The Socialists

The winner of the French socialist primary, Benoit Hamon, much to current Prime Minister Emmanuel Vall’s disappointment, will be the party’s presidential candidate. The main candidates have now been chosen for the two-round elections on 23rd April and 7th May.

In his victory speech Hamon said: “Tonight the left raises its head, it turns towards the future and wants to win. We have certainly exposed some differences, but we managed to say, ‘I too believe,these differences will not be insurmountable when we come to face our real opponents’. “

Le Pen, the enemy

For the left and the traditional right alike, Marine Le Pen is the ultimate political nemesis. Having been rather discrete in recent weeks, the president of the National Front, who has hailed both Donald Trump’s victory and Brexit, seems to be quietly biding her time, while the polls put her in the lead for the first round.

Le Pen expressed her readiness at a press conference in January announcing: “We are ready, resolute, organised, but beyond my campaign I’ve been preparing my five-year term during these long months.”

“Mr Clean” and the Republicans

To Le Pen’s left, but still firmly on the right, is the Republican candidate François Fillon.

‘Mr Clean’ as he was nicknamed has suffered in the polls since a scandal broke centering on his wife Penelope’s allegedly bogus parliamentary position for which she was paid 500,000 euros. Since the left-wing publication Le Canard Enchainé first reported the scandal, an Oxada poll has shown a slip of 16 points for Fillon. He will have to overcome ‘Penelope-gate’ to make his political message credible.

“Facing the anesthesia camp,” Fillon assured, “I am the labour and purchasing power candidate, because a country that works more, earns more.”

The end of the two-party system

What seems to have already emerged in this presidential race is the end of two-party dominance in French politics. Across the board, no major candidates would have more than 20 percent of the vote. As Benoit Hamon knows, his challenge now is to reunite the French left-wing.

Building alliances

Even if his programme has what it takes to attract the ecologists, it will have to be very convincing indeed to win over Jean Luc Melenchon’s new far-left movement, ‘la France insoumise’ (or ‘Unsubmissive France’). For now, the movement opposes any alliance with the Socialist Party but, in politics, anything can become negotiable.

In contrast, Emmanuel Macron definitely won’t enter into negotiations and for now, no one has even entertained the idea of negotiating with him. The ex-Socialist Party member and creator of the movement ‘En marche’ (or ‘Onwards’) may well have “betrayed” his own party, but he could still rally the support of those who do not recognise themselves in Benoit Hamon’s far-left policy proposals.

In short, with three months to go until the elections, anything can happen.