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Pollsters admit Le Pen has chance of winning

The French L'Opinion newspaper asked polling experts in mid-February whether FN candidate Marine Le Pen could win the coming elections to become president of France.

Published: February 27, 2017, 9:56 am

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    Although they remain guarded, it is interesting to note that the establishment pollsters gave Le Pen a chance of winning.

    Bernard Sananes of the Elabe polling group said a FN victory was “both possible and improbable”, while Jerome Sainte-Marie of Polling Vox nuanced his answer, by saying: “Against [Emmnuel] Macron, she has a chance of winning.”

    But well-known Ifop’s Jerome Fourquet told AFP that in the second round, with Le Pen at 40 percent against 60 percent for any rival, “the gap is too big for there to be a surprise”.

    Fourquet neverless conceded that it would be more difficult if the gap narrowed: “But if it’s 55-45, it could be a different matter,” he said. He added that Le Pen’s score in the first round would be crucial to see if she could maintain her momentum in the runoff.

    In the 2002 presidential election, Marine’s father Jean-Marie Le Pen rocked the political establishment by entering into the second round. In that second round, both left and right came together and voted for Jacques Chirac to block Jean-Marie.

    During the regional elections in December 2015, similarly mainstream parties joined forces to block both Le Pen and her 27-year-old niece Marion Marechal-Le Pen in the second round despite their high scores in the first round.

    Since then, “Le Pen has cleared another hurdle, but the barrier she still has to clear is very high,” Fourquet said.

    Leftist researcher Joel Gombin, a specialist on the FN, told AFP Le Pen would not win the race for the Elysee Palace. “As things stand, where are the votes necessary to move up from 25 percent or even 30 percent to 50 percent?,” he said.

    Those votes may come from farmers and rural voters. The key to the outcome of France’s presidential election in the decisive second round may be held by rural areas as the seriousness of the agricultural crises in France becomes more and more visible.

    All the presidential contenders are scheduled to visit the country’s largest argricultural show in the next few days. François Fillon, the conservative candidate, in a message on his Facebook page, said: “The distress of French farmers is heart-breaking.”

    But the pressure on the 62-year-old Fillon is mounting. On Friday prosecutors announced he would face a full judicial investigation into the claims that he employed his spouse on taxpayers dime for a fictitious job.

    Macron’s performance against Le Pen has only been tested since January, and his winning margin has dropped from 30 points to around 20 in a month. Macron is also an urban candidate.

    As Jérôme Fourquet of Ifop notes: “Farmers feel increasingly left out and they are being tempted by the Front National. This is going to be a major election issue.”

    Farmers make up only 8 per cent of voters including their families, retirees and workers in agriculture-dependent jobs, but rural communities overall total 20 to 25 per cent. It is roughly the same percentage as in the United States, where rural support helped president Donald Trump win.

    France remains the biggest beneficiary of EU farm aid, but more than a third of French farmers earned less than €4,200 last year, squeezed cheaper imports from other member states. “We’re paying for subsidies that go to eastern Europe, financing countries that are competing with us,” a pig farmer told The Telegraph.

    Pork and chicken prices collapsed after EU sanctions ended exports to Russia. More than 600 livestock farms have gone bankrupt — a record. On average, one farmer committed suicide every two days, according to France’s public health agency.

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