The French Presidential Election: A Key Chance to Reboot Europe


2016-11-28 By Murielle Delaporte

Yesterday, against all odds (at least the odds defined by the general media buzz for months), François Fillon, the French initial outsider for the Republican Primaries won by close to 70% of the votes against the initial favorite Alain Juppé.

This was in the second and last round of a long campaign aiming at designing who, out of seven candidates, would be best suited to win against incumbent socialist President François Hollande.

There is still a long way to go for the LR – “Les Républicains” – candidate to become the next President of France in May 2017, as there are several “nextgen” leftwing candidates who are pushing the door to fill in part the vacuum left by the defeat of center right candidates such as Alain Juppé and the current President François Hollande.

The next six months are going to be very conflictual on the left and on the right to win the hearts of a divided French population.

Fillon following his surprise victory after the conseratives' first round of voting. Credit: Getty Images
François Fillon following what was perceived by many as his surprise victory after the conservatives’ first round of voting. Credit: Getty Images

Speaking The Truth, Overcoming Divisions

Divided politically, economically, socially, ethnically… 1789 is back but with colors, and it is going to take a real Leader to gather all these colors.

These colors are not necessarily the “rainbow” ones, but the national ones.  The same “blue-white-red” flag of French history can recall the past to shape a more viable and dynamic future for France and for Europe.

This is indeed the challenge posed to François Fillon already labeled since last week’s victory as a “divisive reactionnary”.

Sounds familiar to American voters?

One may not agree politically with a Donald Trump or a François Fillon who are rather different both in style (actually quite at the opposite of the spectrum in characters, although seemingly outspoken) and philosophy.

But there are an undeniable resetting of the rules of the political game and a common force on the move being currently unleashed: a force opposed to “political correctness.”

This is referred to in French as the “unique way for thinking” — a force opposed to the way the main stream media has been trying to influence the public opinion.

We are already seeing a different style of reporting with more emphasis on fact-checking and less opinion-preaching.

In addition, the thrust of debate is highlighting the need to shift from state-assistance versus hard-work and self-reliance;

A debate challenging an at times naïve globalization pulling everyone towards the lowest common denominator as opposed to a greater good based on well-understood self-interests;

An emphasis away from the excesses of a revisionist view of national histories which have been underscored in the recent years, in which only a minority can – maybe – recognize itself, with the risk of identity roots being pulled out at a time when they are most needed.

There is a true return to national pride and the need for traditional milestones both in the United States and in France.

Contrary to the way critics (will increasingly) portray François Fillon, he is very far from the far right, from a Marine Le Pen. He is perceived (at a minimum by close to 70% of the nearly 4 million Republican Primaries voters) closer to what a Charles de Gaulle or an Antoine Pinay[1] have been in the French psyche: no less than a savior, militarily in the first case, economically in the second case.

During this first part of the presidential election campaign, he talked the truth, restored a certain vision of the authority of the Presidential function (especially hurt by President Hollande’s recent confidences to Le Monde’s journalists[2]), but also of the role of France in the world: speaking one’s mind and not being a Russian or American pawn; being back to lead as the first Power in Europe “not for the sake of it”, but built on renewed economic strength[3]

Transatlantic Clash or Joint Strength?

A Franco-American relationship under the twin impact of Trump and Fillon governments – if Fillon wins in France next May – might look more like the “love-hate” relationship which characterized much of the 1960’s transatlantic bond, but was one of mutual respect, and above all, a fundamental respect for each other’s own expression of national interest.

Based on each political leader’s statements, trade and environment negotiations will probably be rockier than they have been in the past.

But common ground is clearly there for solving the ISIS threat as a priority and riding the Russian Trojan horse might be a rational common course of action.

There is on both sides a clear priority to eradicate the terrorist Islamist threat affecting both countries and there is room for a fruitful cooperation which has been built up ever since 9/11.

Linked to the above, there is also the same desire to free oneself from oil dependency and Middle-Eastern politics and entanglements.

The US via renewed domestic oil and related energy production; France via relaunching nuclear energy self-sufficiency.

A new uncharted foreign policy territory may therefore open up for cooperation in which both systems seek to restore themselves to what would be perceived by each national electorate to their proper place in the world and in history.

There is also a similar determination to give the police and military – and their chiefs – the means and politico-legal backing to enable them to fulfill missions more attuned to serving national interests and global stability than the past decade of nation-building and long-term and open ended entanglements.

Will Fillon reach France's political summit? Credit Photo: Getty Images
Climbing Towards France’s political summit (Credit Photo: Getty Images)

In any case, toughness and authenticity – as opposed to photo ops – could be the new motto of a Fillon government willing to reboot the system by fully “changing software.”[4]


[1] Antoine Pinay restored a « strong France» as minister of Finances in the 50’s at a time when the French economy was suffering and the French population was doubting about its future. (see for instance >>>

[2] See: Un président ne devrait pas dire ça >>>

[3] François Fillon, in last Republican Primary Debate, November 24th, 2016

[4] « changer de logiciel », cité dans : François Fillon, Republican Primaries’victory speech, November 27th, 2016

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