pen’s party has received a hefty loan from a Russian bank and Mr Macron’s organisation has suffered more than 4,000 hacking attacks.

With just over two months to go, it seems Ms Le Pen is unlikely to clinch the presidency. Polls show her winning the first round but losing the run-off. But in this extraordinary election, anything could happen. France has shaken the world before. It could do so again.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “France’s next revolution”
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France’s Macron dismisses affair as rival Fillon battles scandal — Macron seen beating Le Pen in latest poll

February 7, 2017

Emmanuel Macron, head of the political movement En Marche !, or Onwards !, and candidate for the 2017 presidential election, attends a campaign rally in Lyon, France, February 4, 2017. REUTERS/Robert Pratta

By Sudip Kar-Gupta

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s presidential election campaign lurched deeper into uncertainty on Tuesday after centrist Emmanuel Macron was forced to deny an extramarital affair while financial scandal continued to dog conservative rival Francois Fillon and his party.

Macron has become favorite to win by a thin margin since a scandal two weeks ago surrounding the work of Fillon’s wife, Penelope, knocked the former prime minister off the top spot.

Late on Monday, the centrist former economy minister and ex-banker sought to move his campaign on, taking an opportunity to dismiss rumors he had a gay relationship outside his marriage to Brigitte Trogneux.

“If you’re told I lead a double life with Mr Gallet it’s because my hologram has escaped,” Macron told supporters, referring to Radio France chief executive Mathieu Gallet.

A spokeswoman said the comments were “a clear denial of the rumors about his private life”.

Separately, a day after Fillon held a major news conference to re-invigorate his scandal-hit campaign, an opinion poll for Harris Interactive said 65 percent of French people wanted him replaced as candidate of the center-right.

In that press appearance, Fillon apologized for organizing hundreds of thousands of euros in payment for his wife and family for carrying out work for him, but vowed to fight on as candidate.

Also on Tuesday, a judicial source said a magistrate had ordered another prominent member of Fillon’s The Republicans party – ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy – to stand trial over irregularities – a poignant reminder of the party’s past brushes with financial scandal.

UNCERTAINTY REIGNS

Uncertainty about the outcome of the election, taking place in two rounds on April 23 and May 7, has this week driven the premium that investors demand for holding French over German government debt to its highest for almost four years.

Opinion polls show Macron ahead of Fillon in the first round of the election, but only by a few percentage points, and behind Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front.

Only the top two candidates go through to a second round on May 7. Polls show that Macron would beat Le Pen with about two thirds of the vote and that Fillon would win by a smaller, but still comfortable margin.

In its daily opinion poll update on Tuesday, pollster Opinionway left its first round score little changed from Monday, putting Le Pen on 25 percent, Macron on 23, and Fillon on 20.

It raised its prediction for the Macron vote in the second round to 66 percent from 65.

(Additional reporting by Chine Labbe and Michel Rose; Writing by Andrew Callus; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Former French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron Joins Fance’s Presidential Election Campaign — Alain Juppe, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Marine Le Pen Already Running

November 16, 2016

AFP

© Patrick Hertzog / AFP | Former French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron leaves the stage after delivering a speech in Strasbourg, eastern France, on October 4, 2016.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2016-11-16

Macron will announce on Wednesday a run for the French presidency, a source close to him said, a long-awaited move that could disrupt other campaigns on both the left and the right.

The 38-year-old former investment banker quit his job as economy minister earlier this year and has set up his own political movement called “En Marche” (Forward)“.

“He has made up his mind and the decision was taken a long time ago,” the source said.

Despite his past role in Socialist President François Hollande’s government and as an adviser to him before that, Macron is not a member of the Socialist Party.

He is also not an elected politician, and commentators say his lack of a party apparatus makes him an unlikely winner.

However, as one of France’s most popular politicians, his policies take aim at the centre ground, which is also the target of Alain Juppe, the pollsters’ current favourite to become president in the two-round election next April and May.

Macron’s widely-expected intervention comes just days before the first round of the primaries of the Les Republicains  party and its centre-right allies on Sunday, and the timing was not lost on one of Juppe’s supporters in parliament, Benoist Apparu.

“He said, broadly – ‘I am going to do politics differently, outside of political clans and parties’” Apparu said on BFM TV. “And then the first thing he does is a purely political, calculated, electoral move, telling himself, ‘I will try and falsify … the result of the centre-right primary.”

Juppe’s main rival to win that contest is former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has positioned himself to ex-prime minister Juppe’s right in an attempt to capture voters worried about immigration and security.

Opinion polls in recent months have shown that whoever wins the Le Republicains ticket will face, and beat, Marine Le Pen, the leader of the far-right National Front, in the second round of the election proper next May.

But the battle is a complex one.

New doubts have emerged about the accuracy of opinion polls since Britons voted unexpectedly to quit the European Union and Donald Trump won the U.S. presidency, particularly with regard to the populist voters to whom Sarkozy and Le Pen have appealed.

In addition, left-wing voters are widely expected to gatecrash the Les Republicains primaries, voting in large numbers for Juppe to avoid a Sarkozy-Le Pen choice in next year’s election proper.

French voters can cast ballots in the primaries whether they are party members or not. Apparu’s objection is rooted in the expectation that some who would have voted for Juppe in the primaries might hold off if Macron is going to run.

Macron aides have said he will not take part in January’s Socialist primaries, but he could make further inroads on those voters who still favour the deeply unpopular Hollande for a second term, or who plan to vote for Prime Minister Manuel Valls should Hollande decide not to run and Valls take his place.

That would further split the vote in an already crowded Socialist primaries field.

An October poll published by Odoxa put Macron at the top of a list of potential presidents from the left, with 49 percent considering him a good head of state. Valls came second on 42 percent while Hollande was out of the running on 13 percent, behind several others.

Among Socialist voters, Valls came first on 70 percent with Macron in second place on 50 percent.

(REUTERS)