Considering the news over the past few days, we are witnessing a kind of showdown in the polls: the most liked candidate by the French (polled) vs. the candidate for whom the French will vote (polled).
The difference is significant. We have personalities who are well liked by the French, e.g. Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Alain Juppé, but who are not in the lead for expected votes. On the other hand, we have personalities that are rather disliked or unappreciated by the French, but who are in the top three, like Marine Le Pen and François Fillon.
All things considered, will we vote for/against a person or for a program?
On April 10th at his assembly at Porte de Versailles, François Fillon declared that he is not asking to be liked, but supported (in terms of his program). Therefore, he is playing down his personality, while promoting his program. Consequently, the presidential campaign immediately becomes a question of the public’s reaction to a candidate’s program. Moreover, despite the scandals connected to the fictional and so-called jobs for his family members, François Fillon still holds on in the polls, maybe due to his program or its opposition in terms of the other candidates’ programs.
For Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the situation is completely different: it is his personality that is appealing to more and more French citizens (polled). He is a good communicator, cultivated, etc. I am not sure that he would be as successful if all those polled had attentively read his proposals.
Perhaps Marine Le Pen embodies the combination of the two: we vote for/against her anti-establishment personality and for/against her nationalist/populist program.
With Emmanuel Macron, his personality is attractive and embodies renewal, even a defiant youthfulness, for the political class. His program gets less attention compared to his individual virtues and personal dynamism.
Lastly, Benoît Hamon (if we are limiting ourselves only to the candidates likely – per usual – to be in the second round) is appealing due to the consistency between his convictions and his program. However, his position as a Socialist Party candidate who would like to succeed François Hollande, President of the Republic, little liked by the French and from the Socialist Party, complicates matters for Hamon. Even Hollande himself did not dare run again due to his inability to reunite his political family that had already imploded!
Will the French people choose a clear program from the right or the left on April 23, 2017? Or a combination of both? Or most importantly, will they sanction such or such a candidate’s personality in favor of another one?
It’s anyone’s ballgame… anything is possible in 2017.