French Election – Bad Dream Intrusion
French Election – Bad Dream Intrusion Author Pater Tenebrarum – Acting-Man
The “Nightmare Option”
The French presidential election was temporarily relegated to the back-pages following the US strike on Syria, but a few days ago, the Economist Magazine returned to the topic, noting that a potential “nightmare option” has suddenly come into view. In recent months certainty had increased that once the election moved into its second round, it would be plain sailing for whichever establishment candidate Ms. Le Pen was going to face. That certainty has been shaken quite a bit lately.
The four front-runners in the first round election, from left to right: François Fillon, Emmanuel Macron, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Marine Le Pen. That’s right, Mr. Mélenchon, a.k.a. the “French Hugo Chavez” has actually become a serious contender. If you want to know how abysmally bad his economic program is, just consider that Thomas Piketty supports him.
Photo credit: Patrick Kovarik / AFP
Apparently French voters were greatly impressed by far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon, who on occasion of the second televised debate once again proved his ability to out-gab his competitors. Voters already took note of him as a master of witty repartee and cutting verbal jabs in March, which promptly sent the poll results of his ideologically closest opponent, socialist candidate Benoît Hamon, into a death spiral. In the debate in early April Mélenchon reportedly outdid himself.
It seems Mélenchon has taken support from everyone – with the noteworthy exception of the scandal-ridden conservative candidate François Fillon of all people. The latter is slightly gaining in the polls as well, after he decided he wouldn’t let a little corruption scandal get in the way of his presidential ambitions. A chart showing first round voter intentions according to the latest opinion polls illustrates the stunning effect of Mélenchon’s debate performance:
French national opinion polls, average. Mélenchon’s support has taken off like a rocket, and even Fillon has managed to regain some of his past glory. Macron and Le Pen have lost about 2% each since the March debate, while Hamon has essentially suffered a flash-crash – click to enlarge.
In view of the fact that Venezuela is currently spiraling down the proverbial economic toilet after many years of socialist mismanagement, it is quite astonishing that all it took for Mr. “French Hugo Chavez” to garner that much support was his sharp tongue coupled with a bunch of completely absurd and clearly unaffordable promises.
With Mélenchon at 19%, Fillon at 20%, and Macron and Le Pen at 23% each, anything is now possible, as they are all within the known margin of error of French opinion polls. The so-called “nightmare option” would of course consist of Le Pen and Mélenchon making it to the run-off election. That is still not the most likely outcome, but it has at least become possible.
All it would take is a major misstep by Mr. Macron in the final days before the election. As an aside, he has never been elected to office and his party is just a few months old. It seems at least possible to us that both his and Le Pen’s poll results are distorted by the “Bradley effect” – i.e., by the fact that some voters are not revealing their true intentions in surveys, because they fear they might be seen as violating social acceptability norms.
Recall that this is precisely what happened in the polls trying to gauge voter support for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The lesson is that if one fosters a climate of fear in order to enforce political correctness, one ceases to get truthful replies in voter surveys (the effect is a bit similar to what happens if one attempts to elicit truthful information by means of torture).
It is widely held that Le Pen would lose against any of her putative opponents if she makes it to round two – including Mélenchon. Of course, if he is her opponent, that probably won’t matter much from the perspective of market participants (or the European elites for that matter), since neither Le Pen nor Mélenchon can be accused of being europhiles. France’s continued membership in the EU and the common currency would become doubtful under either of them – even though they would face a great many practical obstacles in implementing their agenda.