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Race for the Elysee Palace, 2017: Increasing prominence of France’s National Front (FN) Party expands trend of far-right politics
Marine Le Pen (L), France’s National Front political party leader, and her father Jean-Marie Le Pen attend their party congress in Lyon, 29NOV14. Marine Le Pen called on her father to leave politics following his then-recent controversial comments (Robert Pratta/Reuters)
The first round of the French presidential election is slated for 23APR. Among the top contenders for the Elysee Palace is the leader of the far-right Front National. For years, controversy has underscored the divisive party heiress and current leader. Marine Le Pen’s Eurosceptic views have been a sticking point for portions of the electorate leading up to and throughout this campaign period. Her criticism of the European Union and free trade have differentiated her from conventional French politicians, though she has tacitly moved away from the Front National’s original, more extreme positions. Some view her rise to prominence in the election as another sign of the populist wave that has included the election of Rodrigo Duterte and Donald Trump, the Brexit referendum, and the favorable winds in the sails of Eurosceptic parties throughout the continent. Critics of Le Pen link her party’s funding and the Kremlin during a time of increased Western concern over Russian meddling in foreign elections. Ms. Le Pen also made comments that seemed to support Russia’s claim to legitimacy on the annexation of Crimea. Such friendly tones on Russia have riled Kiev politicians and Westerners who argue for a tough approach to Moscow.
News summary of events during the week of 02JAN17 – 09JAN17
- 04JAN: Marine Le Pen said Euro zone countries should retreat from the single currency represented by the euro and return to a “common currency” structure. (Reuters)
- 04JAN: Ukraine indicated it would bar Le Pen from entering the country after comments she made that appeared to legitimize Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. (Reuters)
- 04JAN: Le Pen cheered Ford Motor Co.’s decision to shift investment from Mexico to the United States, saying that it is a victory for the protectionist policies she champions. (AP)
- 04JAN: The National Front is struggling to raise millions of euros it needs to fund its presidential election campaign, but leader Marine Le Pen vowed: “We will find one bank somewhere in the world that is willing to lend us that money.” (Reuters)
- 04JAN: Socialist candidate for France’s presidential elections Manuel Valls said voters could face “a purge” if they credit conservative contender Francois Fillon in the race to the Elysee Palace. (Xinhua)
- 05JAN: Conservative candidate Francois Fillon’s lead in the race has narrowed according to an opinion poll showing independent Emmanuel Macron gaining on both the former prime minister and Marine Le Pen. (Reuters)
- 05JAN: Judicial sources said prosecutors are probing the National Front for suspected fraud linked to payments for aides at the European Parliament. (AFP)
- 06JAN: Marine Le Pen said a French investigation into accusations that members of her National Front party tricked the European Union out of hundreds of thousands of euros is a “political act” by a system she wants to break. (AP)
- 06JAN: Marine Le Pen said Former British PM David Cameron’s decision to call the UK’s referendum on European Union membership was a “facade” undertaken for purely electoral reasons, while her own referendum on France leaving the bloc would be driven not by petty party politics but “the interests of the people”. (Guardian)
- 06JAN: Le Pen fired broadsides at the European Union and the euro currency, marking out Europe as a major plank in her program. (Reuters)
- 06JAN: Le Pen dismissed allegations that Russia was behind cyber-attacks during the US presidential elections, a day after America’s top intelligence official said Moscow aggressively interfered in the campaign. (France24)
- 07JAN: German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel told Der Spiegel magazine, “I once asked the chancellor, what would be more costly for Germany: for France to be allowed to have half a percentage point more deficit, or for Marine Le Pen to become president?” (Reuters)
- 08JAN: An Ifop poll showed former French PM Manuel Valls’ lead over his opponents in upcoming Socialist primaries narrowed. (Reuters)
Sample of Twitter handles tweeting about French election campaigning
- @andrewsweiss – Andrew S. Weiss, Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment
- @GuillaumeDaudin – Guillaume Daudin, Journalist, AFP
- @markmackinnon – Mark MacKinnon, Senior International Correspondent, The Globe and Mail
- @ralphkamphoner – Ralph Kamphöner, Director of Policy, Eurocommerce; Vice-Chair, EU Services Forum
- @sunny_hundal – Sunny Hundal, Journalist, commentator, and Editor, Political Scrapbook and Hindustan Times
Sample of Third Party Validators regarding French election campaigning
Jean-Yves Camus, Associate Research Fellow, The French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS)
“These are things that don’t touch National Front voters. It doesn’t cancel out other reasons (to back her) like immigration, terrorism, security, the economic crisis.”
– “Film and real-life legal woes fall on France’s far right,” AP, 07DEC17
Yves-Marie Cann, Director of political studies, Elabe
“With four months to go until the first round, nothing is decided, nothing is pre-determined. As always, the campaign will be decisive.”
– “France Sees Three-Way Race for President as Fillon Bounce Fades,” Bloomberg, 05JAN17
Julie Catillon, Head of studies, Elabe
“[Fillon] has lost steam, probably because of the debate over health care and welfare spending.”
– “France Sees Three-Way Race for President as Fillon Bounce Fades,” Bloomberg, 05JAN17
Claude Dargent, Researcher, Sciences Po
“Valls has the merit of mobilising centre-left voters, which Montebourg and Hamon can’t.”
– “Valls Favourite to Win Official Left-Wing Ticket for French Election,” Reuters, 05JAN17
Andrew Wilson, CEO, Goldman Sachs Asset Management in Europe, the Middle East and Africa
“It’s [A Le Pen victory] not our central case, but I wouldn’t describe it as a tail risk event….It would raise the question for markets, can the euro project survive? It would be reminiscent of the European debt crisis.”
– “Europe’s Fate in 2017: Caught Between Low Rates and Populist Politics,” WSJ, 01JAN17
Sample of open source research conducted by TRG analysts related to the French election campaigning
- Film featuring Le Pen character angers France’s far-right
Media: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 02 January 2017
Paris, Jan 2, 2017 (AFP) – A film about rising nationalism in Europe featuring a character similar to French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is set to hit screens in France two months ahead of elections — and Le Pen’s allies are furious.
“Chez nous” (“Our Home”), which lands in French cinemas in February ahead of the first round of presidential polls in April, tells the tale of a nurse in northern France who is approached to be a candidate for the “Patriotic Bloc” party.
- François Fillon, Embracing His Catholicism, Challenges France’s Secular Tradition
Media: Wall Street Journal
Byline: STACY MEICHTRY and FRANCIS X. ROCCA
Date: 03 January 2017
When French presidential contender François Fillon marked the Feast of the Assumption last summer, he attended Mass at Solesmes Abbey, a Benedictine monastery known for resisting the anticlerical purges of the French Revolution. The trip, coming just weeks after the slaying of a Catholic priest in a terror attack, didn’t go unnoticed.
“He doesn’t hide the fact that he’s Catholic,” said Christophe Billan, head of Sens Commun, a grass-roots movement comprising thousands of French Catholics.
- Election campaign of France’s Le Pen lacking millions in funds
Media: Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA)
Date: 04 January 2017
Paris (dpa) – Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front party, is lacking six million euros (6.2 million dollars) for her presidential election campaign, the lawmaker told French news channel BFMTV on Wednesday.
Le Pen has asked foreign financial institutions including Russian banks for help, as she said French banks do not want to finance her election campaign in April and May.
- Valls favorite to win official left-wing ticket for French election
Byline: Andrew Callus
Date: 05 January 2017
Former prime minister Manuel Valls is favorite to represent the Socialists in the French presidential election, an opinion poll showed on Thursday, an outcome surveys show would offer the best chance of victory for the beleaguered party and its allies.
Valls is seen coming top in the Jan 22 first round vote of the primaries of the French left with 43 percent, ahead of second placed Arnaud Montebourg on 25 percent, and third-placed Benoit Hamon on 22 percent, the poll by Harris Interactive for France Televisions showed.
- Le Pen plan raises franc questions over France’s euro debt pile
Byline: John Geddie
Date: 06 January 2017
LONDON, Jan 6 Should France ditch the single currency under a president Le Pen, redenominating nearly 2 trillion euros of government bonds in “new francs” could be legally straightforward, but hundreds of billions of corporate debt would be left in limbo.
The crux of the issue is that the sovereign debt is subject to French laws that could be changed by the government to prevent a currency switch triggering a default, while a large chunk of the 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) of bonds issued by major French companies are governed by foreign legislation.