With the first round of the French presidential polls scheduled for April 23, it is election season in France. So far, this election is like no other before it, with a systematically strong showing by Marine Le Pen of the National Front in all polls. A far-right president is now a distinct possibility.
This particular election, with its cast of unlikely characters, its doses of scandal, police raids and judicial investigations, and a narrative that includes calumny, betrayal and suspense, resembles a political drama rather than the straightforward exercise of universal suffrage. It certainly has the French riveted. In a first for a leader of the Fifth Republic, outgoing President François Hollande decided to abstain from seeking re-election. A lucid decision, as he faced the very real prospect of losing his party’s nomination, given his dismal approval ratings and the public’s disenchantment.
By all accounts, the election was supposed to be a cakewalk for the main opposition — the centrist right party, Les Républicains. François Fillon, former prime minister and party nominee, dubbed “Mr Clean”, was a sure-shot winner, leading in all polls and in a strong position to stop the National Front in its tracks. Fillon won his party’s primary hands-down on a platform of tough measures destined to revive the economy, such as slashing France’s bloated bureaucracy and ending the much criticised 35-hour week, His surprise victory stemmed, in part, from his projection of himself as a man of “probity”.
Except, his presidential dream seems to have crashed with the disclosure by a French newspaper that he paid his wife hefty sums from public funds to act as his parliamentary assistant — a job that she allegedly did not do. A judicial probe was ordered astonishingly quickly and is currently underway.
Read more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/poll-dance-in-paris-marine-le-pen-french-presidential-election-2017-4569169/
Indian Express, March 15, 2017