Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Who might be the new French President - a brief guide

France is in the throes of an election campaign which kicked off last autumnn and is due to last another three months until voting in May. Who will replace François Hollande after five years as President is far from clear at this time.

There have as usual been numerous opinion polls and several pre-selection processes but the picture is far from clear though there are four principal candidates in the running. They are Marine le Pen (Front National) who has an outright lead (24% currently) over the others but is under something of a cloud as a result of problems with the European Parliament - as has her father and founder of the FN - over allegedly illegal  payments for parliamentary assistants who were not resident in Brussels according to the rules. Yesterday the police raided the FN's French offices on behalf of the European Commission. Both MEPs have denied any breach of the rules.

The rest of the field is made up of a curiously mixed bunch - including François Fillon, who survived for five years as former president Sarkozy's Prime minister. He is the preferred candidate of the right wing of the the Republican party but also under a cloud regarding alleged 'salary' payments to his wife Penelope and two of his children, paid out of public funds, amid claims that their jobs as 'parliamentary assistants' were fictitious. The sums involved approach 1 million euros going back over many years and investigations are continuing, with the prospect of a prosecution not ruled out. Les Républicains are sticking by their man - for the time being, with the election just weeks away. Compared with  the other candidates he is also the one with the most experience at parliamentary and ministerial level

The two other contenders are newcomers Emanuel Macron and Benoit Hamon. Macron was a former advisor to François Hollande and worked at the Elysée Palace, before transfering to parliament as Minister of Economics, and then resigning and setting up his own party known as En marche ('on the move'). He has been campaigning for several months throughout France and accasionally abroad and is more or less on the right wing,  and popular with young and older voters alike. Having formed his own party may complicate his progress

Benoit Hamon, an ecologist and to the left of the socialist party, was (briefly) Education Minister under François Hollande and is the favourite choice of young voters. His comparative youth and lack of practical experience in government might be seen as a handicaps to being elected.

Posted by peterdanton@orange.fr