By Denis Bright
In the initial phase of this Sunday’s second round vote in the French presidential election, the charismatic Emmanuel Macron seemed destined for the Elysee Palace.
Then came the rival but opportunistic visits by both Emmanuel Macron and Marina Le Pen to the Whirlpool factory at Amiens in one of France’s northern industrial district.
Here the articulate Macron planned to chat with business and union representatives at the Chamber of Commerce to consider alternative futures for the workers from the white-goods factory. Ahead was a staged rally with adoring supporters in nearby Arras.
Concerned about Marina Le Pen’s support at the picket-line, Macron decided to front up to the picket line at the factory in Montieres, an industrial district in Amiens. Mrs. Le Pen’s visit was triumphant. Macron’s ended in unpleasant exchanges.
The potential damage to his second round campaign was evident as the evening news headlines went out across France. Predicting the outcomes of such incidents is a hazardous task.
The latest BVA Poll added to the complexity by predicting a 5 per cent increase in participation in the second round to 78 per cent.
After a late start from Emmanuel Macron both presidential candidates are now in populist mode.
Analysis of the first round election results shows the need for radical policy change in France so that the gains from a hesitant rate of economic growth can be shared more fairly.
Like most economies outside China, France has been through the whirlpool since the Global Financial Crisis (GFC).
This latest data for real GDP growth from the OECD shows that both France and even the US are struggling to maintain sufficient GDP growth to keep the lid on unemployment.
National electorates are being swept by populist outrage as hesitant GDP growth is being unevenly shared as in the 1920s and The Belle Époque in France before 1914.
Interactive graphics of the first round of the presidential elections are available at national, regional, departmental and local levels across France (French Department of the Interior and also French Senate Online).
It is an easy task to zoom in on the voting patterns from the first round in the Amiens Commune and the wider Somme Region.
The economy of Amiens has become quite diversified since its industrial heyday.
In offering the prospect of extending the life of the Whirlpool factory in Amiens, Mrs. Pen is targeting voters in the hundreds of local communities across France which have been afflicted by similar structural changes.
Mrs. Le Pen’s first round vote in Central Amiens was indeed significantly below her national average of 21.30 per cent. In the more working class district of Longueau, the Left’s Jean-Luc Melenchon topped the poll (30.42 per cent) and Marine Le Pen came in second with 24.95 per cent.
If Mrs. Le Pen is to gain ground on 7 May, she must pick up more outraged voters by boosting the participation rate for voting with support from her flamboyant style of campaigning.
This involves mobilizing constituents who chose not to vote on 23 April because they were disillusioned with the policy options available from the field of eleven presidential candidates.
The abstention rate in Central Amiens on 23 April 2017 was 25.19 per cent and 17.52 per cent in Longueau.
Across France, the absentee rate was 22.23 per cent which is greater than Mrs. Le Pen’s vote of 21.30 per cent.
The electoral whirlpool for France extends well beyond the shadows of the factory in Montieres and forces Macron to reply in kind to avoid defeat on 7 May.
Emmanuel Macron has made successful campaign visits to meet disadvantaged youth in the northern suburb of Sarcelles in Paris, to the site of wartime massacre at Oradour-sur-Glance in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region and more recently to the Holocaust Museum in Paris.
Macron’s career background in public finance and investment banking can assist in transforming the French financial sector which is so distrusted on both sides of the political divide.
This financial sector about which Mrs. Le Pen has little understanding is the weak spot in France’s economic recovery.
In the OECD data available for the entire period from 2012-15, France displays negative capital flows to the global economy in billions of U.S. dollars.
The capital flight is not evident in some other European economies such as Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden with their strong internationalized private financial sectors.
The Hollande Government definitely expanded the role of the Caisse des Depots (CDC) to assist in financing public investment. CDC International Capital was founded as recently as 2014 to attract long-term foreign capital for essential scientific research, community development and infrastructure projects.
Such solutions do not feature in Mrs. Le Pen’s nostalgia for the Old France.
Another unknown is the likely voting patterns for the two rounds of elections for the Chamber of Deputies in June. The next half-Senate election will not be until September 2017 with the following round in 2020. Since 2014, the Socialist government has had to work with a hostile senate.
Both Australia and France are middle-sized economies which are struggling in their different ways from common problems of too much faith in the market model of economics and over-commitment to the U.S. foreign policy.
The incident at the Whirlpool factory has strengthened Macron’s commitment to his own second round slogan. Ensemble or working together is exactly what France needs. Let’s find out after this weekend’s second round if the wider electorate has been convinced by the changes in Emmanuel Macron’s campaign strategies.
Denis Bright is a registered teacher and a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis has recent postgraduate qualifications in journalism, public policy and international relations. He is interested in promoting discussion to evaluate pragmatic public policies that are compatible with contemporary globalization.