French elec­tion: the pos­si­ble night­mare


FRANCE, A coun­try al­ler­gic to change, is flirt­ing with the un­known.

As things stand, the three top can­di­dates in the first round of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on Sun­day could rep­re­sent par­ties out­side the du­op­oly of cen­tre-right and cen­tre-left which has gov­erned France since the end of the Sec­ond World War.

Imag­ine a Bri­tish gen­eral elec­tion in which the three leading places were taken by the Lib Dems, Ukip and the So­cial­ist Work­ers’ Party.

Only the top two can­di­dates go for­ward to the sec­ond round runoff on 7 May. The fi­nal opin­ion polls sug­gest that four politi­cians — from the un­known cen­tre, the far-right, the hard left and the dis­cred­ited ex-Gaullist cen­tre-right — have a chance of mak­ing the cut.

For sev­eral weeks, it seemed likely that the sec­ond round would be con­tested by the Front Na­tional leader Marine Le Pen and the 39-year-old founder of a one-year-old po­lit­i­cal start-up, the mil­i­tant cen­trist Em­manuel Macron.

Both are now at around 23-24 per cent in the first round opin­ion polls. In the sec­ond round, the polls sug­gest, Mr Macron would crush Le Pen by 60 per cent to 40 per cent.

The Macron-Le Pen matchup is still pos­si­ble but no longer cer­tain. The last phase of the cam­paign has seen an ex­tra­or­di­nary surge of sup­port for an elo­quent cham­pion of the hard left,

Hard-left and in with a shout: Mé­len­chon Jean-Luc Mé­len­chon (a harder left Gal­lic ver­sion of Jeremy Cor­byn, with a sense of hu­mour).

The fi­nal days have also seen a par­tial re­cov­ery by François Fil­lon, the for­mer cen­tre-right prime min­is­ter who had once seemed cer­tain to be the next Pres­i­dent of the Repub­lic. Mr Fil­lon, who is ac­cused of em­bez­zling par­lia­men­tary funds by pay­ing his wife to do noth­ing, is the only mem­ber of the leading quar­tet who rep­re­sents a tra­di­tional “party of gov­ern­ment”.

Both Mr Fil­lon and Mr Mé­len­chon are now cred­ited with around 19 per cent of the vote. Seven other can­di­dates range in the polls from 0.5 per cent to a calami­tous 9 per cent for Benoît Ha­mon, can­di­date of the rul­ing So­cial­ist party.

Pre­dic­tions for the ul­ti­mate re­sult on 7 May have there­fore be­come an elec­toral Ru­bik’s Cube. Marine Le Pen would be un­likely to beat Mr Macron or Mr Fil­lon. She might tri­umph, how­ever, in a one-on-one with Mr Mé­len­chon. Mr Macron v Mr Fil­lon would be close. Mr Mé­len­chon would lose to ei­ther man.

From the point of view of Jewish vot­ers in France, there are only two com­fort­able choices in the leading quar­tet — Mr Macron and Mr Fil­lon. Even Mr Fil­lon is ac­cused by some Jewish ac­tivists of links to an an­cient Catholic-bour­geois strand of French an­tisemitic opin­ion. Mr Mé­len­chon is fiercely “anti-racist” but fiercely pro-Pales­tinian. Mr Macron, a for­mer em­ployee of Roth­schilds, is pro-Is­raeli but crit­i­cal of the pre­sent gov­ern­ment in Jerusalem.

Ms Le Pen is, it turns out, her fa­ther’s daugh­ter. In the fi­nal weeks of the cam­paign she un­did seven years of cos­metic mod­er­a­tion by stat­ing that the mass-ar­rest of Jews by French po­lice and gen­darmes in 1942 was not a stain on French his­tory.

Civil rights ac­tivist rabbi dies aged 100

RABBI SAUL Lee­man, an Amer­i­can civil rights ac­tivist who joined Martin Luther King Jr on the fa­mous Selma to Mont­gomery march in 1965 to call for equal vot­ing rights for African-Amer­i­cans, has died aged 100. Rabbi Lee­man served the Cranston Jewish Cen­tre on Rhode Is­land and later Tem­ple Shalom in Med­ford, Mas­sachusetts. Raised in Brook­lyn, New York, he was a grad­u­ate of Brook­lyn Col­lege and Yeshiva Univer­sity’s Teach­ers In­sti­tute. About the march, the rabbi said: “There were fed­eral troops on each side of the road, with their ri­fles at hand. There were he­li­copters hov­er­ing above. We felt as if we were in en­emy ter­ri­tory.”

Pe­sach no-bread rule in hos­pi­tals chal­lenged

AN ARAB rights group has said it plans to mount a le­gal chal­lenge against the ban on leav­ened bread prod­ucts in Is­raeli hos­pi­tals dur­ing Passover. Adalah-The Le­gal Cen­tre for Arab Mi­nor­ity Rights in Is­rael said the cur­rent ban forces Arabs to adopt Jewish re­li­gious law. It is the third year in a row that the group has at­tempted to chal­lenge to ban on the grounds it is dis­crim­i­na­tory. If the chal­lenge is suc­cess­ful it will pre­vent Jews from ad­her­ing to re­li­gious law, which does not al­low leav­ened foods to be seen or be pre­sent in Jewish-owned prop­erty dur­ing the hol­i­day.

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