It would be an exaggeration to call François Fillon a candidate of Moscow. The position of the National Front and its leader, Marine Le Pen, is much more “pro-Russian”. She does not even conceal it. But in this field no special collisions should be expected, believes Yuri Rubinsky, Professor of the Moscow-based Higher School of Economics and Head of the Centre for French Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Europe.
The victory of François Fillon at The Republicans’ primaries is a major event. But it would be an exaggeration to call him a candidate of Moscow, as his critics from the left or the liberal right camps do. Indeed, the right-wing opposition criticizes the current state of relations with Russia, and Fillon’s position is that France shares western values, but has interests of its own. According to him, partnership with Russia is absolutely necessary in the face of the main danger to the civilization posed by jihadism, including in the Middle East. Fillon does not agree with the accession of Crimea to Russia, but the policy of punishing Russia by sanctions does not bring results and is detrimental to all. This position is quite balanced, while that of the National Front and its leader, Marine Le Pen, is much more “pro-Russian”, which she does not even conceal.
It is Fillon and Le Pen that are most likely to meet in the second round of the presidential election next year, which is to take place on May 7. If Fillon wins, his quite radical economy program promises him difficult prospects. Fillon’s voters are classic right-wingers, living in villages and small towns and representing the middle class – disgruntled, but adherent to traditional family values, patriotism and religion. Marine Le Pen has the national protest electorate with 42% of the voters for the National Front representing the working class.
Le Pen has done a lot in order to make the National Front party more acceptable for the broader electorate than it was under her father. This has, of course, expanded its social base, but she represents a populist force which wants to please the voters, no matter how realistic her political proposals are – not only in the foreign policy (withdrawal from the euro zone, a referendum on withdrawal from the EU), but also the domestic policy. She took many of the extreme left slogans, which is not quite consistent with her party’s right-wing ideology.
As for the current leftist leadership, it is doomed to go away. In the next ten days, President Hollande will announce his decision to go for a second term or not. Apparently, he still hesitates. His closest ally, Prime Minister Manuel Valls, pushes him to go out, as Hollande’s ratings are extremely low. Moreover, Hollande has an opponent in his own party: Arnaud Montebourg, former minister for industrial renewal. Outside the Socialist Party, there are Jean-Luc Mélenchon on the left side, supported by the Communists, and on the right side – Emmanuel Macron, former economy minister and now an adviser to Hollande, who announced that he would run for presidency as an independent candidate and would not participate in the primaries of socialists.
In such circumstances, the left will go to the first round of the presidential election divided by sharp internal conflicts. Of course, in these conditions it will be very difficult, if not impossible, for Hollande to make it to the second round.