Elections in France 2022: could Macron lose?

    Emmanuel Macron (REUTERS / Archive Photo)
Emmanuel Macron (REUTERS / Archive Photo)

PARIS – Voters will go to the polls for the first round of the French presidential elections on Sunday, with the president Emmanuel Macron looking for a second five-year term.

Although polls have long suggested that Macron is the overwhelming favorite, the far right has bridged the gap in recent days, with the far left also making limited gains.

Only the two main candidates from the first round will advance to the second round, scheduled for April 24th. Macron should be one of those who will pass, but there is still a chance that Sunday’s order of arrival is a surprise.

Who are the main candidates?

Of a group of 12 official candidates, only five have achieved double-digit results in the past few weeks, egAt the moment, only three appear to have a realistic chance of making it to the second round: centrist Macron, far-right leader Marine Le Pen and far-left politician Jean-Luc Mélenchon.

The latest polling averages show that 27% of voters intend to elect Macron in the first round, 21% Le Pen and 15% Mélenchon, according to NSPPolls, a platform that compiles French election polls.

If the second round took place now, Macron would win over Le Pen with 53% of the vote against 47%, according to the poll average.. It would be a record result for the far right and much closer than in 2017, when Macron beat Le Pen by 66% to 34%.

The polls suggest it a disappointing performance for the traditional two games which dominated French politics for a long time before Macron’s presidency. Center-right candidate Valérie Pécresse stands at around 9% and center-left Socialist Party candidate Anne Hidalgo at 2%. Far-right candidate Éric Zemmour, who threatened to overtake Le Pen on the far right, has dropped to around 10% in polls.

What is there to know about Macron, Le Pen and Mélenchon?

48 million French will vote on April 12 in the first round of elections
48 million French will vote on April 12 in the first round of elections

– Macron: Before he was an anti-establishment candidate, now he is part of the establishment. When Macron – a former investment banker and economy minister – launched his political movement in 2016, he vowed to bring a new style of politics to the Elysée, with no obligations to established parties. He presented himself as a progressive anti-establishment candidate and a staunch supporter of the European Union, promising to make the French economy more competitive.

In subsequent years, the youngest French president ever veered to the right on immigration, national security and other issues, angering some of his supporters on the left.

Macron, 44, said his policy goes beyond traditional party lines. “When you walk, you need two legs,” he said last week. “One on the left and one on the right. And to advance you have to place one after the other. “

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Macron initially benefited from a spike in polls that was attributed to his role as a “wartime leader”. But that rebound has since largely dissipated, and Macron has struggled to rekindle the momentum he had from his 2017 campaign. Macron also failed to dispel criticism that many of his policies benefited the rich and disappointed people. poor.

– Le Pen: A far-right leader who seeks a more moderate image. This 53-year-old woman took command of France’s main far-right party from her father, whose record of Holocaust denial has long limited the party’s appeal among more moderate voters. In her early years as party president, Le Pen clung to many of her father’s rhetorical positions and arguments.

But his electoral defeat to Macron six years later, in 2017, triggered a transformation. He has spent much of the past five years trying to change the public’s perception of her and the party she has renamed the National Front.

Although his tone has softened, he continues to defend far-right policies which, if implemented, would radically change France. Le Pen recently said that his first act as president would be an immigration referendum, for example.

The war in Ukraine has threatened to damage his campaign, in part because he has long presented himself as an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. But Le Pen hastened to change course, condemning the invasion. He highlighted concerns that resonate with voters, such as the rising cost of living and the impact of sanctions against Russia on energy prices in France.

– Mélenchon: the far-left candidate who still knows how to surprise. The far-left politician ran unsuccessfully in the 2017 presidential election and is in the polls below his support levels five years ago, but remains the only candidate among the divided French left who could make it to the Elysée.

Mélenchon’s program remains essentially the same as it was five years ago: she wants more decisive action in the fight against climate change, advocates lowering the retirement age, opposes neoliberalism and says that if elected she would eliminate France from NATO, despite the war in Ukraine.

His proposals convinced many young French people, an electorate that Mélenchon, 70, seduced more than other candidates. Mélenchon organized a parallel demonstration in 12 French cities this week, appearing in 11 of them as a projection of holograms.

Mélenchon said he wanted to unite the left. But in practice, many left-wing voters are appalled by his insistence on proposals that moderates consider too extreme.

What are the chances of Macron losing the first round?

The consensus among the experts is that Macron should make it to the second round. The order of the top finishers is more uncertain.

According to an average of the latest polls, Macron is around six percentage points ahead of Le Pen and around 12 percentage points ahead of Mélenchon.

Mélenchon’s profits could rise if left-wing voters spontaneously abandon their candidates, many of whom are in single-digit polls, and decide to rally behind the far-left contender. But if he catches up with Macron it would reflect an unprecedented polling error in contemporary French history.

Maxime Lemersre, owner of the Chaussettes and Compagnie store, displays socks decorated with the faces of Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right French party Rassemblement National and candidate in the 2022 French presidential elections, and of French President Emmanuel Macron, candidate for his re-election) REUTERS / Pascal Rossignol)
Maxime Lemersre, owner of the Chaussettes and Compagnie store, displays socks decorated with the faces of Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right French party Rassemblement National and candidate in the 2022 French presidential elections, and of French President Emmanuel Macron, candidate for his re-election) REUTERS / Pascal Rossignol)

There are more chances that Le Pen can beat Macron. Support for him has grown, as his far-right competitors have vanished. And Macron’s end result may be less than expected if his supporters don’t go to the polls.

French electoral institutes predict that abstention could reach record levels. To win the vote, Macron and his allies have been trying these days to instill in his supporters that they shouldn’t be too sure of their victory.

What are the problems in the minds of French voters?

The approach of French voters and candidates changed during the campaign. What initially seemed like an election focused on immigration and security issues – with the far right dominating the discourse – in recent weeks has morphed into a vote focused on economic concerns.

Polls show that most French people fear that the cost of living has risen under Macron’s presidency, even as the economy in general has withstood the coronavirus pandemic and other shocks.

The war in Ukraine has raised growing concerns over rising inflation, rising energy prices and insufficient pensions.

What do the elections mean for the world?

France can often be ridiculed for its ambition to continue to play a leading role in a world of larger and more populous countries, but France has a great influence on the world stage. It has the largest army and second largest economy in the EU and is the only EU country among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

At times, Macron seemed intent on redefining France’s relations with the United States and other Western countries – for example by saying in 2019 that NATO had been “brain dead” – but of the vast field of presidential candidates, he remains one of the most strong supporters of strong EU and transatlantic relations.

The three candidates behind him – Le Pen, Mélenchon and Zemmour – have expressed deep skepticism about US foreign policy, NATO and EU moves. A victory for one of them would not only redefine France’s role in Western alliances, but would likely upset the political balance in the EU as well.

(c) 2022, The Washington Post – By Rick Noack, Lenny Bronner


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