[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below]
Five reasons. First—and this isn’t really a reason, just a preliminary point—, I am very reluctant to handicap an election three years down the road, as all sorts of things will obviously happen between now and then to changer la donne. It’s fun to speculate but is, objectively speaking, a waste of time.
That said—and secondly—I will continue to assert that Marine Le Pen has no chance—I repeat, no chance whatever—of being elected President of the Republic. I assert this because no candidate with negative poll ratings as high as MLP’s—i.e. in the 60s—can possibly win the presidency. It has never happened in the history of an advanced democracy and is not going to happen in France in 2017. Now if MLP’s negative numbers start to drop significantly—and, concomitantly, her favorable ratings rise—then I may change my tune. And I will definitely change that tune if the curves cross. But there is no reason to believe that this will or even can happen. The Le Pen name is radioactive—absolutely, totally toxic—for the entire left, center, and moderate right. As for those who have been casting protest votes for the FN in recent elections, a significant number would think twice about doing so if they actually thought the FN had a chance of winning (à propos, according to one survey in 2002 fully half of Jean-Marie Le Pen’s voters in the presidential election that year said that they would not have voted for him if they had thought he had a real chance of winning).
Thirdly, if there were a freak accident and with MLP somehow winning the presidency, she would be unable to govern. There is no way she would have anything close to a majority in the National Assembly (ergo, there would be no FN PM or government). And a significant portion of the haute fonction publique—where the FN has precious few members or sympathizers—would decline to cooperate with her. For the anecdote, back in 2002 I asked an énarque member of the Cour des Comptes whom I knew if he and his colleagues would have cooperated with Jean-Marie Le Pen had he won that year. His response was a categorical no. A Marine Le Pen presidency would thus not only be a fiasco from Day One but also bring about a constitutional crisis.
Fourthly, France is a mature democracy and the French citizenry is—appearances sometimes to the contrary—a mature electorate. French voters are not going to embark on some crazy adventure with a populist party of the extreme right, and that has no experience whatever in government to boot. The gravity of the French electorate has been on the center-right for most of the past century and remains so today. In this respect, it needs to be said that while the economic situation in France is bad it is not catastrophic. France is not Greece—as Paul Krugman has reminded us more than once—and is not going to be. Mitch’s assertion that France is being subjected to “murderous austerity” is hyperbole. The French are morose and fearful for the future—and many for good reason—but the majority of people are working and will continue to. As for the increasing numbers who are unemployed and excluded from mainstream society, they will retreat into political abstention rather than vote en masse for the FN.
Fifthly, if MLP makes it to the 2nd round of the election, she will most certainly face the candidate of the UMP (or whatever the UMP eventually renames itself). And the latter will win. Period. My dread fear is that that candidate will be Sarkozy (and rid of his legal problems). If so, we’ll have to live with the S.O.B. for another five years. The mere prospect of that depresses me to no end.
UPDATE: Slate.fr’s Eric Dupin, echoing my viewpoint, says “Non, le FN n’est pas aux portes du pouvoir.” (September 9th)
2nd UPDATE: A poll conducted by Odoxa—a new polling institute founded by a couple of former directors at BVA—for I>Télé-CQFD-Le Parisien-Aujourd’hui reveals that “65% des Français considèrent que le FN n’a pas la capacité de gouverner [la France]…” It indeed does not make sense, IMHO, that large numbers of Frenchmen and women would vote for a party to govern France that they do not believe has the ability to govern France… Ça n’a pas de sens… (September 13th)
3rd UPDATE: And then there’s the circus in FN-governed Hayange (here, here, and here). Does one really imagine that the French electorate will send these whack jobs to the Élysée and Matignon? (September 15th)
4th UPDATE: France Inter political editorialist Thomas Legrand poses the question: “Le Pen peut-elle arriver au pouvoir en 2017?” He says yes, that Marine LP could indeed win the presidential election—that this is within the realm of the possible—but there is no way the FN can win the legislative elections that will follow. A Marine LP victory in ’17 will thus mechanically lead to an institutional crisis. (December 18th)