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Where the Right Went Wrong: Fillon, Le Pen See French Election Chances Slip

© REUTERS / Eric GaillardFigures of Francois Fillon (L), former French prime minister, member of The Republicans political party and 2017 presidential candidate of the French centre-right, and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen are paraded through the crowd during the 133rd Carnival parade, the first major event since the city was attacked during Bastille Day celebrations last year in Nice, France, February 11, 2017
Figures of Francois Fillon (L), former French prime minister, member of The Republicans political party and 2017 presidential candidate of the French centre-right, and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen are paraded through the crowd during the 133rd Carnival parade, the first major event since the city was attacked during Bastille Day celebrations last year in Nice, France, February 11, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Although it's extremely difficult to predict who will win the upcoming presidential elections in France, it's safe to assume that former Prime Minister Francois Fillon and National Front leader Marine Le Pen are very unlikely to prevail, French political analyst Arnaud Mercier told Sputnik.

Marine Le Pen, French National Front (FN) political party leader and candidate for the French 2017 presidential election, attends the 2-day FN political rally to launch the presidential campaign in Lyon, France February 5, 2017. - Sputnik International
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In an interview with Sputnik, Arnaud Mercier, professor of political communication at Pantheon-Assas University in Paris said that it's still anybody's guess who will win the forthcoming presidential elections in France.

Even so, it is safe to say already that former Prime Minister Francois Fillon and leader of the Eurosceptic right-wing National Front Party Marine Le Pen have very slim chances of emerging victorious, according to Mercier.

The interview came after a recent poll revealed that the French Republicans' presidential candidate's approval rating had collapsed by 13 points, with only 22 percent of the French saying they have a good opinion of the former PM.

© AFP 2021 / GEORGES GOBETRight-wing candidate for the upcoming presidential election Francois Fillon (R) and Bordeaux's Mayor Alain Juppe (L) (File)
Right-wing candidate for the upcoming presidential election Francois Fillon (R) and Bordeaux's Mayor Alain Juppe (L) (File) - Sputnik International
Right-wing candidate for the upcoming presidential election Francois Fillon (R) and Bordeaux's Mayor Alain Juppe (L) (File)

A fraud scandal involving Fillon emerged on January 25, when the satirical weekly magazine Le Canard Enchaine reported that Fillon's wife Penelope became an assistant for her husband’s substitute deputy member of parliament Marc Joulaud, receiving between 6,900 and 7,900 euros (up to $8,500) per month. She'd also received 5,000 euros ($5,400) gross per month at the cultural magazine Revue des Deux Mondes, which is owned by Fillon’s friend Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere.

Commenting on the matter, Mercier said in a clear nod to Fillon that Le Canard Enchaine's disclosure "destabilized the candidate."

One of the reasons for this destabilization, Mercier added, is that "Fillon did not  scrupulously observe the rule of the law, although he has always positioned himself as a man who does not have any such problems unlike his rivals Alain Juppe and Nicolas Sarkozy."

A man puts the final touche on a giant figure depicting right-wing presidential candidates Francois Fillon (C) next to others depicting far right presidential candidate Marine Le Pen (L) and centrist independent presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, on January 27, 2017 in Nice, southeastern France. - Sputnik International
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Besides, Mercier went on to say, Fillon's actions run counter to  the principles that had previously led him to success in the primaries; these principles are related to the fight against those who benefit from public funds.

Mercier said that Fillon disappointed voters who considered him an honest man, and that his proposed austerity measures only added fuel to the fire.

"Given that the investigation into the case is under way, it is most likely that Fillon's approval rating will continue to plummet, and as a result, he will be defeated in the first round of the elections," Mercier added.

As far as Marine Le Pen is concerned, Mercier believes that "if the election were held today, it would be very likely that Le Pen and former French Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron would make it to the second round." In April 2016, Macron founded his own left-wing political party, 'En Marche!' after having been an Independent affiliated with the Socialist Party.

"We should be very careful about the polls' results because France's political system is now in turmoil, and the rhythm of changes and surprises in this [election] campaign is simply unprecedented in the history of the Fifth Republic," Mercier pointed out.

He notes that "Le Pen has gained the support of loyal voters, which is why it is very unlikely that her "electoral capital will diminish in the next few weeks."

At the same time, Mercier said that "it's impossible to imagine the National Front leader winning the presidential elections."

"Most Frenchmen think that imagining her winning the second round is impossible. But if she makes it to the second round and loses it, she will not repeat the fate of his father, who met with his rival Jacques Chirac in 2002. At the time, Le Pen gained 18 percent of the vote, while Chirac obtained 82 percent. As for Marine Le Pen, the gap will be less significant, but still it will leave no chance for victory," Mercier concluded.

Francois Fillon, former French prime minister, member of The Republicans political party and 2017 presidential candidate of the French centre-right, speaks during a news conference about a fake job scandal at his campaign headquarters in Paris, France, February 6, 2017 - Sputnik International
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Meanwhile, a survey by Elabe, a pollster, for the newspaper Les Echos showed that Fillon has dropped from third to 18th place in popularity, while Marine Le Pen is down 1 point to 28 percent support, and independent candidate Emmanuel Macron has over 40 percent support.

French Socialist Party candidate Benoit Hamon is in the second place with 37 percent support, the poll revealed.

The first round of the French presidential elections is slated for April 23, with the run-off scheduled for May 7.

 

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