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An obstacle course until… 18th June

Émeric Brehier
Member of the French Parliament

Read this article in French

The successive trends amongst recent surveys have only served to confirm that the voter bases of the various candidates are continuing to solidify. Whilst the voter bases for the National Front candidate as well as the respective right and centre candidates were already relatively certain; following the debate one can argue they are now even more fixed. The crucial factor though is the recent solidification of those who purportedly support Emmanuel Macron. This is important and cannot be underestimated as it illustrates that the martingale process implemented by the Forward! (En Marche!) candidate has worked despite those who believed it would not succeed. Whether this is because the people agree with his political position or with his political policies; whether it is based solely on the broad appeal his personality engenders amongst the people; whether it is a wholehearted rejection by the people who refuse to choose between François Fillon and Marine Le Pen in the second round no longer matters. At least this is true in the short term.

The other significant element which has occurred in the last few days is the reversal of positions between Benoît Hamon and Jean-Luc Mélenchon. As indicated by Chloé Morin previously, the voters for both these candidates are often closely linked and any negative shift for one is likely to positively affect the other. By way of an example: Jean-Luc Mélenchon appears to gain between 3 – 4 points on the same day as Benoît Hamon loses 3 – 4 points which re-affirms this analysis and at the same time demonstrates how much manoeuvrability the “Unsubmissive France” candidate has amongst the potential abstentionists when compared to the socialist candidate. Unless he is dragged towards a deep electoral abyss as a result of his political positioning. In this regard, the latest commentary from Gilles Finchelstein demonstrates the strategic and electoral impasse which the Belle Alliance Populaire candidate now faces. However, it should be noted that what emerged rather abruptly on 7 April was not scripted on the night of Hamon’s victory on 29th January. Far from it in fact.

Similarly, a study published in a French weekly on Emmanuel Macron’s voter base at this putative stage is notable as it demonstrates the explosion within a conventional framework – a framework where a left-right divide exists in our imagination and our political culture – is clearly evident. This divide in terms of how the people envisage the future is based sociological factors – factors which many critics want to isolate yet the matter cannot be isolated as the geographical divide reflects. From the Maastricht vote in 1992 to the present-day traces of such a divide continue to endure.

But this coconut shy election has not finished surprising us. And on 23rd April, the day of the first round, the men and women of France have their first of four voting opportunities to decide their future. After this there will be votes cast for the second round of the presidential election as well as the two rounds for the general election. And so many more obstacles to overcome. Then, and only then, will it be possible to say whether this “coconut shy” election will have truly played a crucial part to the very end or whether the inherent power of political culture will have endured once more.

Photo: Facebook account Parti Socialiste

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