terça-feira, 2 de maio de 2017
Eleições Francesas 2017 / Segunda Volta
How Le Pen could win
She needs to reassure conservatives and discourage leftists from voting.
By NICHOLAS VINOCUR 5/2/17, 4:22 AM CET Updated 5/2/17, 4:31 AM CET
PARIS — Marine Le Pen needs a perfect political storm to help her win the French presidency on Sunday.
She aims to provoke it by kicking up rage at her centrist rival, discouraging leftists from voting and winning over millions of disappointed conservatives by convincing them that her plans for the European Union are less worrying than they might think.
Le Pen knows that victory remains a long shot. Six days before the final vote, polls show her trailing rival Macron by 15 to 20 percentage points, a wider gap than the one separating Donald Trump from Hillary Clinton at this stage in the U.S. race. Le Pen needs to win over millions of new votes to win, a tough sell for a lifetime outsider. Most of the French don’t see it happening: just 15 percent see Le Pen as “la présidente,” according to an Ifop poll last week.
Whatever the odds, Le Pen will fight hard until the last minute. But she is also hoping for a nod from fate. One major chance for Le Pen to change the race’s dynamic is a live debate Wednesday when she plans to “expose” her rival as a banker working against France.
Here is a guide to Le Pen’s strategy for the final days.
1. A final sprint with a clearer message
Le Pen campaigned ahead of the election’s first round on the idea that she was offering voters a binary choice between “economic patriotism” over unbridled globalization.
The problem was that the message was lost on many of her core voters. Le Pen bled support for the first three months of the year. Her first-round score of around 21 percent came in several percentage points below what polls were predicting for her last January.
The analysis by her party’s own experts reportedly showed that the choice between globalization and economic patriotism — free trade and open borders versus Le Pen’s plans for withdrawal from trade agreements and more border restrictions — presented a too-abstract choice and one significantly misinterpreted by the party’s core supporters, made up of working class voters, party officials told POLITICO. Some missed the precise meaning of globalization and misunderstood “economic patriotism” as meaning that Le Pen meant rolling back checks and balances in the French Republic.
Enter a much simpler message: Le Pen is the candidate who will protect the French.
Devised by Le Pen’s strategic campaign committee and chief polling analyst Damien Philippot (the brother of influential party VP Florian Philippot), it’s an ultra-simple idea that can appeal to both right- and left-wing voters.
“We needed something that got to everyone,” said Bertrand Dutheil de la Rochère, a senior campaign aide. “She has to talk to the Left and the Right at the same time. But she can’t ask left-wingers to switch off the TV while she talks to the Right, so we came up with protection.”
“It’s the same message as before — but simpler. And it speaks to everyone because first and foremost the French want to be protected by the state against competition, against terrorism, against mass immigration.”
Addressing supporters in Villepinte near Paris Sunday, Le Pen vowed to be the “president who protects” French citizens, “notably women,” but also the environment, national borders and “the solidarity that exists between all French people.” The message, tailored for mass appeal, is a departure from earlier speeches that emphasized a clash with Brussels and targeted Macron — whom she called “the candidate of finance.”
2. Convince conservatives to stop worrying
The protection message is similar to the argument that former President Nicolas Sarkozy made during his failed 2012 bid for re-election — and that may not be a coincidence.
Sarkozy remains popular among conservatives, particularly in the south where Le Pen has room to grow. She knows that many conservatives who backed François Fillon in the first round miss Sarkozy. So Le Pen is giving them Sarkozy with a side of nationalism by co-opting his message. She is also emphasizing campaign proposals that “Sarko” fans will remember: arming municipal cops and changing engagement rules so police can shoot first at perceived threats.
The Sarkozy-signalling is part of a broader plan to sweep up undecided conservatives. Le Pen is set to inherit about 30 percent of votes for Fillon versus 41 percent going to Macron. Thirty percent of Fillon voters remain undecided.
To win them over, Le Pen is trying to address — very late in the game — their biggest fear about her program: the fact that she wants to hold a referendum on French membership of the EU and revert to the French currency in the event of a Leave result. It’s a turnoff for anyone who has assets and doesn’t want to see them devalued by currency depreciation.
Le Pen knows this. “Some conservatives are anxious about leaving the eurozone,” Jérome Rivière, a former conservative MP who switched over to Le Pen’s camp and now sits on her strategic campaign committee, told POLITICO in Nice. So Le Pen is dialing back her anti-EU rhetoric as fast as she can and even named a man who never fully embraced the idea of a “Frexit,” the defeated conservative independent Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, as her potential prime minister.
Bringing Dupont-Aignan on board in exchange for the PM post (in addition to who knows what enticements — he owes millions of euros in campaign costs that will not be reimbursed by the state) was a major gesture of openness for the leader of a party renowned for its insularity and family leadership.
It could make her seem less radioactive to regular conservatives, but it’s also a recipe for confusion. Dupont-Aignan said when asked about the euro that France would take a year to leave, versus six months in the party literature. Popular Le Pen niece Marion Maréchal-Le Pen sees a departure from the eurozone even further out — not before three years.
Marine Le Pen aides promise further endorsements. “There will be more, I can’t give names,” said Dutheil de la Rochère. But endorsements don’t mean huge injections of voting intentions necessarily. Only 38 percent of Dupont-Aignan’s backers are joining Le Pen versus 30 percent heading over to Macron.
Le Pen needs to keep scouring the electorate for votes.
3. Persuade far-left voters to sit out the next round
Le Pen styles herself as the “people’s candidate” but she knows she has more to gain from conservatives than left-wingers.
Only 15 percent of people who voted for the far-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon plan to back Le Pen in the final round. Any hope of growing that share got doused when Mélenchon told his backers last Sunday to steer clear of Le Pen. “I tell all those who are listening to me: Do not make the terrible mistake of putting a vote for the National Front into the ballot box because you will be pushing the country toward a general blaze that could lead anywhere,” he said after days of sitting on the fence.
So Le Pen’s campaign team is focusing on getting millions of Mélenchon supporters, similar to Bernie Sanders’ people in the U.S., to abstain in the final election round.
She is already getting plenty of help from the so-called “neither-nor” movement that sprung up in the wake of Mélenchon’s defeat. It’s based on the 36 percent of Mélenchon backers who are undecided and oppose both Le Pen and Macron for president.
Le Pen wants to fuel their hatred of Macron, regardless of whether they back her. As a result, she is turning up the heat on her rival, slamming him as a “narcissistic” banker, a product of unpopular President François Hollande and a nasty capitalist bent on waging “lightning war” on workers’ rights.
Her campaign is also circulating a leaflet that aims to suppress potential support for Macron. Listing points of agreement between Le Pen and Mélenchon especially on social issues, it concludes with the following message: “Don’t vote for Macron.”
The suppression tactic echoes Trump’s campaign strategy. By targeting potential Hillary Clinton supporters with negative material in crucial states, the Republican candidate swung the vote in his direction. Le Pen wants to do the same.
French physicist Serge Galam — who predicted Trump’s victory and argues that a Le Pen victory is more likely than the polls suggest — says the technique can be effective. Le Pen would need a turnout rate among her potential supporters of 90 percent versus 70 percent for Macron in order to win, regardless of his advance in the polls. But Macron’s voters are getting more committed, not less — bad news for Le Pen.
4. Bet on more Macron mistakes. Win live TV debate
Neophyte campaigner Macron flubbed the start of his second-round campaign.
After delivering a tonally-challenged speech, he sped off to a celebrity-packed dinner, giving off an air of inappropriate triumphalism. He then waltzed into a Le Pen trap at a Whirlpool factory set for closure in northern France, where she snapped smiling selfies with workers in the parking lot while he sweated through tense exchanges with officials by the exit.
Le Pen’s campaign is hoping for more such easy wins in the final days of the campaign.
“These errors are better than a lot of speeches to show that, on one side, you have a candidate who is close to workers and, on the other, a banker who has nothing to offer but more de-industrialization,” said Jean-Lin Lacapelle, who is in charge of Le Pen’s ground operation. “I think the best thing for Macron to do between rounds is nothing at all because every time he makes a move he makes a mistake.”
The ground operation to defeat Macron is ongoing. But senior aides say the big showdown will be a live debate on Wednesday. “The door-to-door stuff is great for local elections but this is about big TV moments,” said Dutheil de la Rochère. “That’s when people are going to make up their minds.”
The one-on-one is a first for both candidates — and it’s unpredictable. Macron can be boring on policy, but nasty on the attack. Le Pen is a born slugger, but she sometimes wobbles when attacked frontally.
The rivals are likely to try to inflict knockout blows by depicting each other as evil agendas incarnate. Le Pen will go after Macron as a ruthless capitalist bent on exploiting workers. Macron may remind French voters that Le Pen’s National Front party (she has stepped down temporarily from its leadership) counts Holocaust revisionists among its senior members and traces its roots back to Vichy France and French Algeria champions.
The party is not giving up any details about how Le Pen is preparing. “That’s a [company] secret,” said Dutheil de la Rochère.
5. Cross fingers — and hope for a ‘Black Swan’ event
Le Pen started to believe she could win the presidential election around the time Fillon started to collapse under the weight of repeated scandals, party officials said.
But senior aides aren’t necessarily convinced. “I’m like you. I see the polls. It’s going to be difficult,” said one.
Absent a clear path to victory, there is still a chance that a “Black Swan” event could tilt the election in her favor.
One possibility is a dump of compromising documents on Macron as a result of a hack of his campaign communications not unlike what befell Clinton’s campaign just before the November election. His staffers’ email accounts are under constant “phishing” attacks and the group reportedly responsible for most of the attacks is the same Russian outfit that went after Clinton’s emails, according to web analytics firm Trend Micro.
Macron’s cyber security chief says no hack has been successful. The campaign took extraordinary measures to secure its communications, including a protocol to change all passwords simultaneously at the suggestion of a breach.
But 100 percent security is, of course, an illusion. An undetected breach could still yield documents in the final stretch. Anything to show collusion between Macron and the deeply unpopular Hollande would be damaging as would financial ties to Wall Street.
A terrorist attack could also shift the electoral mood.
Pollsters said the shooting of an on-duty cop on the Champs Elysées four days before the first round barely influenced voter behavior. However, a more “unprecedented attack” could “make the French people reconsider their vote,” said Nicolas Lebourg, a historian specializing in the far-right.
With the second round vote so close, no campaign official wanted to talk about terror attacks. A year and a half ago, however, the situation was different.hen POLITICO asked a senior party aide what he thought it would take for her to prevail, he speculated “Ten more terrorist attacks would probably put her in the Elysée.”
When POLITICO asked a senior party aide what he thought it would take for Le Pen to prevail, he mused that “ten more terrorist attacks would probably put her in the Elysée.”
France has suffered a series of horrific incidents since then, including an attack in Nice that killed 86 people. On Sunday, the ballots will reveal if Le Pen’s message of “protection” resonates with French voters.
Emmanuel Macron has taken French voters for granted. Now he risks defeat
In theory Macron should beat Marine Le Pen hands down. But he has little commitment from the electorate
Monday 1 May 2017 17.47 BST Last modified on Monday 1 May 2017 22.00 BST
I had lunch in a Parisian cafe recently with a journalist who had spent the whole French presidential campaign vilifying the leftwing candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and trumpeting the merits of the centrist Emmanuel Macron in the columns of a respected (if declining) centre-left weekly.
I asked him if had there been a deliberate effort among intellectuals and mainstream politicians to engineer a run-off between Macron and the far-right Marine Le Pen in the second round of the presidential election. “Why, of course,” he laughed. “We’ve been at it for a year.” Considering how obvious the strategy had been, I cannot claim to have revealed much of a secret. Still, it’s nice to know I was not being paranoid.
We finished our lunch, the journalist commenting on every passing woman with the old-fashioned sexism characteristic of the French ruling class, while I reflected on the astonishing irresponsibility of the strategy. It may have seemed like a good idea: pitting Macron against the Front National leader was the surest way to ensure the former’s victory. Yet the tactic could be about to backfire, with terrifying consequences.
The rise of Macron is characteristic of the age of spin doctors: it illustrates both their power and their limits. It is truly astonishing that the man who inspired (as personal secretary) and implemented (as finance minister) the policies of President François Hollande could be branded as something radically new.
To achieve this feat, spin doctors resorted to celebrity-building in ways previously unknown in French political life. Macron was new because he was young and handsome, and because he had never been elected before. He appeared repeatedly on the front pages of Paris Match with his wife, whose name is chanted by his supporters at his rallies. In the final weeks of the campaign Macron was so careful not to expose the true nature of his programme (which amounts to little more than the unpopular liberalism-cum-austerity implemented by Hollande) that his speeches degenerated into vacuous exercises in cliche and tautology.
The strategy worked up to a point: he qualified for the second round. Yet its limits are also clear.
Last spring, France saw nationwide protests against the labour laws that Macron had largely designed. The opposition was not only to their content, but also to the manner in which they were passed: the government bypassed a parliamentary vote. During these demonstrations police used high levels of violence, yet Macron never uttered a word to calm things down. He has already announced that he would resort to governing by decree if needed, and it is easy to anticipate increased social tensions by the autumn. To those who would oppose him, Macron would answer that he is implementing the programme on which he was elected.
Theoretically, Macron should defeat Le Pen hands down. The problem is that the meaning of such a result would be unclear: how many would have voted for him, and how many against her? Because it is impossible to answer this question, it would be impossible for Macron to take a hard line against social protests on the grounds that the election validated his programme.
Of the four frontrunners in the first round, Macron had the fewest “conviction” voters. According to a poll, fewer than half of those who voted for him did so because they believed his programme would change life for the better. Thus he needs to get his validation in the second-round count, and hence cannot do what Jacques Chirac did when facing Jean-Marie Le Pen in the 2002 run-off: Chirac immediately made clear that he would not interpret votes in his name as expressions of support.
Macron has done the opposite: he boldly stated that he only wanted votes based on genuine commitment. In so doing, he has run a major risk: he has dared people who oppose him (and there are many) to abstain. An astonishing proportion of voters seem ready to call his bluff. The situation has become so alarming that a Le Pen victory is becoming less implausible every day.
Journalists are now rushing to the rescue, desperately admonishing the French: they must stop Le Pen from coming to power. But the calls may be falling on deaf ears. It is not difficult to understand why. A few weeks before the election, something important happened that was largely unnoticed: an opinion poll showed that the main concern of the people was neither unemployment nor immigration, but the reform of state institutions and the implementation of a radical sixth republic. There is a deep resentment towards a state they perceive as oppressive, corrupt and violent.
Mélenchon achieved his impressive first-round result because he campaigned on the promise of a radical reform of the state. He was thus able to bring back to politics people who had abstained for years, and also to claw back Le Pen voters. (He cut her lead over him from seven percentage points in 2012 to less than two this year). These voters are not interested in the comparative merits of a Le Pen or a Macron government; their anger is directed at the “deep state” (police, justice, administration). They are even less inclined to vote Macron, because they know – everyone knows – that the second round was deliberately staged. They feel they were set up, and abstention seems to them a dignified act.
Macron has just days to take stock of their anger and adopt the only strategy that can secure his victory against Le Pen: showing humility, and reducing the severity of his programme. The only problem is that he might not be aware how serious the situation is. There is a certain Dangerous Liaisons charm about the microcosm of journalists, intellectuals and politicians who shape (or think they shape) the political destiny of France. According to my lunch companion, Macron has infinite confidence in his charisma and is blissfully unaware of the threat.
Why, then, take the risk of allowing an individual such as Le Pen a path to power, I asked. I received no answer – another woman had caught his attention. France, no doubt, is in good hands
Don’t assume Marine Le Pen is beaten: it’s delusional and dangerous
Leftwingers and ultra-conservatives could yet hand the French presidency to the Front National candidate – by refusing to back Emmanuel Macron on 7 May
Monday 24 April 2017 18.50 BST Last modified on Tuesday 25 April 2017 10.58 BST
Many will have felt a huge sense of relief at the outcome of yesterday’s vote in the French presidential race – I certainly did. But to say the battle has been won against extremism and demagoguery, in this key test for liberal democracy in Europe, would be a daring assumption. Two weeks remain before the 7 May run-off, and that can be a long time in politics.
What needs to happen now is to get the vote out. With the stakes so high now that Marine Le Pen has reached the second round, all hands are needed on deck to bring about her defeat. This means all those who, especially on the left, hesitate, falter and wince – or opt for full-on disruption – will hold a historical responsibility if it comes to the worst.
France did save its honour on Sunday. In the era of Brexit and Trump, this vote was a major pushback against forces that threaten the fundamental democratic values the west is meant to uphold. That Emmanuel Macron, the strongest liberal, reformist and pro-EU voice, came out first was impressive. For good reason this was swiftly applauded in Brussels and Berlin. To come so far was no mean feat for a 39-year-old with no experience of elected office, who launched his movement just a year ago.
The much worse news is that Le Pen, the Front National leader until she reportedly “stepped aside” today, garnered a record 7.6m votes. France’s dark political forces, whose racist and authoritarian roots lie in the 20th century, are far from neutralised. Le Pen has been preparing for this moment for years, trying to “detoxify” her party. Yesterday evening she said: “French people should seize this historic opportunity because what’s at stake is wild globalisation that endangers our civilisation.”
It’s true that many voices on the right, notably the conservative candidate François Fillon, immediately warned against “extremism” and announced they would rally behind Macron. It’s also true that opinion polls, which largely turned out to be right, predict a 35%-40% vote for Le Pen. But anti-establishment and anti-globalisation sentiment will not have evaporated overnight in France.
The agonising question now is whether a low turnout on 7 May, fuelled by a “neither Macron nor Le Pen” reflex among parts of the electorate, might yet produce a nightmare scenario. That would make Sunday’s collective sigh of relief look like a delusional moment.
Worryingly, the leftwing candidate, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, has so far refused to choose between Macron and Le Pen. If playing with fire in politics means anything, this was it. Mélenchon spoke dismissively of both, as if unable or unwilling to see the difference. He announced that his radical left movement, France Unbowed, would organise an online “consultation” designed to determine its position ahead of the run-off. It was as bewildering as it was disgraceful. And it was a deliberate attempt to deny or minimise what is now at play.
Yet the choice France now faces could not be more clear-cut: an open, liberal message versus a closed, illiberal one. A platform of inclusiveness versus one of bigotry and nationalist hatred. A promise to strengthen the European project through reform versus a pledge to close borders, introduce protectionism and pull out of Euro-Atlantic structures. It’s also a choice between a candidate who resolutely criticises President Putin and his worldview, and one who consistently panders to the Russian autocrat and has been financially dependent on his networks.
Mélenchon may yet come round and finally call on his supporters to vote for Macron – the obvious and only bulwark against a French political disaster. Some members of Mélenchon’s party have done so already, clearly ill at ease with his awkward silence. But for now this charismatic leader’s supporters have been left without guidance, and that matters because they represent 20% of those who voted.
Wittingly or not, the far-left and the Catholic ultras could both help Le Pen – and produce a nightmare scenario
It’s worth noting that ultra-conservative Catholic groups around the Sens Commun movement, which supported Fillon’s campaign, have also said they won’t choose between Macron and Le Pen. If these trends lead to more people abstaining then, wittingly or not, the far left and the Catholic ultras would both help Le Pen on 7 May: a collusion of the extremes.
Today’s radical leftwing ideas – be they from Mélenchon, or Podemos in Spain, Syriza in Greece, or the current Labour leadership in Britain – have drawn support for fighting for tolerance, diversity, against austerity, and for activism on climate change and the environment. A new generation of voters wants to shake up “the system” – and the feeling is certainly strong in France where youth unemployment is high. But they should look closely at what they might be associated with.
For this generation the 20th century totalitarianisms, communism and nazism, may feel like ancient history. In the 1930s, communists often lumped socialists and the right into one bag: they called it “social-fascism”. George Orwell wrote eloquently about that dangerous trap.
To some extent, this is what’s at stake in the final lap of the French election. Conflating Macron and Le Pen as two equally unacceptable propositions, because Macron is a former banker supposedly beholden to evil capitalism, is ridiculous. The centre needs to hold, when the alternative is the far-right.
At such a defining moment in French and European politics, surely there can be nothing more important than making sure a key democracy resists the sirens of the Front National, which would restore values from of the darkest eras of French history. Anti-establishment sentiment can be understandable, but if it’s indifferent to the outcome it produces, then that’s chaos and nihilism – not renewal. Believing that a political catastrophe must unfold for a utopia to rise from the ashes is a line of thought no one can afford. Not if they care about what makes democracy possible.