Sunday, May 7, 2017

A few quick thoughts on the French Election...

French Candidates Marine Le Pen (left) and Emmanuel Macron. Le Pen via Wikipedia user Foto-AG. Marcon via Flickr

As you are probably aware of, the French presidential election is underway in France today. In many ways it is a mirror of the United States last presidential elections, only with the genders reversed. Far right, Front National candidate Marine Le Pen is up against center left En Marche! candidate Emmanuel Macron. If there are two better proxies out there for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton out there, respectively, I have yet to find them. 

I don't have a whole lot to say about the candidates themselves. Although I tend to like Le Pen better on policy, she is a bit further to the right then I am normally comfortable with. Unlike me, she is a strong opponent of gay marriage, while I am mostly ambivalent to the issue. I still like her way better than any leftist and that is Macron's role in this election. Indeed, if I had to choose between the two, there is no way I would ever vote for Macron.  

Who do I think will win? Though we have seen several populist upsets in recent elections, I don't see Le Pen pulling this one off. She's popular enough among the young French people, but the older generations hate her because of her father. Jean-Marie Le Pen had several political scandals when he was the leader of Front National, including accusations of antisemitism. Unlike most accusations levied against conservative politicians, there was quite a bit of fire to the smoke since he had actively denied the Holocaust and has claimed that other politicians were on the payroll of Jewish organizations. Marine Le Pen however is not an antisemite as far as I have been able to tell and I would hope that people would realize that the sins of the father shouldn't be passed down to the daughter. 

As for Marcon, he mainly stayed scandal free until the very last minute. Mere minutes before the standard media blackouts that France imposes during elections, a hacker posted e-mails from his campaign on 4chan's /pol/ board (remember when I said that /pol/ is the most influential political forum in the world?). Some of those e-mails have damning accusations of corruption, tax evasion and even drugs, though they haven't been confirmed for sure yet. For their part, Wikileaks thinks they are valid, but it's still early to tell. I think, personally, that they are probably legit. 

The timing of the hack seems very suspicious and I have to wonder why it didn't come out sooner? You would think that if this release was to help Le Pen win, it would have happened a few weeks ago. Right now the press is banned from talking about the leaks (which just strikes me as both stupid and a violation of civil rights) and there has been very little time for people to go through them. People who are on social media will read the leaks as they are analyzed, but not everyone follows social media.

It almost seems like someone expects Le Pen to lose and is only trying to tar Macron when he takes office. They know that Le Pen won't likely win and that these emails won't help her that much. But if the accusations of corruption are true than Macron will be a crippled president. Had the leaks came out earlier, Le Pen might have had a chance, but right now she probably won't win.

Why? Well, I know the polls have been very wrong lately, but there is a huge difference between the few percentage point leads that "stay" had in Brexit and Clinton had in the 2016 presidential election. Those polls were only off by a few points, but Le Pen is down by almost 20 points in most of the polls. That's not a margin that someone is likely to beat, even if there are "shy" Le Pen voters and even with the email scandal. My guess is that she loses and that Macron ends up as a crippled president mired in scandal even before he is sworn in.

I'm not going to speculate on who is responsible for the hacking attack. The media likes to blame Russia, and I admit that it could be them, but another possibility is that someone in the United States intel community dropped this, either for personal reasons or because they were directed to do so. Remember, we know that the CIA spied on every candidate in the 2012 French elections, there is no reason to assume that stopped. It's even possible that it wasn't even a state actor, but it could be a lone hacker or a leaker that published these e-mails.

Finally, I probably won't be able to cover this story much today, even on Twitter. I have to work some mandatory overtime tonight and will be busy, unfortunately. I will be reading up on the election whenever time predicts and may have a post up Monday morning if something shocking happens. Until then, I wish France the best of luck with this election.

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