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Le Pen Solidifies Position, Edges Closer to Victory

Le Pen Solidifies Position, Edges Closer to Victory

From left to right, French presidential candidates Francois Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Melenchon, far-right candidate Marine Le Pen, and Socialist candidate Benoit Hamon, prior to a TV debate outside Paris, France, March 20, 2017. (Patrick Kovarik/Pool Photo via AP)

By Thursday, 23 March 2017 04:56 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Marine Le Pen is moving towards election as the next president of France. France’s presidential election is likely to be a bifurcated event involving two elections.

The preliminary election on April 23 will narrow the field of 11 candidates to the top two vote-getters — assuming that there is no clear majority winner.

These two will then meet two weeks later, in a runoff, and the French will have elected a president.

Marine Le Pen has been running first among the 11 candidates for months now.

She is fully expected to be the top vote-getter in the April 23 contest.

The election which follows is more problematic for the frontrunner.

When I last wrote about this contest, I observed that the second place candidate was the leader of the conservative party Francios Fillon, and that he was plagued with controversy and scandal.

Those controversies have now ballooned to a point where he is running a poor third in most polling. He has been replaced by Emmanuel Marcon — France’s current economic minister.

Claiming to be neither left nor right, Macron says he is running as the center candidate.

Whatever he says, his individual policies leave no doubt that he is a product of the French left and will govern similarly.

Current mainstream media polling puts the two frontrunners neck and neck at just over 25 percent each.

This polling is accepted as "fact" by the media and pundits covering the election.

Just as the polls largely let the British and American people down in the recent Brexit and presidential elections, this polling is also being challenged as a similar product of results-oriented polling — polls "herded" to be in line with each other to gain legitimacy.

There is additional polling showing Marine Le Pen pulling away, polling over 30 percent, some as high as 40 percent.

If true, Le Pen’s chances in the runoff on May 7 improve greatly.

This is because French voters are more likely to vote "strategically" than we in America are used to.

In America, we vote for a candidate almost completely regardless of his or her perceived ability to win.

We will "throw away" our votes on a candidate in whom we strongly believe even though that candidate is not a frontrunner — even when those votes actually hurt the chances of our second choice candidate that actually might win (e.g. Perot, Green, Nader — all of whom are perceived to have deprived the election to the party closest to their base voters). 

We are almost universally unconcerned with the possible strategic nature of our votes when casting.

In France, the preliminary election will be filled with strategic voting, that is, voters casting their ballots trying to shape the runoff or even future elections rather than supporting a favorite candidate now.

This type of voting makes it particularly hard to measure any single candidate’s actual base of support. For example, Fillon’s fall-off in the polls has not benefitted Le Pen to any measurable degree as one might ordinarily expect.

Instead, that vote has moved to the left to support Macron.

It is as if a huge percentage of Ted Cruz voters, having lost the nomination, moved to support Hillary Clinton. This move left is quite possibly strategic voting trying to force a left-right runoff as opposed to some newly-discovered enchantment with Macron.

Additionally, the French vote with their feet as well.

In an effort to cast a protest "vote," polling suggests that up to one-third of the electorate is likely to sit-out the preliminary election and perhaps the runoff as well allowing only the true, dedicated partisans to select the next president.

Last, the electorate is in a deep state of constant change.

Polling shows that about one-half of the voters are not firmly decided in their vote.

While any particular French voter knows whom he or she ideally wants to be president of the French Republic, for whom that person will actually vote is still a question for half the French voters.

This demonstrates the "strategic" nature of the French voter. That voter is waiting to see how his vote can best shape the future that he wants rather than simply supporting his favorite candidate.

Conventional French electoral wisdom states that the closer a candidate gets to the 50 percent mark in the preliminary election, that candidate’s possibility of winning the run-off increases exponentially.

There are two reasons for this. First, the pool of opposition voters to the leader has shrunk.

That smaller pool of voters now must be coalesced around the second place candidate and to cast a "negative vote" against the leader (Le Pen) rather than a "positive" vote for the also-ran (Macron).

For many French voters, Le Pen will be a better "second choice" than Macron. This fact will frustrate any effort to coalesce all of the non-Le Pen voters.

Second, the strategic nature of the votes cast make predicting the run-off problematic.

Much of the support lent to the leaders in the preliminary election may have been by strategic voters who really do not want either of the two leaders to win and will vote differently in the runoff or not vote at all.

Clearly, there is a lot in flux in the French presidential election.

Marine Le Pen looks better and better each day.

Michael Patrick Flanagan represented the 5th District of Illinois in the historic 104th Congress. Prior to his Congressional Service, Michael was commissioned in the United States Army Field Artillery. Michael and his firm, Flanagan Consulting LLC, have represented both large and small corporations, organizations, and associations. In 2009, Michael entered public service again with the United States Department of State in Iraq as the Senior Rule of Law Advisor on the Maysan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Maysan, Iraq. For more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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There is a lot in a constant state of change in the French presidential election. Marine Le Pen looks better and better each day.
election, france, le pen
Thursday, 23 March 2017 04:56 PM
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