Volatile news of the French elections

Volatile news of the French elections

Geminello Alvi | Columnist and writer
The principle on which both Macron and Fillon base the chances of success, at the ballot, is a traditional one: they both assume that the Republican Front will eventually prevail. However, the "Trump surprise" cannot yet be ruled out

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Macron’s election campaign seems largely run by private apartments, with the family car and tours around bistros of thousands of volunteers. Moreover, Macron’s movement En Marche!, founded less than a year ago in the form of a door-to-door survey, now has over 230,000 online members, and is almost run like a start-up. It uses, among other things, sophisticated digital systems to cross-check the electoral data and identify target voters while, from its headquarters in Paris, volunteers, mostly young people referred to as “helpers”, administer the election campaign of the movement from computers. In short, Macron favors all non-hierarchical impulses, being averse to ideological and traditional parties, which thrive on the internet, and channels them into a practical but seamless movement with generic indications, such as pleading neither to right nor to the left, discussing with anyone and smiling as the thirty-nine-year-old former banker tries to do.

Macron's electorate is volatile and indecisive

The polls now seem to be rewarding his approach, which has never been attempted before in France. However, the mobility of this structure and its effectiveness on the more volatile and undecided electorate implies a certain degree of risk: that of being unable, in the end, to consolidate his advantage, his voters being more hesitant than those of the other parties. Therefore, Macron must first consolidate a more volatile and indecisive potential electorate. Although the polls show him to be in the lead, a significant number of his potential voters tend to be more hesitant. Secondly, he must prove that he is capable of winning enough seats in the parliamentary elections in June to be able to govern. In fact, Socialist candidate Benoìt Hamon goes on to explain that Macron’s success would an ungovernable France in a period of uncertain coalitions. Thirdly, even the ideological vagueness of En Marche! forces young bankers to maintain a delicate balance. Many key political figures, from the left and right, have been said to be backing him; but there are, perhaps, too many already, if he wants to avoid Le Pen’s accusations of just recycling the old political class or being a candidate of the happily globalized bourgeoise of the cities. Moreover, Macron’s sudden and, therefore, still unstable success, also makes the outcome of the second round more uncertain, otherwise expected in old political patterns. According to some statistics, the results of the polls could be affected by the percentage of abstention, which would have a different effect on the various candidates. In a heavy election campaign dominated by scandals, Le Pen could in fact benefit from a greater stability of voters: for example, with a 90% turnout versus 70% of Macron most wavering voters, she could even win, according to certain, more sophisticated estimates. The unexpected event would depend on a gap with Macron, which should only be 20%, and on the various combinations of abstentions in the second round. In short, Macron’s volatility and novelty justifies some doubts over the support of his electorate, which could, with a higher percentage of abstention over that of his rival, result in a big ''Trump'' surprise also in France.

Impossibility of ruling out a "Trump surprise"

The subversive, transverse nature of Macron’s new politics, or the repetition in France of the characters of all European anti-system movements, is what introduces another additional element of uncertainty. The principle on which both Macron and Fillon base their chances of success, once at the ballot box, is, in fact, a traditional one in the French elections. Both assume that, in the final stage of the elections, the Republican Front will prevail. Yet many leftists could ultimately deny their vote to an investment banker or just refrain to a much larger extent that in the past. Conversely, many of Fillon voters could avoid supporting Macron, seeing him as a continuation of Socialist President Francois Hollande, whom they detest. In other terms, the Trump surprise cannot yet be ruled out. Although the conservatives are supporting Macron in the second round, Le Pen’s position on the euro should be taken into account. It contradicts the idea of monetary stability and attention to assets, which is one of the secular features of the conservative front that will vote in the first round for Fillon and that, therefore, is more likely, than the left-wing electorate, to turn out at the second round for Macron and secure his victory.