Fillon, the defeated candidate of the center-right, has now endorsed Macron, saying that Le Pen would lead France to ruin. When Fillon won the Republican nomination—and before scandal intervened—he seemed well-positioned to take the presidency too. He is socially conservative, a supporter of the free market (by French standards) and he promised to take a tough line both on immigration and militant Islam. As such, he would have proved a formidable opponent for Le Pen and, if elected, might have addressed some of the underlying problems that have allowed the National Front to make as much progress as it has done.
The same cannot be said of Macron, who, if elected president (polls suggest that he will beat Le Pen by some twenty percentage points in the run-off), is unlikely to do much to change France’s overall direction, something that bodes ill for what lies further ahead. That said, for now at least, he’s by no means all bad news: Atlanticists will be reassured by his support for NATO and opposition to Putin (Fillon, in an echo of De Gaulle’s attitudes towards Moscow, was more—to use a kind word— ambiguous) and he is a supporter of free trade. Despite his background in the Socialist Party, he seems more sympathetic to the free market than his former colleagues (thus my comparison with Tony Blair in an earlier post) but it remains to be seen how much he will actually be able to achieve without a party to back him in parliament (Macron is officially an independent). On immigration, overreach by the EU and Islamic fundamentalism, he will (at best) offer little or nothing very different from the policies that France is following today, policies that have proved disastrous for the nation and good for both the National Front and, when it comes to the EU, the hard left.
Two other things to note (for now);
While Fillon’s failure may have reduced the ‘respectable’ vote from what it might otherwise have been, it’s worth noting that Le Pen and Mélenchon (left-wing maniac) together will probably end up with forty percent or more of the vote.
Neither of the two establishment parties appear to have made it to the second round.
France is not a country at ease with itself.