[Update – eleven candidates have qualified and will appear on the ballot. see below for the list.]

While I’ve been following it since my last diary on February 1, developments since then haven’t been significant enough to warrant a diary update.  Minutia isn’t the most scintillating feature of elections.  Absent a significant revelation about or move by one of the top five candidates, the dynamics of the race wouldn’t shift until the campaign was officially underway and perhaps not even then.

The official decline to run by Bayrou/MoDem (center) resulted in the predicted shift, most to Macron and some to Fillon.  Fillon remains under investigation for “Penelope-gate,” but his poll numbers haven’t dropped since the initial hit on this issue.  Jadot/Green dropped out in favor of Hamon, but it’s not clear if his 1-2% has shifted to Hamon.  That was enough to put Macron in second place and move Fillon into a strong third place.

There are a few days remaining before the candidates/parties that will appear on the ballot is finalized.  Those that have qualified so far are:

Arthaud/LO  (left)
Asselineau/UPR (right – split from UMP/LR euro-skeptic)
Dupont-Aignan/DLF (right Gaullist ‘purists’)
Fillon/LR (right – Republican)
Hamon/PS (socialist)
Le Pen/FN (white nationalist)
Macron/EM (new 2016)

Those near enough that they may qualify are [the first four qualified]:

Cheminade/SP  (LaRouche party [labeled as centrist])
Lassalle/SE (independent ??? [centrist])
Melenchon/FI (left)
Patou/NPA (left/anti-capitalist)
out — Yade/DVD (far right and not likely to qualify)

Melanchon is the only one of these candidates that has a personal and party base above low single digits.  He’s been  polling at 11 to 13%.

The official campaign will be conducted from April 10 until midnight April 21.  This is the first round.  If no candidate gets a majority, the top two advance to a run-off on May 7.

The current top five candidates (based on polling which hasn’t changed since 2/1/17) will appear in a televised debate on March 20.  By law, debates after April 8 must include all qualified candidates.

A few notes about the candidates and parties.

While the LR (Republican) party has some things in common with the U.S. Republican Party, they aren’t all that much alike.  They were more similar when Sarkozy was the leader.  Fillon is following more in the footsteps of Chirac and de Gaulle.  They are capitalists and nationalists (roots in the Resistance) and Catholics.  As Chirac demonstrated, not given to following the west into wars of choice.  Racism is generally soft-pedaled (although Sarkozy put the pedal to the metal in the 2012 election).  Not getting busted for financial corruption is apparently difficult for French Republicans.  (Fillon won the nomination because he’d managed to avoid that until after he was nominated.)  From a review of the 2012 election

Indeed, by their markedly right-wing leanings, artisans and shopkeepers express a strong opposition to the left’s penchant for state intervention and its proximity to salaried employees and trade unions. Artisans and shopkeepers are not generally of the “upper classes”, rather they are a traditional petite bourgeoisie which has lived in constant fear of proletarization and has cultivated a visceral opposition to the left’s historical traditions rooted in Marxist collectivism.

Perhaps French Republican leaders feed and care more about “main street” than U.S. Republicans.  Tres cool that it can be killed off and the voters stick with them.

Fillon has been holding steady in third place at around 20%.  That’s right at the loyal Republican base.  In the first round, he could pick up some of the DLF support (polling at 2- 3%) which may keep him in third and therefore, be eliminated in the first round. Or he could shed a similar amount to DLF.

Since the formation of UNR (now LR) in 1958 only once has it failed to qualify for the second  round.  That was in 1974 (the Independent Republican, Giscard d’Estaing, went on to win and served one term).  A third, or possibly fourth, place finish is unlikely to do irreparable damage to the party but Fillon won’t be leading it.  Yet, it’s too soon to count Fillon out as I’ll explain later.

Le Pen – FN.  Holding in first place at 25-27%. (Squeaked through to the second round in 2002 and in the final got 17.79%).   Not easy to describe because it’s known more for what it’s against than what it’s for.  Nativist is the word I’d use, but it’s more often described as nationalist, authoriarian, and populist.  Anti-EU and anti-immigration.  Pro-police but anti-US wars of choice.  Beyond that everything else reads like “neither this nor that.”  She and the party sell “pragmatism” unmoored to terra firma.  They have been likened to National Socialism, but so far industrialists/owners and bankers want nothing to do with FN.  If ever in power, that would change — Le Pen.

Le Pen finished third in 2012.  Her endorsement for the run-off was un vote blanc.  13% of her voters did likewise.  24% abstained (didn’t vote in the second round), 11-13% voted PS, and the balance voted LR.  
Hamon – PS.  In a weak fourth position.  This is the Socialist Party.  The one that Hollande succeeded well enough in destroying that he opted not to run for a second term.  His close associate and PM was rejected in the primary.  Hamon is a new face on the national stage and in the unenviable position of having to both advance his candidacy and rebuild the party.

Melenchon – FI.  Left party formed in 2016, but Melenchon also ran in the 2012 election and finished with 11.1% which revived the historically strongest of left of PS political party.  FI used bottom up, instead of top down, to formulate its current policy positions:

Adopted by 77,038 votes in an Internet poll, these ten measures are based on the seven axioms programme, previously approved by “90 to 95 % of voters”, among 60 proposed measures, including: the formation of a constituent assembly; the repeal of the El Khomri law (labour reform); the implementation of an Energy transition plan and shutting down France’s nuclear power plants, and withdrawal from free trade agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Other proposals include withdrawing from NATO, reinforcing the 35-hour work-week and moving towards 32 hours, reducing the retirement age to 60, and raising the minimum wage (Smic) to 1,300 Euros per month net.

Macron – EM.  (En Marche — EM is only coincidentally Macron’s initials.)  Brand new party with no roots in any old or older party.  Although Macron was previously a PS member and served as Minister of the Economy, … until last summer.  He’s the only candidate not to have previously held elective office.  His “new idea” is socially liberal, pro-EU, pro-capitalism, pro-globalization, pro-austerity (IOW anti-socialism).  And it’s selling like crepes.

The calculation is that Hollande was too blah and before him Sarkozy was to “bling-bling” to effectively sell austerity, the EU, and NATO.  Can Macron get the job done?  (The banksters hope so and that’s who is behind EM.)  Blair-Clintonism hasn’t been so directly tried out in France.

A reason why a late realignment can’t be discounted:

Last October, in The Republican primary, Fillon was polling in fourth place with 11%.  Then something happened.  The debates.  By the third one he was running even with the leaders Juppe and Sarkozy —  and he cleaned up in that third debate.  Why this was notable is that the 2007 general election debate cemented Sarkozy’s win and he made significant gains after the single second round debate in 2012.  (Hollande declined Sarkozy’s request for a second debate.)  Not enough to win, but enough to maintain his viability for a future run.

The same come-from-behind after debates also occured in the 2017 PS primary.  Polling had Hamon scraping along in third place at 11-14%.  So, two candidates have had recent and successful debates.  Don’t  know if Le Pen and Melenchon have participated in election debates, but both have won a number of elections.  Macron will be well prepared and rehearsed, but the best preparation is experience in the real thing.

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