François Fillon flourishes hope among French Republicans

This article is written by Ipek Ozkardeskaya, Senior Market Analyst at FCA regulated broker London Capital Group Holdings plc (LON:LCG).

Ipek Ozkardeskaya, LCG

François Fillon has been nominated as the French Republican’s candidate for 2017 presidential election and he has been backed by his rival, Alain Juppé, who, according to many, lost his chance to run for the election because he couldn’t get rid of the ‘soft-right’ tag he inherited from his antecedent, François Bayrou.

Fillon’s rise gave an interesting turn to the upcoming French election, as he has somewhat filled the missing piece in the French political spectrum. Since Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat against the socialist François Hollande in 2012, the center right had failed to bring a new leader up front. Sarkozy has made several attempts to return to the political life, yet has been clearly rejected by the majority of the French public, including his former supporters. It appears that with his brand new program, François Fillon flourished hope at the heart of his party and brought the Republicans back together.

Fillon urged to stretch the weekly working hours from 35 to 39 hours, to increase the retirement age to 65 and to control immigration. His fiscal austerity plans include the elimination of 500’000 public-sector jobs and the government spending cuts up to 100 billion euros. A budget of 40 billion euros would be allocated in tax cut for companies and a constitutional ban on budget deficit plans.

As such, Fillon successfully gathered a healthy center-right momentum, bringing together those who were craving to resuscitate the nation’s productivity and efficiency, after multi-years of 35-hour working weeks, distribution of substantial social benefits, that lead to a visible deterioration in nation’s economic fundamentals. Yet more importantly, he managed to reach the soft portion of the right wing by his immigration policy.

So far, Fillon’s campaign has been a winning blend.

Moving forward, Fillon will be facing a fierce right-wing candidate, Marine Le Pen, and the odds are rather balanced. Although Marine Le Pen stands at the extreme right of the French political spectrum, she has drastically changed the tenor of the Front National since she has taken the leadership of the Party from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, in 2011. She has become less aggressive against minorities, while reinforcing her support for national issues. Many would argue that she has only changed the path, yet kept her target in place. Nonetheless, her tactical move has been successful in appealing to less nationalist, less aggressive right voters, especially after Nicolas Sarkozy’s defeat scattered the Republican camp and lead to a disbanded center right for many years.

Now, the main question is whether François Fillon’s rise would be enough to temper Le Pen’s popularity?

On the socialist camp, President François Hollande, who has been France’s least popular President since half a century, announced that he will not run for the upcoming elections, opening the way for Manuel Valls, who has clearly become a solid candidate for 2017 election.

With a rising popularity, Emmanuel Macron, a former finance minister, has also decided to take a chance as an independent candidate. Although a solitary run could diminish Mr. Macron’s chances of winning the presidential race, he is expected to address the nation’s mounting problems, such as decades of rising unemployment, growing inequality, increasing terrorism and insecurity. Called as ‘populism light’ by Manuel Valls, Mr. Macron is believed to be a strong candidate, who could counterweight Marine Le Pen and shift the balance at the heart of the French presidential race.

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