What Will It Take For Marine Le Pen To Win The French Elections And What It Means For France
The 2nd round of the French elections is days away. The French will cast their final votes to choose their President on the 24th of April. Macron and Le Pen are the two final candidates in the race on the road to Elysee.
Macon, who compared to Le Pen, hardly campaigned before the 1st round of polls, has decided to dial back on some of his unpopular measures, the fear being that doubly down on them will hamper his chances. Macron, who already is described as a 'Jupeterian' President, comes across as haughty.
The former bureaucrat turned investment banker turned politician, is perceived by significant section of the French population as the personification of elite. Being perceived as an elite has the chance of hurting Macron's reelection bid as being an elite implies being aloof and disconnected from the daily struggles of a French citizen.
The incumbent Macron stands in the way of Le Pen's victory. If his campaign is anything to go by, it is an indication that Macron has reassessed his campaign strategy. He is currently campaigning by visiting those places in France where Le Pen or the leftwing Mr. Mélenchon performed better than him in the 1st round.
Mr. Mélenchon has been dubbed the 'kingmaker', which isn't entirely inaccurate as it is those voters who voted for him in the 1st round who will play a significant role in deciding if Le Pen can win the French elections.
France's 2nd round of polls has an electoral history of centrist candidates persuading the left wing voters to help build a 'dam' against candidates like Le Pen.
Whether Le Pen succeeds in wining the French elections primarily depends on whether or not Macron succeeds in building this 'dam'. Mélenchon by urging his voters to "not give a single vote" to Le Pen, has made Macron's task of building this 'dam' easier.
Since the Easter Sunday, percentage of Mélenchon voters who said they'll vote for Le Pen in the 2nd round remained stagnant at around 16 per cent. In contrast, percentage of Mélenchon voters who said they'll vote for Macron surged by 10 points, currently hovering at around 38 per cent. The remaining 46 per cent of Mélenchon voters said they'll either abstain or are still undecided.
By visiting the industrial towns of France, Macron is attempting to persuade these voters. One factor which may help Le Pen's chances of a victory is if a scenario arises where the 12.8 million voters who abstained in the first round decide to turn out in the 2nd round and vote heavily in Le Pen's favour.
Le Pen's prospects are made more challenging because of the fact that the controversial candidate Eric Zemmour is no longer in the race. His presence sanitised Le Pen's image to a significant degree as most of the scrutiny was focused on him. Now, despite Le Pen's attempt to widen the appeal of her platform, she is increasingly facing more scrutiny.
Whilst Macron is touring parts of the country where Le Pen and Mélenchon performed better than him in the 1st round, Le Pen has been more risk averse as she doesn't want to damage the gains she has made in softening her public image. Partly due to her success in softening her public image, her manifesto is now receiving more scrutiny. Questions are being asked about what it would mean for France and France's role in the EU and NATO.
During the two news conferences she held this week, she laid out the institutional overhaul proposal and foreign policy agenda. At a time when Russia has begun their renewed offensive in Eastern Ukraine, Le Pen laid out plans seeking rapprochement with Russia and intention to quit NATO's integrated military command. These policy positions are contentious. It might hinder her chances of winning the election.
Other controversial agendas in her manifesto include a clampdown on immigration, ending the right of those born in France to automatically get a citizenship.
The agenda that goes into the heart of France's place and nationhood's place in EU is her pledge to introduce a national preference for French citizens in jobs, housing and benefits. This puts her in a direct clash with EU's common market principle and EU law. In case she wins, she intends to hold a referendum on constitutional change which would lead to French law prevailing over EU law in matters related to immigration.
It is worth flagging that if one ignores the cacophony surrounding Brexit, it too was in essence about the superiority of British law over EU law. Brussels will not be happy if Le Pen wins. Seeds of euroskepticism pose a threat to EU's project.
Whether Le Pen wins or not, remains to seen, but one significant achievement of Le Pen is not only widening her appeal but winning over the youth vote. Compared to Macron, Le Pen fares much better with France's young citizens. If Macron succeeds in building the damn, he will be relying more on the votes of older people.
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