France presidential election 2017 Odds
Francois Fillon vs. Marine Le Pen: The Failure Of Lukewarm Nationalism
Unlike the series of elections over the last six months or so, Austria's Presidential rerun can be ignored, next year's French Presidential runoff seems to be following a course that few have as of yet been able to understand.
Differing from Brexit, local German elections, Hungarian elections, and the victory of Donald J. Trump in the United States, France seems to be heading away from a Nationalist tide, although it is for reasons that baffle voters and pundits alike.
For decades, the National Front party and the Le Pen family have used an especially strong form of far-right rhetoric to gain in power and electoral strength, with the elder Jean Marie (Marine's father) even sanctioned and criminally charged in the past for making statements thought "racist" and "anti-Semitic."
His defeat back in 2002, years before immigration and demographic shifts became a hot-button topic, was only enabled by literally the entire Establishment hurling all of their immense capital and resources at his cause, with other nations rumored to have also been committed in this last-ditch effort.
But as time went by, much of what Jean-Marie had predicted back in the day had begun to bear fruit and come to fruition, with terrorist attacks and Islamic outbursts now a common feature in many of the more populous French cities.
In addition, many French citizens have expressed their intense dislike of the European Union and its socio-economic policies, with many now calling for a withdrawal from the EU in favor of a more isolationist stance that would also adopt ideas that currently classify as "Populist" in nature.
So it would have seemed sane and logical for his daughter, who rose to lead her father's party in the last few years, to continue the same political course to victory, especially considering the fact that this sort of Populist ideology is now sweeping large chunks of the Western World.
This strategy, however, seems to have escaped the notice of Marine Le Pen, who has instead taken to the airwaves and campaign trail to denounce much of her father's legacy, and to reinvent herself as a moderate with a slightly traditionalist slant.
Gone are the calls for sealed borders and the deportation of Middle-Eastern Muslim and African migrants, and gone are the appeals to reconstitute a strictly-European France, although the denunciations of the EU are apparently still occurring, albeit in a watered down way.
At the same time, one begins to take notice of Mr. Francois Fillon, a former Prime Minister who has quickly jumped up to the top of the polls due to the channeling of rhetoric more akin to Old Man Le Pen than anything coming out of the French Republican Party.
His calls for a shrinking of the central government and bureaucracy, the removal of large numbers of foreigners, a curb on radical Islamic customs and special treatment, and his refusal to go along with "progressive" social ideas such as homosexual marriage put him further to the right than the leader of the Nationalist movement.
This has won him a huge share of the vote according to all surveys, although there is one catch to his message: Fillon is against any attempt or effort to leave the EU.
Despite this, all statistics show that by increasing his tone to the point of far-right, alt-right, fringe-right by older standards, and even borderline illegality in, say, neighboring Germany, he has drained support from National Front, and almost-guaranteed himself the French Presidency barring some sort of spectacular shift in the next six months.
By attempting to weaken her intensity by sounding more like an average politician, Marine Le Pen has all-but doomed herself to a second-place finish, and a chance to implement an agenda now becoming extremely popular in nations sick and tired of the tried and failed status quo.
If one is debating the idea of placing a wager on this crucial May election, there is only a slight chance of going wrong by selecting Fillon to be the victor.