“Is France on the brink of a political revolution?” asks Robert Tombs in The Spectator. With François Fillon “on the ropes”, the contest is being taken over by outsiders in the shape of a 39-year-old former banker, Emmanuel Macron, and the Front National’s Marine Le Pen. Few are prepared to rule out a Le Pen victory, but France, because of its turbulent political history, has a voting system designed to defend it from “radical change”.
Le Pen is expected to win the first round on 23 April, but opinion polls suggest she is unlikely to win the second round on 7 May, when she needs to secure more than 50% of the popular vote (the second round is a run-off between the top two candidates).
The idea of Le Pen as president does sound “incredible”, says Bruce Anderson on Reaction.Life, but Fillon is unlikely to reach the second round, and Macron is far from a dead cert. He is “able, young and glamorous, a French Tony Blair”, but the French “do not want a Tony Blair”. Macron used to work for Rothschild’s; he belongs to the Parisian elite; his “left-wing credentials are little better than Mitterrand’s resistance credentials and his private life is fascinating”.
He is married to a woman 23 years his senior and, adds Michael Sheridan in The Times, was recently forced to deny that he was having an affair with a male broadcasting executive. Meanwhile, Le Pen has turned a far-right party into a populist one, “downplaying its racist roots and focusing her fire on globalisation, an undefined ‘elite’ and the EU”.
Political analysts are increasingly subscribing to the “domino theory”, which is that the anti-establishment mood has such “unstoppable momentum that it might sweep even the likes of Le Pen to power”, says Jeremy Warner in The Daily Telegraph. However, her commitment to leave the euro will ruin her chances.
Although she is correct in saying that the single currency limits France’s ability to tackle its economic woes, transitioning back to the franc would be chaotic and hardly anyone “buys” her idea of parallel currencies, including the markets. Well, Le Pen doesn’t seem worried, says Sheridan. She and her allies are delighted at the prospect of a run-off against Macron, whom she once described as “my ideal opponent”.