Hugh Carnegy, Financial Times, September 5, 2014
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far-right National Front, would beat struggling incumbent François Hollande in a run-off election for the French presidency, according to a new poll.
The unprecedented finding came as a fresh blow to Mr Hollande at the end of a week in which he suffered a cascade of bad news, including the publication of a lacerating book by Valérie Trierweiler, his former partner.
A poll for Ifop, published on Friday, showed that Ms Le Pen would beat Mr Hollande by 54-46 per cent if they were matched today in the decisive second round of the presidential election. The next election is due in 2017.
The survey confirmed an earlier poll showing Ms Le Pen leading all other contenders of left and right in the first round. But it was the first time she had been shown ahead of a mainstream candidate in the second round–a scenario regarded to date as unrealistic.
The Ifop poll followed another on Friday by TNS-Sofres giving Mr Hollande an all-time low approval rating of just 13 per cent.
The French president attempted to reassert his authority in a government reshuffle late last month by ejecting leftwing opponents of his recent pro-business policy turn. But, so far, his only reward has been further turmoil. “Never has a head of state been so devalued,” wrote Libération, the leftist newspaper.
The most personally wounding blow this week came from the book by Valérie Trierweiler, Mr Hollande’s former partner, called Merci pour ce moment (Thanks for the moment).
It attacked Mr Hollande for allegedly lying to her over his infidelity with actress Julie Gayet, being two-faced (“the king of double speak”) and joking derisively about the poor.
But the most damaging revelation politically was the allegation about his attitude to the poor, for a man who once said he did not like the rich. “This man of the left calls [the poor] in private les sans-dents [the toothless]–he’s very proud of his funny crack,” Ms Trierweiler wrote.
Speaking at the Nato summit in Wales, Mr Hollande insisted that no opinion poll “however difficult” would force him to give up the five-year mandate he won in 2012. Asked about Ms Trierweiler’s “toothless” allegation, he said serving the poor was his political “raison d’être”.
Mr Hollande’s 13 per cent approval rating compared with the 20 per cent floor hit during his term by Mr Sarkozy, who was shown by the Ifop poll beating Ms Le Pen in a presidential vote by 60-40 per cent.