US politics have taken centre stage recently but France is doing its best to catch up.
The Socialist Party has just voted, by a clear majority, for Benoît Hamon as its candidate for the French presidential elections due to take place in April and May this year.
The surprised loser is Spanish-born former Prime Minister Manuel Valls. This puts the Socialists well to the Left, which they don’t really need. They were likely to lose in May. Now they are certain to lose. But strange things can happen yet.
Meanwhile, the so-called Right is in dire straits. This week its chosen candidate François Fillon was caught out by the satirical weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaînée (The Chained Duck).
This journal is taken seriously and is read by most, if not all, politicians every Wednesday, the day it is published. Mr Fillon may well fall on his sword.
Penelope’s pennies from heaven
It is claimed that 500 000€ (nearly $740 000) was paid from public funds to his Welsh wife, Penelope, for services rendered. But the Canard claims she had done nothing to earn this sum.
A further €5 000 ($7,380) per month was paid to her over a period of 19 months in 21012-2013 by a literary magazine belonging to a friend of her husband. This does not bode well for a candidate who says he is squeaky clean.
Fillon says he will stand down if charged in court. If he does this, the statutes of his Republican party require a new election to take place, and time is running short. Politics are becoming exciting as we count down to April.
So who might benefit from this mess? Well, the former finance minister under President Hollande, Emmanuel Macron, is certain to obtain a few votes from people disgusted with this désordre in the Republican camp. He stands to gain further votes from some Socialists who think they might not be quite as far towards the Left as Mr Hamon.
Also observing the fray will be Marine Le Pen of the far Right National Front.
She is considered to be a certainty for the play off in the second round of voting early May against, probably, Mr Fillon.
Who knows, could Mr Macron capture enough to be in Round Two? Rather unlikely at this stage. Mrs Le Pen needs to avoid any faux pas in coming months to maintain her position as a highly credible candidate.
The Front National attract dissatisfied voters from both the Left and Right.