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French Presidential Election- get on Melenchon?

They’re under orders for the French Presidential election - what’s the betting?

Little noticed in the British press, there is a French Presidential election going on across the Channel. And it could cause major upheaval not only in France but end the EU and make even more Global turmoil.

Ironically given Brexit and all that, the first round polls are on St George’s Day. On 23 April, the French chose between 11 candidates. Anyone who gets more than 50% is the winner but as none of them are even halfway there, the top two go forwards to a run off election between themselves on 7 May.

What is making this French presidential election so unpredictable has been the primaries of the two major parties which have seen unfancied and relatively extreme outsiders selected by the two major parties. The centre right were the likeliest overall winners but their Thatcherite candidate, Francois Fillon, has also been dragged down by a long running scandal about appointing his wife to an extremely lucrative non-job.

This opened the way for centrist candidate 39 year old Emmanuel Macron to surge through with his totally new party En Marche (Forward).

Macron and Front National extreme right wing Marine Le Pen have been leading the polls very consistently in this most volatile of elections for several weeks now. The most fascinating developments are happening behind those three where a Corbynite hard left candidate, Jean-Luc Melanchon, has surged past the centrist Socialist Benoit Hamon.

Recent polls

The polls are very close between the top four- here are two most recent published:

Les Echos 13 April      Paris Match 11 April
Macron                23.5                                23
Le Pen                  22.5                                24
Fillon                    20                                   19
Melanchon          18.5                                 18.5
Hamon                  8.5                                  8.5
The rest                 7                                      7

The manifestos

There is a good case to back Melanchon and his campaign for a 32 hour working week, earlier pensions et al.

He is the candidate with momentum. Macron’s big surge was month’s ago. While he has done well not to fall back, he is not going forward from the low 20s either. In a close election like this, being the one candidate clearly advancing creates excitement and lots of press attention.

Then we have to consider where Melanchon’s votes have come from- the Socialist Hamon. There are already European precedents of Socialist parties evaporating in the current European election cycle. Hamon’s support is easily the softest of the major candidates with only half saying they will certainly vote for him. That puts 4% of the voters relatively easy for Melanchon to grab putting him into a virtual tie with Le Pen and Macron.

It is also worth noting that in many aspects of their platforms, there is an overlap between Le Pen and Melanchon. While Le Pen has the 85% of her supporters “certain” to vote for her that factor might count for Melanchon if some electors prefer nationalistic socialism without anti-semitism.

Finally, it is worth noting that Le Pen, Fillon and Melanchon have all expressed strong pro-Putin sentiments. Only Macron has taken a strong pro-EU anti-Russian line. He has paid for that with all the usual Russian trolls and bots attacking him. Unlike Hillary, not much has stuck. He must be prepared for a hack next week. This may place damaging compromising material on a Macron supporter or Macron himself.

Who to bet on?

So back Melanchon if you want good odds on an unexpected second place on 23 April.

Back Le Pen if 7 May is Le Pen v Melanchon.

Fillon probably is a better bet than his odds are showing. He has shown remarkable resilience and has continually crept back into contention but 23 April might be too soon for him to recover well enough to finish top two.

The overall favourite in this French presidential election remains Macron. With the polls the way they are, he is anything but a certainty.

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