Monday, April 24, 2017

1st round, French Presidential Election

France held the first round of it's Presidential Elections yesterday. The results were as follows:

24.01% - Emmanuel Macron
21.30% - Marine Le Pen
20.01% - Francois Fillon
19.58% - Jean-Luc Melenchon
6.36% - Benoit Hamon
4.70% - Nicolas Dupont-Aignan
4.04% - All Others

The various "Other" parties include two candidates thought of as Left, taking 1.09% and 0.64% of the vote; two that are seen by many as Right, taking 0.92% and 0.18%, and one regional candidate with a strong base in the South and West of France, taking 1.21% It is likely these voters will split near evenly in the final round.

Dupont-Aignan ran on a traditionalist platform reminiscent of Charles De Gaulle. He did better than many expected, especially earlier on in the process, and likely took votes away equally from Fillon and Le Pen. His voters are expected to swing strongly to Le Pen in the second round.

Benoit Hamon ran for the incumbent Socialist party as their official candidate. When looking at Presidential elections since 2002, this compares to 28.63% in the first round in 2012, 25.87% in 2007, and 16.18% in 2002. As I will explain later, you will see that this poor result does not necessarily spell the death of the party however. His voters are expected to swing very strongly to Macron.

Jean-Luc Melenchon ran for an alliance of Left parties, including the Communist Party. When looking at Presidential elections since 2002, this compares to the 11.10% Melenchon received in the last election, 1.93% for the Communists before that, and 3.37% for the Communists in 2002. While the clear majority of his voters can be expected to swing to Macron, some, angry with "the system" will swing to Le Pen

Francois Fillon ran for the Conservatives, and will miss the final round; the first time the main Conservative Party in France has missed the final round since 1981. His result compares to 27.18% last time for Sarkozy, 31.18% before that, and actually beats the 19.88% received in the first round by Jacques Chirac in 2002. Fillon endorsed Macron, but many of his voters, perhaps even a very narrow majority, will swing to the more ideologically similar Le Pen.

Marine Le Pen ran for the National Front; a Far-Right and Pro-Trump party. Due to the two round system used in France, the party has only ever elected a total of 4 members to the assembly in general elections, two of which sit currently. However, in 1986, the party won 35 seats due to a switch to Proportional Representation. Le Pen will advance to the next round. She beats her 17.90% she received 5 years ago, the 10.44% her father received prior to that, and the 16.86% her father achieved in 2002 that allowed him to advance to the second round.

Emmanuel Macron ran for En Marche, a new political party. He is often compared in the media to Justin Trudeau (yes, even in France) and has been called a Trudeauist, whatever that means. He is the first Moderate to advance to a second round since 1981. Macron will advance to the second round, despite having never run for office previously. However, we can actually compare his results to previous results for one key reason; his endorsement by Francois Bayrou. Bayrou ran in the last three Presidential elections and holds very similar policy positions to Macron. Additionally, now that the ballots are cast, it is quite clear Macron's vote pattern is very similar to that of Bayrou. As such you can compare this to the 9.13% taken last time, the 18.57% before that, and the 6.84% before that.

One interesting quirk is that Macron's vote seems to be made up of Bayrou's vote, as well as half of the Socialist vote. Unsurprising given that Macron was a Socialist when he served in Cabinet. Using this logic, one may assume had Bayrou ran, he would have received, 11.93%, while Hamon may have finished with 18.28%, far more in line with a "poor" result for his party. Polls show that while Macron did receive the vote of about half of self-identified Socialists, only half of those from Bayrou's party claim to have voted for him in the first round.

Polls, which up to this point remain accurate, show that Macron would defeat Le Pen by a vote of around 64%-36%. My money is on a narrower victory of 61%-39%, and possibly even as narrow as 59%-41%. However, I do not think that Le Pen can win without a major change (such as another Terrorist attack) and even then a victory will be difficult. Unlike the US or UK where a 1% vote swing can massively change the number of Seats/EVs that are taken, a head-to-head popular vote competition is much easier to forecast and harder to swing, especially at these levels.

On the 11th and 18th of June, France will elect a new Parliament. Historically, the winner of the Presidential election is usually rewarded with additional seats in Parliament (though not always) and as such it can be expected for the winner of the Presidency to impact this election.

Macron's party (and allies like Bayrou) should be able to win around 100-150 seats in the Assembly should he win the Presidential Election, and that some form of coalition consisting of upwards of 300 members should be able to be hammered out giving Macron somewhat control over the Parliament. The largest thing Macron has going for him is that even should be only achieve a Plurality in coalition negotiations, his position in the centre means that opposition to him may well be divided, lowering the chance of cohabitation (an opposition Prime Minister) It is possible the FN may even be able to elect a dozen or two dozen members in this instance.

Le Pen's FN, should she win, would also see a boost. Given the two round system, however, the boost may not be as large as might otherwise be expected. The absolute maximum would be around 120 seats, with 80 being a much more likely maximum, and 40-60 being much more realistic in the event of a Le Pen victory. This would leave her with a minimum of 460 hostile members of the opposition, with that number being perhaps as high as 540. Best case scenario would see about 160 of the 460 be from the open to stronger Conservative ideals, and as such, there may be instances where Le Pen would be able to pass Legislation; but in general, she would face a hostile Parliament for the term.

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