French election campaign - who will win?

According to the latest polls former economy minister Emmanuel Macron would beat the head of the Front National Marine Le Pen in the second round of voting. In the wake of a scandal that compromised his credibility the conservative candidate François Fillon would come third in the first round and not make it through to the second. Commentators take a critical look at the favourite's election platform.

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Slate (FR) /

Macron a lukewarm candidate

Enthusiasm for Macron has waned since he announced the main points of his platform on Friday, Slate comments:

“He gives to the right, with 60 billion in tax cuts, and to the left, with an investment plan. ... All of that is rather drab. The centre is boring. A balanced approach looks like it's been too carefully weighed up. The young candidate who was praised to the skies has become bogged down now that he's outlined his programme. This Macron is lacklustre, humdrum and lifeless. The political centre is insipid. Far from going off with a bang, Macron's campaign has fizzled out before it even started.”

The Independent (GB) /

France's problems won't be solved

France will continue to suffer from structural weaknesses no matter who wins the elections, The Independent believes:

“Ultimately, no candidate will deal decisively with economic realities. Despite platitudes, none of the contenders have articulated a clear plan to address France's sclerotic growth, high debt, persistently weak public finances, poor competitiveness, or the need for major structural reforms of labour markets, regulations and the public sector. Even the Front National's policies blame external factors for French problems. The problem is that France remains a relatively prosperous country. For the moment, the French believe that costs of maintaining the status quo are less than the pain of reform.”

Il Sole 24 Ore (IT) /

Macron achieving the impossible

Emmanuel Macron and his movement En Marche! are gaining momentum in the opinion polls. Il Sole 24 Ore is impressed:

“Without doubt Macron is already the star of a new era in which the power of the parties is being broken and politics is becoming more open and more flexible, in which there is (seemingly) direct - or at least more direct - democracy, and in which civil society is sitting in the command centre. He was the first to show that there is a political space outside the traditional party landscape. ... Certainly, he has been aided by the Socialist party, which has once again chosen to commit suicide, by the victory of a rather radical candidate in the conservative primaries, and by the lack of a centre-left candidate. ... He could potentially garner the support of all moderate voters. And if that is enough to make it into the second round, he could actually become president.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Conflict over immigration inevitable

France's immigration policy will be a decisive election topic this year, political scientist Jérôme Sainte-Marie writes in Le Figaro:

“As the second debate in the Socialist primaries has shown, the arrival of many asylum seekers and the confusion over refugees and migrants gives a voice to those who believe that France must keep its borders open for humanitarian, economic or demographic reasons. This point of view can be found among the leftist camp, but also among certain liberals. It provokes incomprehension, not to say indignation, among a large proportion of the French population, two-thirds of whom believe there are too many immigrants in the country.”

Libération (FR) /

Enthusiasm for Macron will soon fade

The electoral rallies of former French economy minister Emmanuel Macron are drawing huge crowds. But the founder of the movement En Marche! may soon disappoint his followers, Libération believes:

“He provides a platform for the fears and fantasies of those who no longer believe in traditional politics but who reject the radical ideas of [leader of La France insoumise] Mélenchon or Le Pen. And that's quite a few people. Because he has a talent for saying what people want to hear, he is becoming increasingly popular. This ambiguity, which goes far further than traditional centrism, makes him one of the most astonishing phenomenons in French politics today. ... When the debate comes to a head, however, he will have to speak clearly on concrete and emblematic issues. He won't be able to dodge them anymore. ... Each time he answers, and answer he must, he will risk falling foul of many of his supporters because his adversaries won't fail to point out the contradictions in his arguments.”

Magyar Idők (HU) /

Left is already focussed on 2022

Ultimately the French left doesn't stand a chance in this year's presidential election, France expert Bence Cseke observes in Magyar Idők:

“In the current political situation we can't expect any of the left-wing candidates to become president. And for this reason the candidates of the Socialists and also ex-economics minister Emmanuel Macron, founder of the En marche! movement, won't focus on making it into the runoff vote in the 2017 election. Instead they will try to make a good impression in the election campaign in order to position themselves as the charismatic saviours from the left in the 2022 election. This, however, is likely to result in a fierce exchange of blows between the Socialists and Macron, who has been described by the former as the 'Brutus of the 21st century'.”