Election France: 40 candidates and one president

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Dmitry Gorokhov

The election campaign has not yet officially begun, but in reality, the battle for the famous presidential residence on the rue Faubourg-Saint-Honoré in Paris is already in full swing. The head of the republic, Emmanuel Macron, has not yet officially announced whether he intends to run for a second term in April 2022, but at least forty politicians rushed to unveil their own views of the historic apartments in the Elysee Palace.

To officially join the campaign, each of the applicants must secure the support of at least 500 municipal councilors and mayors by February 26, 2022. The final list of candidates who have collected the coveted number of signatures of the people’s deputies will become known two weeks later – on March 11. But in the near future, events are expected that will largely predetermine the further course of things.

The election calendar and traditions allow the incumbent President of France not to rush to enter the new marathon. This is basically what the historical predecessors of Macron did. François Mitterrand, for example, declared himself a candidate just a month before the election. The ruling camp expects, however, that Macron, who will turn 44 on December 21, will reveal his plans even before the Catholic holiday of Christmas – December 25.

Breakthrough of Zemmur

In public opinion polls, the incumbent is in the lead today. Major political opponents acknowledge the effectiveness of measures taken by the government to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. In the economic sphere, the unemployment rate is the lowest in the last 15 years. In the first round on April 10, 23% of voters are ready to vote for him. This practically ensures him reach the final round on April 24th.

The second position, as it was in the last election campaign, is the leader of the “National Association”, MP Marine Le Pen. Sociologists predict 17% of the votes for her in the first round, which is noticeably less than she received in 2017.

Le Pen herself is sure that the French electorate has not yet fully mobilized and in reality her potential is much higher. But her plans may be thwarted by the most active participant in this phase of the campaign, although not yet a candidate, Erik Zemmour. A polemicist of right-wing views, not directly associated with any party, he sharply attacks both the authorities and the opposition. Part of the electorate clearly likes this politically incorrect rhetoric: polls promise him 15% in the first round – more than a solid indicator for an election debut, who has not yet announced his intentions to the “city and the world”.

In matters of limiting the flow of migrants to France, Zemmour goes much further than Le Pen. Some of his statements have already brought him problems with the law – at the trial, which is taking place in a Paris court, the polemicist is accused of racist statements and incitement to hatred. Last September, he said that juvenile migrants who committed offenses had nothing to do in France, calling them “thieves and rapists.” For this he faces a fine of € 10,000.

Zemmour, however, believes that his election chances are higher than that of Le Pen. He believes that today he has at least a third of the voters who voted for Le Pen, as well as a third of the classical electorate of the right and the same number of supporters of the left-wing movement “Unruly France”.  

Governor Bertrand and Quaestor Ciotti

The upcoming party congress of the “Republicans” can make adjustments to the arrangement of the pieces on the chessboard. So far, the party has not taken the expected high place in the polls. 12.5% of voters are ready to support her in the elections. But the support may turn out to be higher depending on which of the contenders will become the official candidate of the party. Five candidates are ready to fight for her nomination.

While in the intra-party marathon, the head of the Haute-de-France region (north of the country), Xavier Bertrand, was in front. The politician, who is now 56 years old, has an impressive track record: he was the general secretary of the party, headed the ministries of labor and health, and has been leading one of the country’s large regions for almost six years.

Bertrand calls himself a “social Gaullist”, emphasizing his loyalty to the legacy of Charles de Gaulle, the founder of the Fifth Republic. To ensure law and order, he proposes to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 15 years. This demand is consonant with the calls of the Republican nominee, quaestor of the National Assembly (lower house of parliament) Eric Ciotti, proposing to create an additional 100 thousand places in prisons and deprive those parents of family benefits whose children do not respect the values of the republic.

In foreign policy, both Ciotti and Bertrand advocate the withdrawal of France from the NATO Joint Command in accordance with the line pursued by de Gaulle. In 1966, the general expelled NATO headquarters from Paris and soon thereafter went on a ten-day visit to Russia, which he always called France’s ally in the two world wars.   

Pecresse rates

Valerie Pécresse, another Republican contender, is convinced that the time has come for women to lead France. She now runs the central region of Ile-de-France (“Petite France”), which includes Paris and seven other departments in the country. A former adviser to President Jacques Chirac, whose daughter was treated for anorexia by her grandfather, a renowned psychiatrist, Pécresse headed the Ministry of Higher Education and the Budget during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy. In the last presidential marathon, she supported François Fillon.

As one of the leading French analysts noted, “In a discussion without big sparks, the Pécresse program turned out to be the most well-tailored in ideological terms.” She was especially offensive in the controversy over migration issues. This theme, along with security issues, dominates the Republicans’ election lines. Pécresse is in favor of setting a ceiling for the admission of migrants, and the granting of a residence permit to them suggests making them dependent on knowledge of French and the availability of sufficient income to live in France.

Chances to win the party nomination also have a “challenger who does not need to be taught” – Michel Barnier, a former foreign minister and a recent negotiator on Brexit. By the way, he is the only one who kept the party card during all the last changes in the name of the party. Perhaps it was precisely this constancy that ensured an order of magnitude more promises of deputies and mayors than his rivals were able to receive so far.

On the left flank, the Mayor of Paris and the official Socialist candidate, Anne Hidalgo, enjoys the support of 7% of voters. She is ahead of environmentalist Yannick Jadot, who is currently counting on 6%. Jean-Luc Melanchon has the most support among left-wing candidates. He speaks from an anti-capitalist position, proposes to set an upper level for wages in enterprises in the interests of greater equality. In addition, about 2.5% of voters are ready to vote for the leader of the French Communist Party, MP Fabien Roussel.  

Premiere of “Animalists”

For the first time, Le Parti animaliste, led by lawyer Hélène Thiou, will run on the left in the elections. About 2% of voters intend to support it. The party was blessed, undoubtedly, by one of the most famous French voters and patrons of the fauna – Brigitte Bardot. Thiu is ahead in polls of both former minister, socialist Arnaud Montebur, whose campaign has yet to take off, and co-chairman of the Trotskyist Labor Struggle (La Lutte ouvriére) party Natalie Artaud.

“In today’s context, when many young voters are concerned about animal welfare, Thiu’s electoral potential should not be underestimated,” says the IFOP sociological service. candidacies “. According to Tiu herself, collecting such signatures in municipalities is “a true Way of the Cross.”  

Allied word

The politicians who have temporarily left the stage are hoping to influence the outcome of the elections. The Mayor of Le Havre, Edouard Philippe, who headed the Cabinet of Ministers for three years, from May 2017 to July 2020, founded a new political party, Horizons, last month. “Re-electing a president is even more difficult than electing him,” Philip explained his project. “My goal is for Emmanuel Macron to be elected for a second term. Horizons can be a useful tool for this.” Do Philip’s plans exhaust this project?

On the right flank, the director of the Institute for Social, Economic and Political Sciences (ISSEP), Marion Marechal, is calling on Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour to join the alliance. “When I study the balance of power, I see that the Le Pen-Zemmour bloc would have 36-37% today,” Marechal said. “Such an alliance could bypass Macron.”

Will Marine Le Pen hear her niece? In May 2017, after the National Front (as the current National Unity was called at that time) lost the presidential election – Macron received 66% of the vote then, Marine Le Pen was half that – 27-year-old Marion Marechal left politics slamming the door. She resigned from her duties as a member of parliament and a member of the party’s Politburo. On the right flank, she is still seen as the likely successor to Le Pen.

Is Zemmur ready to unite? At least according to some analysts, he is realistic about his chances in the 2022 presidential marathon. The distance separating him from Macron today is too great. It cannot be ruled out that his aspirations are therefore to a large extent connected with the period after the elections. He hardly doubts Macron’s victory and, accordingly, the collapse of the political hopes of both the “Republicans” and the “National Unity”. He is preparing to build his political project, at least in the eyes of some analysts, on the ruins of these two parties as a candidate for the united right-wing forces.