France 2017 presidential scenarios

The graphic at this link shows a wide range of scenarios for potential runoff pairings for the French presidential contest. It comes from a recent Les Echos poll.

The most likely overall scenario remains Emanuel Macron (independent center-left) beating Marine Le Pen (National Front) in the second round. He also beats François Fillon (Republican) by the same margin, 65-35.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, of the Left Front, does better than I would have expected against various potential runoff opponents, beating Le Pen, 63-37, and Fillon, 59-41. While the idea of Mélenchon making it to the runoff is still a stretch, various recent polls have shown him having surged to within a few percentage points of second place in the first round.

The potential runoff pairing of Le Pen and Fillon is the most worrisome. While Le Pen still loses, it is closer, at 58-42.

Macron beats Mélenchon in the closest (and probably least likely) of these scenarios, 54-46.

Macron has been slipping in first-round polls. What once seemed certain–that he would make the top two and then easily win the runoff–now looks somewhat less so. His position as a runoff contender has become more precarious, with a crowd of three (Macron, Fillon, Mélenchon) along with Le Pen (who is almost certainly going to finish first, or at worst second if Macron recovers).

These results are what always trouble me about two-round majority systems. It is not unusual for the main contest to be for the second slot, and for two or more candidates to be vying for it. And sometimes the runoff pairing can make quite a difference. Fortunately, there is no very likely scenario in which Le Pen draws such a weak opponent that she wins.

Yet the pairing with the scandal-plagued Fillon should give voters pause. Behind whom to coordinate to block him? The obvious choice is, of course, Macron. But Mélenchon may be more competitive than even recent polls suggest, if still more left-wing voters dessert Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Party candidate with no realistic chance of making it to the runoff. Fortunately, as noted, even Mélenchon looks to beat Le Pen, though I’d take a scenario that voters may not have really digested yet with a grain of salt.

The first round is on 23 April.

9 thoughts on “France 2017 presidential scenarios

  1. Basically, runoff voting makes the first round into SNTV with M=2, additionally complicated for voters by the strategic considerations concerning round 2.

    • Yes, effectively. But I assume voters think ahead to the runoff, so not quite. I actually do not know if there is political-science evidence for my “think ahead” thesis, but I’d be surprised if voters were, in the aggregate, myopic, considering only who can get into the top two.

  2. I actually prefer run-offs to AV, easier for low information voters to understand, and high information voters get more information, though know going into the second round who will be in the top two and there is the additional campaigning as the top two face each other.

    But as we have seen in France before, the run-off system creates a problem when the vote is so fragmented that no candidate in the first round clears a quarter of the vote, as happened in 2002 and may happen this year. In these cases, its almost random who winds up as the two two candidates and makes the run-offs.

    The obvious solution, multiple rounds, with a round of the top three if no one clears 33%, then a round of the top two if no one clears 50%, and so on will be met with the usual objections of too many elections and too much expense. Another approach would be to use AV in the first round, with the threshold set at 33% instead of the usual 50%, and then a second round with the two first round winners, but then you will get the normal objections over the system being too complicated, plus why don’t you use AV for both rounds, or plurality for the first round, and we are back to square one.

    Presumably there is a certain number of times that the French will be treated to replays of 2002 before coming up with something different.

    • I truly haven’t the faintest idea how this mess is easier for voters to figure out than if they could just rank the candidates in order of preference.

      • Well, JD, if you believe Profs Brams and Fishburn, simply approving one – or two, or maybe four or seven – of these candidates is much easier than ranking them in order:,450199
        The precise number you approve would depend on how they are faring in opinion polls, but that’s fine because apparently on a full moon every leap year AV will reward tactical voting.

      • A decade or two ago, in one or another bulletin-board battle between AV-STV-ites and Approvalistas, someone proposed a compromise: on the first ballot (or the left-hand column of your ballot), you vote for one candidate only, your first choice. On the second column (or second ballot), you can approve as many candidates as you like. If no one gets 50% of first-column/ first-round votes, you add in any extra votes from the second column/ second round.
        As an STV shill, I could live with this. Interestingly, so it seemed, so too could the Approval fans (and most of the Condorcet purists, who usually default to Approval as their, err, next preference… I assume that logically, this doesn’t work the other way around, and that Approval advocates will only endorse Approval, or will endorse four or five other non-FPTP systems on an equal ranking with Approval? I mean, how does that even work?).
        (Despite the popularity of Runoff in practice – in Darwinian terms, it is pushing aside rivals worldwide, just as alternatives like SNTV are going gradually extinct – one doesn’t tend to meet many Runoff enthusiasts in cyberspace, at least compared to the large numbers of STV-AV, MMP, Condorcet, Approval, Range and Borda fans).
        I suspect that in practice, this would operate very much like ordinary runoff with one vote per round of balloting, except perhaps in rare cases where the first round field is extremely equally divided (textbook case: France 2002) and a number of centrist voters might give “second-last-choice” ticks to Anyone But The Extremist to keep the latter out.
        This model fits with my general pessimism that Approval, in elections with parties, will work like a quick and dirty form of AV anyway – supporters of the Greens or of the Constitution Party have a very strong incentive to give a second tick to the Democrat or the GOP candidate respectively, but this is highly asymmetrical; Democrat and GOP supporters have no incentive whatsoever to waste ink or hand motion on ticking the Green or the Constitution Party nominee after ticking their own first-choice party.
        Given that AV proper seems to be going nowhere in the US whereas both Approval and the London two-vote system seem to be gaining some traction on opposing sides of the pond, a system like this that unites the two might be an acceptable compromise and certainly better than either on its own.
        For voting on bills within an assembly, I’d use a modified version of the Swedish Riksdag’s procedure. Vote for your first choice motion or amendment; if one has over 50% of votes (and a quorum of all members) in favour, it passes outright; if not, vote in a series of pairwise contests among the options, two at a time, starting with the two receiving the fewest first-round votes, and the winner of each round going against the lowest option not yet voted on pairwise, until all have been voted upon. The winner of the final pairwise playoff is adopted, as long as it also has the support of a quorum. Since the “stone-scissors-paper-stone” nature of a Condorcet cycle favours whichever option is voted on later (“Take a vote to see if stone might defeat paper? Why bother? Stone’s already been eliminated. Next question…”), this system would favour a plurality winner unless there is a Condorcet “beats-all” winner lower down the ladder; and means you need only hold, for example, 10 rounds of balloting (first-choice plus nine pairwise runoffs), instead of 45, if there are 10 options on the table. (In the original Riksdag version, the Speaker/ Chair selects the order in which motions and amendments are voted on, which allows easy manipulation).
        If you wanted to be really exhaustive (as well as exhausting), you could re-ballot among all the options in between the pairwise contests: ie, every odd-numbered round of balloting would be “vote for one among all the remaining options”, and every even-numbered round would be “pick one of the two options that got the fewest voters on the preceding round”, the lower of the two being eliminated. More tedious, but perhaps better for a very long term decision, such as Professor Mario Pei’s proposal for a world congress to select a global language: “Left to their own devices, linguists might bicker forever. Since what language they select is not one-tenth so important as their selecting it, a definite time-limit should be placed on their labours. While all languages could be presented for candidacy at the outset, the procedure should involve a series of compulsory run-off votes, with stragglers weeded out until an absolute majority for one tongue is reached.” What’s in a Word? (1968), p 227.

      • … Or for selecting the site of the national/ federal capital city, and so forth.

  3. Pingback: Presidential runoffs | Fruits and Votes

  4. Tom Round writes, ” AV proper seems to be going nowhere in the US whereas both Approval and the London two-vote system seem to be gaining some traction on opposing sides of the pond”. Please cite evidence for either (preferably both) halves of this proposition.

    AV was recently adopted by the state of Maine, the first adoption at the state level, and is being considered in other state Legislatures. While there are periodic threats of efforts to repeal AV for local elections where it exists, they aren’t going anywhere that I know of. On the other hand, I know of no adoptions of Approval in the U.S., in spite of bills having been introduced in a couple of legislatures. And the two-vote system (supplementary vote) has not been discussed in the U.S.

    Sources, please.

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