There’s only a couple of weeks to go now so things are heating up in the French presidential elections.

One thing I found interesting on a recent visit to the Riviera was the distribution of posters. Le Pen and her FN are absolutely winning the poster wars, her posters were everywhere. I saw a few from just two other candidates: Macron and Melenchon the commie. None at all for Fillon or any of the others.

What was noticeable, however, was that the Le Pen posters were often defaced, although in my daily perambulations I saw that these defaced posters got replaced by new ones pretty quickly. Also the Le Pen posters tended to be quickly placed over competitors (see photo below for examples of both).

Thus, at least on the Riviera, the Le Pen supporters were clearly winning the battle of the posters. It would be nice to know whether this extends to other parts of France, I suspect it does, and whether it also implies greater support for the FN than the polls currently predict, also likely IMHO.

Away from the streets there have been now two TV debates. The first was a predictable snoozefest that contained just the leading five candidates and resulted in Le Pen being more or less ganged up on by the other four. I don’t know how many people watched it but all it really showed was that all five can actually speak coherently and that no one likes Le Pen.  The second one a couple of nights back was more interesting because it had all 11 candidates, but, as Gavin Mortimer at the Speccie writes, it wasn’t very helpful:

The presidential campaign is nothing if not a test of endurance for the French public although there were moments yesterday evening when the televised debate felt more like a punishment. For four hours, the eleven candidates talked, or to be more precise, shouted, interrupted and ranted at one another. It was, in the words of Le Figaro, a ‘cacophony’ and one that ‘rapidly turned the debate into a confusion’.

It was the first time in a presidential campaign that all the candidates, not just the principal ones, have debated and it will probably be the last. A second full-scale debate is scheduled for April 20th but Jean-Luc Mélenchon has already withdrawn given its proximity to the first round of voting three days later; last night’s farrago is likely to encourage the other four leading candidates to follow suit,

It didn’t augur well the moment one of the candidates, Philippe Poutou, a chippy Trotskyist in charge of something called the New Anti-Capitalist Party, refused to line up for the official photograph. Nor did he wear a jacket and tie, and nor did he make much sense, although he did provide one moment of unintentional hilarity when asked how he would make France more secure against Islamic terrorism. ‘By disarming the police’, he thundered.

Really no one who skipped the debate missed learning anything of importance. Macron and Le Pen traded barbs and again pretty much everyone else tried picking on Le Pen. zzz

What is more interesting is the steadily increasing murmuring of what I said earlier this year that Macron is an establishment “outsider”. The Speccie’s Gavin Mortimer has a long article about this too where he points out that all sorts of socialist government types are jumping ship to Macron’s “En Marche” because they hope to get nice ministerial jobs after the election. As a new party En Marche has no seats in the current assembly and if Macron wins he’ll want to get a lot of his party elected as deputies in order to be able to form a government that is capable of governing as he wishes. It isn’t just the lefties though, Christian Estrosi – mayor of Nice and rightwing establishment bigwig – is also sucking up to Macron:

Emmanuel Macron met hardline southern French conservative Christian Estrosi on Saturday, a sign of how widely the favorite to win France’s presidential election is throwing his centrist electoral net.

The warm encounter in Marseille with the president of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region represents a potential blow to rivals on the right – especially official conservative candidate Francois Fillon – but it but could raise eyebrows among leftwing voters thinking of backing Macron.

Macron told reporters that Estrosi, a close ally of ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, was a “bulwark” against far-right leader Marine Le Pen, the 39 year-old’s main opponent in the election.

Estrosi is undoubtedly doing this in the hopes of both getting power and blocking the FN, a party which is a threat to his power in Provence. The problem is that Macron’s cosiness with bigwigs on all sides is likely to convince skeptics that he’s just going to offer more of the same. The Speccie article also points to a Figaro piece that claims that Macron was Hollande’s designated successor and also mentions the suspicion that the Fillon leaks were part of a plan to clear the way for Macron. I’d say both of these suspicions are highly likely to be based in fact so the question is how much of the always cynical electorate agrees and decides that they should not reward such maneuvering.

On that note the BBC has an interesting pair of articles about the rise of the “alt-right” in France and the related strong online presence of the “fachospehere”. The White Sun of the Desert blogger comments on them so I don’t have to:

France may have a reputation as a beacon of progressive liberalism, but it is in actual fact a deeply conservative country. Indeed, the French are probably more renowned for being resistant to any kind of change than for their supposed progressive credentials.

Even socially you can see it. Third-wave feminism hasn’t gained much traction in France as elsewhere; now that the demands of the first- and second-wave feminists have largely been met, French women don’t seem to be demanding special treatment and safe spaces, nor are they complaining much about a patriarchy. And unlike their sisters in the UK, Frenchwomen have refrained from adopting the worst habits of men by going out, getting blind drunk, and having indiscriminate sex up against a bin. French women still have very old fashioned ideas about how women should dress and behave, and their approach to families and children seems like a throwback to our parents’ era. France might have taken a great leap forward in 1968 or whenever it was, but they’ve been fighting tooth and nail to prevent any kind of meaningful change every since.

Marine Le Pen, an anti-immigration Eurosceptic who may well top the first round of France’s presidential election on 23 April, is riding a populist insurgency that has been growing over the past 15 years.

Its themes are familiar in the era of Donald Trump and Brexit: concern for hardworking people, support for traditional values, and opposition to immigration and supranational busybodies.

Themes which ought to have been familiar to mainstream politicians for decades.

The title of this other BBC article is also revealing:

Is France’s online far right a threat to democracy?

“A threat to democracy” meaning, in this case, a threat to the soft left-liberal consensus of the political establishment.

Although I would add that the “fachosphere” article points out – possibly accidentally – how the French MSM has been truly abysmal in covering popular points of view that disagree with the sneering Parisiens and their statist/internationalist viewpoint.

I found the traffic graph to be particularly interesting

Traffic to selected French political websites (Via BBC)

To me this all suggests an electorate that is sick of Parisiens and their deliberate ignoring of the real problems of crime and immigration. I think there’s likely to be a large enthusiasm gap in favor of Le Pen and this may well result in her winning outright because the electorate is desperate for a real change not a bunch of platitudes.

Update: This very long article explains in great detail how the French are sick of their ruling elites. I disagree with the author’s claim that Macron is “the ultimate rebel” but the parts of the article about the impact of Muslim immigration and its threat to the French way of life are spot on. As are the ways that these problems have been ignored by the main parties.