Friday, December 9

Time of the Outsider: Is France ripe for Macron?

The current era, with a wave of anti-elitism pulsating, is probably the best time for someone like Emmanuel Macron to become the next President of France. Many fear a Le Pen victory: but they forget that the narrative is not necessarily of mindless racism, it is of rather anti-elitism. And while none of the French presidential candidates represent anything which is not elite, which anyway wouldn't work in a country which still swears by blue blood and a blue flag, Macron is the closest compromise between blue and red, the centrist white. Not Pen, certainly. This is not the time for career politicians, or if it is, they must be spontaneous, as Macron is: sometimes, though, he loses temper fast, not an ideal thing in a politican in any age.

A political analysis of the current global mood can easily point to Macron going on to win the French elections: but is the French mood the same? I wonder. The key to this question is: how will Macron communicate? Can he do an Intouchable, speak both to white and non-white audiences? Can he play the role of ambiguity, which his advantage of being a centrist brings, to perfection? Most times in politics, it is well to belong to a certain tradition, a certain party: in today's France, with voters fed up of all seasoned politicians, and every major political party in France quite bankrupt of strategies or ideas, being an independent candidate like Macron is a big advantage. However, France is demographically not all that young: how will Macron attract the older, more entrenched population? Even if Mélenchon is an extremist, many, especially the old, are charmed by his words: can Mélenchon thus attract a significant part of disillusioned socialist vote? If he does so, and assuming the extreme right vote goes to Le Pen, the major vote that remains is the one in the centre and the youth. The primary fight here is a three-cornered one: Macron, Valls and Fillon. Valls will not get much non-white vote out of this portion, and Fillon not as well; however, Valls will have the advantage of getting people off their bums to vote for him, as his rhetoric is sharp and arousing. Macron too has a sharp tongue, but that speaks more on economic terms, not that much emotional. Fillon is the least engaging: he is the typical experienced, shrewd politican. But is that good enough at such a time? If someone is anyway drifting towards Fillon, with some persuasion, they might drift towards Le Pen or Valls. And if the persuasion divides more or less evenly, the net benefit is not much for either of them, though, yes, in that case, Macron stands to lose. What does Macron have to do then? Make sure that only one side's persuasion works: either Le Pen benefits or Valls, not both. Because once—if—Macron is in the last round, I expect him to win: the key is to not let the voter be persuaded away from him in both Valls and Le Pen camps. Usually, vote fragmentation is a good thing: in Macron's case, it will be not, however. Since, vote fragmentation is a good thing when it concerns vote that would anyway go to opposition candidates, not your own potential vote.

Can Macron do it? I think he can. Most French people think Le Pen will definitely be in the last round but won't win: I don't think so. I think the final face-off will be between Macron and Valls. Thus, Macron stands to benefit if any voters that might be drifting away from him, drift towards Valls, rather than Le Pen: otherwise, in the second round it will be Valls and Le Pen, or even Valls and Fillon. (Thus, I see Valls as an extremely strong candidate to make it past the first round, even though PS is so weak currently; however, I see him as a very weak presidential candidate at the same time, as his sell-by date is only the first round.) Once in the second round, Macron will get most left votes, being a centrist, plus the centre and many right votes: any of the three, Valls (even though a socialist, hardly a socialist in deeds), Fillon (right), or Le Pen (extreme right) don't stand a chance if Macron is in the second round. Also, Valls is seen as having betrayed his president for his own ambition: evident upstart-ism is not always seen kindly, not at least in a country like France. So there is much to stoke resentment against Valls: that is something Fillon, if a bit less right, could have used to utmost benefit, but being quite right, how would he? Again, it is only Macron that can benefit, and to some extent Mélenchon. So ...

Work to do, Macron!

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